A friend of mine really wanted to pursue higher education as a non-traditional student. Unfortunately the experience was less then fulfilling and my friend dropped-out. When I asked her what happened she replied that she didn't really fit in and that the instructors didn't care about her. She said she did the exit interview with someone in student services and just said that she had time constraints because she didn't want to upset anyone. I think as educators this story is very common. We want to understand the obstacles to higher education completion but we are not always able to get honest feedback from our students. 

An increased dropout rate can have many factors some of which may include:

  • Missing to many days of class
  • Were getting poor grades
  • Could not keep up with the course work
  • Thoughts of not being able to complete the degree requirements
  • Could not get along with teachers or other students
  • Thought they could not pass the competency exam or certification
  • Family issues
  • Money
  • Work hours changed
  • Did not develop relationships with other students
  • They were bored

To combat these dropout rates the following are suggested:

  • Evaluation of the course work to create engaging real-world experiential learning
  • More support for struggling learners such as tutoring, counseling, or peer support groups
  • Having an instructor and/or administration to develop a connection with
  • More opportunities to interact with fellow students such as peer mentors who are in their program who can assist the newer students or peer study groups to strengthen the co-hort

The school may also consider purchasing student retention software to help analyze the dropout rates. If you are currently using BlackBoard you have the Angel application which can assist you in identifying struggling students. Many institutions ask students to participate in an exit survey to identify obstacles to program completion. I noticed that these exit interviews are usually conducted with someone from the college. Most people will not give honest answers about why they are leaving or dropping out because they don't want to hurt anyone's feelings or they become uncomfortable talking about personal issues.  It is recommended that exit interview be done online and that the information be placed into a data base where the individual cannot be identified. This should give you more accurate answers to your dropout questions. 

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