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What can I do?

Submitted by Carri Gerber,

Since the first meeting of the Retention Task Force (RTF) on September 19th, I realized I knew very little about retention. I mean, it’s just a number, right? Data are a scientist’s best friend, so I of course started pulling out some stats to wrap my head around retention. Ohio State ATI’s retention rate is 71.1% (2019)*, which is well above 62%**, the national average for 2-year institutions. Ohio State ATI ranks #2* as compared to the regional campuses in retention rate. So, we must retention ROCKSTARS! Well … if we look at retention from the standpoint of loss, we lost 86 students (28.9%) that started in 2018*. Eighty-six students vanishing into thin air might make us magicians, but not retention rockstars. ☹

The million-dollar questions are: Where did they go? Why did they leave Ohio State ATI?

The RTF is working to answer these questions. However, the data collection and analysis, institutional plan development, and campus-wide implementation will not happen overnight. Which lead me to this question:

What can I do right now to aid in student retention?

After a bit of Googling and database searching, a low cost, high impact strategy emerged:

Develop a psychologically attuned academic probation letter

A psychologically attuned probation notification letter “takes into consideration students’ experiences of these notifications in an attempt to reduce feelings of shame, stigma and guilt. This innovative approach was developed by Shannon Brady, her colleagues at Stanford University and the College Transition Collaborative in order to decrease the likelihood of students who are placed on probation from dropping out of their program.”+

“An attuned letter directly addresses the psychological worries on students’ minds, using four Core Principles:

 1. Frame probation as a process of learning and growth—not a label

 2. Communicate that it is not uncommon to experience difficulties

 3. Acknowledge a variety of specific reasons for academic difficulty

 4. Offer hope of returning to good standing.”++

The Mohawk college study found those students who received the psychologically attuned probation letter had a statistically significantly higher subsequent term GPA as compared to those who received the standard probation letter.+

I plan to revise our current probation letter following Brady’s principles of “psychological attunement” for the Dec 17, 2019 academic actions with the hopes of reducing the dropout rate and increasing the subsequent term GPAs. Fingers crossed!

Retention rates



Approach to the academic probation letter



What can you to do aid in retention?? Have you heard of Nudging? Check out: