Solving the Problem: Improving Retention in Higher Education
Academic Leadership - Online Journal,
Vol. 8 No. 1 (2007): Vol-8-Issue-1-January-2007
As our nation looks ahead in this new century, an educated workforce is more important than ever. Yet
college retention is a major problem. Last year, for the first time in 20 years, retention to the sophomore
year dropped in the nation’s four-year colleges (Bushong, 2009). For minority students on
predominantly white campuses – that is, most four-year colleges and universities – the graduation rate
is unacceptably low. For example, less than half of black males graduate from four-year college
programs within six years – 20 percentage points less than their white peers (Carey, 2008). And
student persistence in community colleges is chronically low, circling at about 50% (Lederman, 2009).
Solving this problem has become a high priority for the Obama administration, which views student
retention – particularly in community colleges – as a cornerstone for ensuring a strong American
economy in the 21st century. The American Graduation Initiative, announced last July by President
Obama, will support a variety of efforts designed to ensure higher student retention rates. The goal of
this initiative is to double the number of community college graduates by 2020.