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What Can We Do To Improve College Completion?

“Because the transition to a knowledge-based economy requires an educated workforce, colleges and universities have made retention of students—particularly those who are academically underprepared—an institutional priority. College completion leads to economic and social advancement for students and is also critical to the nation’s economic and social strength.”
 - U-Pace: Facilitating Academic Success for All Students

Learn more about what higher education institutions are doing to improve college completion using technology in the latest EDUCAUSE Quarterly.


I am finding that today's college students are not at all prepared to transition into college. As a result, they feel overwhelmed and many eventually drop out of college before completion. Insitiutions of higher education making these students top priority is critical for improving completion rates. I applaud these institutions for putting for the effort!

This is a great initiative that requires involvement from stakeholders committed to this effort.  I believe students are not successful in college completion because there is no bridge to transition them to what they might encounter in college.  The college environment is different from high school, the expectations are different, and students have more independence on college campuses.   “Tinto suggest that the degree to which a student is integrated into the academic and social environments of the college determines whether a student will remain enrolled at a particular institution (Skipper, 2005).  This effort is vital to the our economy if we are to compete in the world’s arena.


Skipper, T. L. (2005) Student development in the first college year: A primer for college educators. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina, National Resource Center for the First-Year Experience and Students in Transition.

I completely agree with you last statement, our economy and our ability to compete with other countries is highly dependent on the future college graduates.

One way institutions can improve is to introduce and implement new technologies and innovations; as today's college demographic is constantly changing.  Educatiom is constantly being challenged, especially traditional education, and institutions must be able to keep up with the changes. Birnbaum, (2005), notes the signficance of implementing new technology into institutions as it is important for the future of the academia of higher education.


Birnbaum, R. (2005). The innovator's dilemma: When new technologies cause great firms to fail/The innovator's solution: creating and sustaining successful growth. Academe, 91(1), 80–84. Retrieved from the Education Research Complete database.

I absolutely agree! Recently, I studied all about stakeholders within institutions of higher education. I think you raise a great point when you mention that there is no bridge to transition students from high school into college. As educators, what are some things we can do to make the transition easier?

College completion continues to be a problem for colleges and universities. As an educator, I often sit and ponder what else can be done to improve graduation rates. How much of the blame is on the insitution itself? How much of the blame falls on the faculty and staff? I am curious to see what others fell about this issue.

Intriguing questions!  What can be done to improve graduation rates could very well start with fixing the high unemployment rates and student loan nightmare for the hundreds of thousands of college students all over the United States.  What better way to start than to boost the confidence of current graduates to stimulate college accessibility, affordability, and sustainability through to completion and job fulfillment.   Without directing blame, if as educators we do things right by helping students succeed through to graduation but students are unable to find employment, how do we justify them spending the time and money on getting the education.  There is a great deal of obstacles in the pathway of the student completion objective then once overcome, they will need to find a job to pay back the mountain of student loan debt.  There is an implied promise that if they (the students) do the right thing and get the education, they will be rewarded with job fulfillment.  I guess I took the question of blame to another level. 

Hard to believe that as a nation filled with highly educated scholars, we still struggle to answer/address the question of “what helps students graduate?   A number of existing programs and practices such as orientation, early warning systems already show promise to help students graduate.  This topic has been addressed in a recent article by The Chronicle in which it discusses a new multiyear project (to be published in three reports) led by the Center for Community College Student Engagement.  This report will gather answers to hopefully help community colleges understand which of the programs/practices work and why and move institutions in the direction to fix the problem.   Some of the early results seem to say that institution fail to uphold or enforce elements in the practices/programs that could make them more effective.   There are enough positive results to support that if institutions do a better job of requiring student participation, there would be a better chance of success.  I look forward to the report.

Most of the universities and colleges welcome students who are simply not fully prepared for college or university-level work. I have been encouraged and inspired by what I have learned from institutions like MUST University and Salt Lake Community College about how to support students like these. MUST University has developed a research unit that is producing exciting results for both continuing students and new students who are having academic difficulties.