What universities can do to keep students from dropping out

There is no gainsaying the fact that Universities need students to survive against competitive forces in higher education worldwide if they are not to face extinction.

Universities traditionally held in high esteem are being replaced by cheaper alternatives closer to home. Their monopoly is being slowly eroded. The traditional teaching model of a classroom facing a lecturer and homework is being replaced significantly with the emergence of the internet and options such as open online courses. Most Universities still plod along as mere teaching factories with their existing educational models but now is the time that they redefine their mission and replace their strategies with better value for the investments made by their students if they are not doing so already! They would need to drive innovation, and this could mean breaking out of traditional modes to out of the box solutions if they were to successfully address one particular problem apart from attracting students – how to curb student dropouts.

Why do students drop out?

Universities may willingly absorb all those who approach their portals, but some more effort is needed in selecting students better suited for academic life as this would contribute to reduced dropout rates.

Students may realize that the curriculum design does not justify the cost against the end result and may drop off to seek cheaper alternatives. Universities would need to reassess the curriculum design and incorporate changes, for example, a flipped classroom model where boring homework is supplemented with interactive after class exercises that result in a more constructive and fun way of absorbing theories.

Universities should use technology in the classroom to offer a better learning experience, and this should be teamed with student convenience.  In cases where only a limited student proportion is interested in a particular subject, rather than have a handful of students, they could, for example, adopt the virtual classroom model.

Have Universities assessed their repertoire of learning tools and their accessibility to students? Learning tools necessary for acquiring knowledge leading to academic success should be readily available.

Almost always, Universities are rigid in their formalities and procedures and once in, students are compelled to follow the system. If courses were more flexible, if the University was flexible to change, e.g. if students wish to revert to part-time courses, or completely change the direction of their course, the possibility of doing so should be introduced without setting their degrees back too much.  Such flexibility would mentally reassure students and curtail the possibility of dropouts. We probably know of plenty of cases of young people who are very uncertain about their career objectives even while on the course and who suddenly shift their academic focus to unpredictable directions.

How often do Universities track and obtain feedback from their students? Tracking measures are possibly rarely undertaken, but this feedback reveals student issues “on the run” which in turn allows the University to improve its support services and reverse issues before they cause damaging ripples across the student population.

Since the whole purpose of a college degree is its value in the job market, are Universities incorporating the skills sets needed for jobs within the curricula?  Are they keeping tabs on the current and future direction of the markets and arming their students with the needed skills along with the knowledge?

It has been found that in the case of freshers from different ethnic or cultural backgrounds, the presence of a senior mentor greatly helps in reduce starter tensions for undoubtedly the individual’s initial experience of the academic and social structure of the College is the making or breaking point of any student.

Apart from cases of voluntary withdrawal due to economic or personal reasons, transfers or shifts to other courses, many student dropout issues could be addressed with relatively small changes once the University grasps the core reasons and adapts academic and social integrative measures into its curriculum.  Today, grasping the core reasons are simple with the use of advanced technology that allows data to be characterized and a thematic analysis performed through cross-sectional studies by which a clear picture emerges of the numbers of students dropouts and how the gradual erosion of their scores leading to dropout. With such data in hand, the University could perform action research on the level of engagement of their students to reduce the dropout rate percentage by percentage. Any percentage is a good start.

Created : October 28th, 2015


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