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Monitoring Non-Traditional Student Retention

A new report released this week reveals that higher education institutions are beginning to track retention and graduation rates of non-traditional students with more attention than ever before. As the number of non-traditional students enrolling in colleges and universities increases, institutions are responding to the need to better understand what influences non-traditional students to complete.

The report, released by University Professional & Continuing Education Association  (UPCEA) and InsideTrack, provides insight into how schools are tracking non-traditional student progress. The findings show that more institutions are monitoring non-traditional students than last year, with 69 percent of institutions now tracking retention and completion rates of non-traditional students, compared to 57 percent in 2012.

There are also fewer institutions, compared to last year, reporting that they are not engaged in measuring their initiatives in order to enhance the outcomes for their adult learners. However, many colleges and universities say they are unable to measure the effectiveness of these initiatives because there is little benchmark data on non-traditional students and their performance.

“We’re not going to make a lot of progress if institutions aren’t willing to measure themselves and hold themselves accountable,” Dave Jarrat, vice president for marketing at InsideTrack, told the Chronicle of Higher Education.

The report also notes that while continuing education units across the higher education industry are making progress when it comes to implementing metrics to track adult learners, they still need to ensure their efforts are streamlined to be successful. Recommendations in the report encourage institutions to come to a consensus regarding metrics and how they are used to track retention and completion rates among non-traditional students.

“How can an adult looking to go back to school effectively evaluate an institution or a program,” Dave Jarrat asked the Chronicle of Higher Education, “if there are no measurement mechanisms in place that allow them to compare apples to apples?”