Retention expert says focus on mission and values
For Immediate Release
Jan. 18, 2000
No university should ever concede what really matters -
its mission and values - to keep students, said Dr. Vincent
Tinto, the leading authority on student retention, at a
series of discussions last week at Abilene Christian
"It is an honor to be speaking at an institution that
still has a sense of mission and purpose," Tinto said at the
Friday luncheon. "An institution's mission is what makes
the education valuable."
Tinto, distinguished professor and chair of the higher
education department at Syracuse University, came to ACU at
the request of Dr. Mark Davis, dean of ACU's first-year
Student retention has become a major concerns for
colleges and universities nationwide, and Tinto is often
asked to serve as a consultant and speaker as higher
education leaders try to address the issue of why students
leave, Davis said.
ACU has launched several initiatives during the past year
to enhance student achievement and help more students
persist through graduation. Hiring Davis as first-year dean
was one part of a comprehensive program designed to connect
students to the university, support them, and help them
"If you just ask, 'How can we keep our students?' you're
asking the wrong question," Tinto said. "Higher retention
levels result from effective education. That's the bottom
Tinto stressed that student education is everyone's
business on campus - the faculty and the staff from all
areas of the campus.
"Retention is a community thing," he said. "We need the
skills and knowledge of everyone to make this work."
Statistics show that 60 percent of all students who leave
do so before the start of the second year. For that reason,
Tinto recommends that schools front-load resources in the
"Begin at the beginning," he said. "Make sure everything
you do early - New Student Orientation, Welcome Week,
University 100 - meets students needs and helps them become
more connected to the university."
Tinto said institutions that are successful in graduating
a higher percentage of students are both intentional and
proactive. He explained a number of general reasons why
students leave college, including academic boredom,
uncertainty about their future, a feeling of isolation and a
lack of commitment.
"Students' expectations must match reality, they must be
challenged, and they must make connections with their
teachers and their peers," Tinto said. He also stressed
that colleges must find out how students experience their
institution instead of making assumptions based on faculty
and staff perceptions.
Tinto summarized this way: "There is no one cause and no
one cure relating to student achievement and retention.
Most importantly, they need to make sure students have
access to accurate information, give them support, get them
involved and make sure they're learning. These are the
building blocks for student success."
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