SightLine has discovered through focused research that, on average, twice as many students leave their degrees during summer break than during winter break. Is this exodus a result of the temporal difference between the two vacations? Summer accounts for nearly four months, while winter break usually amounts to three and a half weeks. Can we attribute this loss to a lack of significant University engagement over the summer months? Or do students find summer employment that temporarily distracts them from their long term goals? (I.e., I’m making pretty good money now, why go back to school when I can ride the corporate ladder here?) Or, are students more contemplative during the summer months, taking time to reassess their education and career trajectories?
There’s a vulnerability that accompanies losing contact with, and eventually some re-enrollment of, students during the summer months. Valuable contact is lost during this time by passively waiting to see who will confirm enrollment and schedule their courses. Many schools discover and identify students who have not scheduled their classes for the fall semester only a week before the term begins. In this delay, a University has already lost the critical time needed to approach students who need more support to keep them enrolled. How can your University capitalize on this essential period for engagement? SightLine can help.
What if we had a way to predict which students may drop out during summer break so that we can proactively engage them to see what we can do to assist their return to study?
SightLine uses the data of student academic performance, University engagement, and financial factors collected during the spring semester to identify individual students who are not likely to re-enroll during the following fall semester. SightLine also identifies specific factors that are most likely to have an effect on an individual student’s likelihood of being retained, which may drive intervention strategies and messaging. SightLine can assist your University towards higher rates of student retention during the most critical time of enrollment loss, the summer.
At SightLine, we develop summer retention programs by segmenting identified “at-risk” students into groups with similar risk factors in order to create tailored messaging and outreach strategies. Messaging varies from financial concerns and offering resource recommendations, to reaching out to students with leading indicators that their academic performance is a challenge to their graduation timeline.
According to the Dean of Students at Michigan Technological University, Bonnie Gorman, on-campus student employment is a significant retention factor that may be explored for expanding summer retention programs. She remarks:
“Sightline has evaluated more variables than what we have typically looked at and come up with some additional things that impact students staying at the University which would not have been on our radar had SightLine not done this work…for example, students retained at a higher rate if they are employed on campus as opposed to not being employed on campus.”
Universities may perform a simple cost-benefit analysis for increased student employment opportunities on campus during the summer compared to the tuition revenue they will receive from that student who will be more likely to continue their studies for the fall semester instead of dropping out from their degree program. Is it worth the risk to spend money to create more job opportunities for student summer employment if it means keeping more students enrolled for the fall semester, thus bringing in the needed profit of tuition dollars? With data on our side, SightLine says, YES.
In addition to a mere increase in outreach messaging during the summer months, these messages may be shaped to support specific segments of the student population who are particularly vulnerable to leaving their program of study. For example, SightLine’s data reveals that transfer students are more likely to leave their degrees and may benefit from messages that allow them to strengthen their ties to the University.
Universities can seize the summer break as a rich, fruitful opportunity to engage their students; with SightLine’s data and analysis, we now know which students have the most to gain from these proactive messages and how to shape these messages to grab students’ attention in a way that leads to action.