Student Retention: The Human Touch

provost-dan-howardThe Chancellor and I meet periodically with the Regents Professors of NMSU to tap into their collective wisdom regarding issues the university faces. At our meeting last week, much of the discussion focused on student retention and how to better serve one of our most vulnerable populations – students from low-income families.
 
Because many serve as mentors to students, our Regents Professors are familiar with challenges our students face at NMSU, and they shared ideas regarding how NMSU can become a more student-centric institution. They had concerns that, regarding academic progress and finances, our communications could be more effective in letting students know when there are specific things they need to do to remain in good standing, academically and financially. One Regents Professor stressed the importance of the human touch in messaging and cautioned against too much reliance on automatically generated messages.
 
I shared these concerns with Accounts Receivable, which sends students bills for tuition, housing, and other costs, and with the Office of Financial Aid, which lets students know when their financial aid packages are at risk. These offices play a critical role in student success and both offices recognize and support the importance of sending messages to students that are clear, informative, and welcoming. 
 
They have committed to review and revise their messages and operations, as necessary, to ensure: (1) students know when there are concerns about their academic progress and where to go for help; (2) bills are easier to understand and less intimidating; and (3) inquiries directed to both offices are promptly and courteously answered.
 
As critical as the human touch is in our support services, it is even more so in the classroom and in our advising offices. I encourage all faculty and staff to learn more about effective student engagement and retention practices by attending Dr. Tim Renick’s presentation Friday, October 28. Dr. Renick is one of the nation’s leading experts on student success and has pioneered programs that have closed the achievement gap and have significantly improved retention and graduation rates at Georgia State.
 
Dr. Renick’s visit is being jointly sponsored by the Regents Student Success Committee and my office.  Information on how to reserve a seat at his talk will be sent out soon to the campus community.
 
With all best wishes,

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