The College Retention Plan
Trill or Not Trill?
1. Paying for college
Every year I run into bright students who end up leaving school students because they couldn’t afford the tuition anymore. Finances are a key component to retention. Kevin Durant is going to receive some of the most lucrative offers in NBA history. There are multiple factors to keeping or losing a star player. The right salary offer is a huge part of the decision making process. If money is a key aspect to the retention of your targets, a concerted effort must be made to assure that the price is right. That might include creating new scholarships with partnering businesses or something as simple as making sure the financial opportunities made aware to the audience. Are you inviting speakers onto campus? Financial expert Tonya Rapley came onto my campus and blew students away with some amazing money lessons. If she’s someone you bring to speak, you have to make sure that the targeted audience is in attendance. Finding money isn’t always easy, but sometime it’s as simple as recognition or creating a plan. The Thunder have been strategically planning for years and have made sacrifices including not resigning all star player James Harden, to assure they were being financially responsible. Durant along with teammate Russell Westbrook’s future were the priority. That time has come and they have the money.
THE GAMEPLAN: create a tuition retention fund
Put your money where your mouth is. There is always money around for students who are in need. There has been case after case in which an administrator or faculty member has found money for the ailing student through enrollment, financial aid, the president’s office etc. If your institution or enrollment office can create a specific retention fund, students will know specifically where to go. Create strict guidelines and include an application process. Not every student can be saved financially, but if you truly care about keeping them, then an openly recognizable fund shows that you’re willing to help. A recognizable sign of assistance is better than the search for a glimmer of hope.
2. The Players
We’ve seen players leave teams simply because the general manager didn’t surround that star with the right complimentary pieces. As an institution just like the organization, one must know who the key players are. When it comes to students, it’s easy to reach the usual suspects. They’re already involved and are likely to graduate in 4 years. Those individuals can’t be the only target. You want to bring together a team that’s versatile. You’ve got to find out where the different students are. Get your scouting up! Go into the residence halls. Program at the particular cafeteria where your group is prone to hang out. Go everywhere! Surround your involved star students with unsuspected culprits who are ready to grow. In addition, our own students speak the language of their peers better than we can. The right squad will help. Leadership and involvement opportunities can come from anywhere. Build yourself a diverse team of young mentors, leaders and students that are driven for success.
THE GAMEPLAN: Create a retention street team
When it comes to retention squads, I’ve seen it all from peer mentors, to advisory boards made of administrators and faculty. Now these groups have worked to some degree depending on the institution. To add a bit more kick, develop yourself a street team, which is just another name for an “on the ground” marketing team. Gather together a group of successful students, who can communicate to your specific target demographic and are ready be loud and boisterous about the message. Supply them flyers, giveaways and that message. The best way to drill the importance of academic and social success and to stay in school is the be consistent and in your face.
3. Coaches and Mentors
This moment isn’t about wooing, it’s about winning. “My responsibility is, How do I help him grow? How do I help him get better?” We can learn something from this quote by the Thunder General Manager, Sam Presti. As one of the key decision makers, he understands the importance of growth and development. Make the student’s needs a priority instead of creating surface level solutions and theatrics. The leaders and educators at the institutions have to mean business. Make the concerted effort to improve lives and not just fall in love with reaching stats. OKC made a coaching change, seeking new blood. What they were doing wasn’t getting them over the top. This new coach could potentially lead the team to a title which would likely keep Durant with them. As an institution find the right faculty and staff mentors. You will find certain professors and administrators who are already doing the work unofficially. Support their efforts. Give them resources and if you can, and provide some funding or extra pay, to do so. Your leaders could be anyone from the librarian to the administrative assistant. If they’re being successful reaching the specific groups, they’re in.
THE GAMEPLAN: Create an actual coaching staff.
When the Thunder made the switch, they found a coach who was a proven winner. Who are the proven winners on your campus? There are staff who have displayed success in reaching your retention targets. That person should be at the table when it comes to the planning and executing process. One great thing about a good coach is the ability to adjust on the fly. Find that person or people who are fluid and flexible with ideas and with the process. Build a tight team of professionals that have an interest in the retaining those specific types of students. Ideally, this group would be it’s own staff or department but likely, we’re talking about volunteering. With that said you’ll have to find people with some vested interest. Give them some time to create magic and if the right coaches are on board, simply wait for the results.
4. Recognize what makes them happy
A major key to Kevin Durant staying in OKC is recognizing what’s important to Durant. Does he want to go home to Maryland? Does he want to play in a large market? Certain things are beyond your control. The things that you can control though, are essential. OKC can create a winning atmosphere or as stated earlier bring in the right players or coaches. As an institution, this is where you come in. Find out what peaks the students’ interest and create programming around those. Take chances with your methods of getting them to engage. “We know one thing for certain: Students who are actively engaged in educationally purposeful activities and experiences, both inside and outside the classroom, are more likely than are their disengaged peers to persist through graduation” (Harper & Quaye, 2009, p4). With that said, spruce up your programs and events. What speakers or talent are your target audience mostly attracted to? Change the way your programs look. Trill or Not Trill purposely finds new ways to discuss leadership and programming in efforts of reaching various types of students. Don’t hesitate in giving us a call either (wink wink lol)
THE GAMEPLAN: Get out there!
We’re all busy, but as I’ve said none of this will work unless commitment comes first. So here’s the plan:
A. Identify your audience
B. Find all the places that your audience loves to be. Where do a majority of your target group hang out. Identify the popular spaces
C. Create an interaction schedule. Whether it’s you, one of your coaches, mentors or street team members, get out of your seat and interact. Pick specific times to eat in the cafeteria or walk through the popular study lounge. Attend an RA program, go to the next day mixer. Your face matters. We are in the business of helping students succeed. That comes from the countless meetings, the computer searches but most importantly the relationships fostered.
None of these plans are perfect and will guarantee success. Kevin Durant might leave OKC regardless of hard they attempt to keep him. We also, as college admins know that we can’t keep them all. We can’t save everyone. One thing we can do is alter our plans of action. We can use what data tells us is supposed to work or we can use our creativity and positive relationships as an additional catalyst. If you truly want to keep the star free agent then the work must follow. I personally hope Kevin Durant comes to Knicks but that’s just being selfish.
MrJeffDess is a writer, professor, public speaker and emcee of Haitian descent. He is an author of 4 books of poetry, including his latest, Deconstructing Ratchet. With over ten years of performing and student affairs experience under his belt MrJeffDess continues to strive towards helping students reach their highest potential. For booking information, contact MrJeffDess at firstname.lastname@example.org