Learn how to use the Postsecondary Data Partnership Retention and Persistence Institution-Level dashboard to measure the impact of attendance on first-time student retention and persistence rates.
In this tutorial, we demonstrate how to use the PDP Retention and Persistence Institution-Level dashboard to measure the impact of attendance on first-time student retention and persistence rates.
The Retention and Persistence Institution-Level dashboard reports the first- to second-year retention and persistence rates for students who attended your institution. There are three possible outcomes. In the student’s second year after enrolling at your institution, the student could have remained at your institution or completed a credential, transferred to another institution, or left college before completing a credential at any institution.
Why is this dashboard needed? A student’s second year is an important transition point, particularly for first-time college students. Understanding their retention and persistence helps to inform initiatives to increase student success rates.
A student’s first and second years are determined based on when they enrolled in college for the first time or transferred to your institution.
What is the difference between retention and persistence?
Retention describes how many students are still enrolled at or have earned a credential from your institution before the end of their second academic year. This is a measure of how well your institution retains students.
Persistence describes how many students are enrolled in their second academic year or have completed a credential at another institution. This definition may differ from how your institution defines persistence. Check with your institution’s PDP administrator if you have questions about how your institution defines persistence.
Let’s use this dashboard to answer this research question: Is there a difference in retention rates for first-time students who attend full-time vs. part-time?
Before we continue, please remember that the results and trends shown in this tutorial can not be applied to your institution. This data is only for demonstration purposes only. Please review your institution’s data before drawing conclusions.
On the Home Page for the Postsecondary Data Partnership dashboards, one of the Outcomes-Over-Time metrics is the Retention and Persistence Institution-Level dashboard. Clicking this icon takes us to the dashboard.
Since we’re interested in the outcomes of first-time students, let’s apply the filter for first-time students. To do that, click the “Enrollment Type” global filter, deselect “Transfer In.” and click “Apply”. Now, the students represented in the dashboard are first-time students.
Next, because we want to compare the retention and persistence rates for students attending college full time or part time, we need to apply a dimension. Click “Select Dimension” and select “Attendance”. Looking at the line chart, we see three lines – a blue line representing full-time students, an orange line representing part-time students, and a yellow line representing students whose attendance is unknown. Leaving the unknown status will not help us understand this data, so let’s filter those students out. Click the “Attendance” global filter, deselect “Unknown,” and click “Apply”.
Now our dashboard charts show the data for first-time students who attended college full-time compared to part-time.
If we look at the line chart, notice that the Retention/Persistence filter is set to “Retention/Persistence,” which tells us that the lines in the chart represent first-time, full or part time, students who either retained at our institution for the second academic year or transferred to another institution and persisted there. Also notice that there is a gap between the blue and orange lines, which tells us that there is an achievement gap in retention/persistence.
Hovering over the 2017-18 data point, we see that 75% of first-time full-time students retained or persisted into their second academic year, while 60% of first-time part-time students retained or persisted. This is a 14-percentage point difference.
Let’s change the Retention/Persistence filter to “Retention”. Now these line charts represent the retention rates of first-time students.
Hovering over the 2017-18 data points, we find that 69% of first-time full-time students retained at our institution for their second academic year, while 54% of first-time part-time students retained. This is a 15-percentage point gap, which is slightly larger than the gap for retention and persistence combined.
Now, if we change the Retention/Persistence filter to “Persistence”, we notice two things:
First, the persistence rates for full-time and part-time first-year students are small compared to their retention rates.
And second, the achievement gap between these two populations has disappeared. Hovering over the blue 2017-18 data point, we see that 6% of first-time full-time students and 6% of first-time part-time students have transferred out and persisted at another institution.
What does this tell us?
There is a slightly larger gap in retention rates between our first-time full-time students compared to our first-time part-time students.
The persistence rates are small for these two student populations and there is virtually no gap in persistence rates.
Let’s reset the Retention/Persistence filter to “Retention/Persistence”.
Now let’s investigate if the gap in retention/persistence rates by attendance widens or narrows depending on the term during which a student entered our institution.
To explore the impact of cohort term on this population, click on the “Cohort Term” global filter, deselect “All”, select “Fall”, and click “Apply”. Now the students represented in this dashboard are first-time students who entered our institution in the fall term. Because the lines in the line chart are separated, that tells us there is a difference in retention/persistence rates between our full-time and part-time first-time students who entered our institution in the fall term.
Hovering over the 2017-18 data point for full-time students, we see that 77% of that population retained or persisted into their second academic year. Hovering over the 2017-18 data point for part-time students, we see that 60% of that population retained or persisted. This is a 17-percentage point difference.
Will we see similar results for first-time students entering in the spring term? Let’s find out. Click “Cohort Term”, deselect “Fall”, select “Spring”, and click “Apply”. We see the gap narrowed between the two lines in our line chart.
Hovering over the 2017-18 data point for first-time full-time students entering in the spring term, we see that 67% of that population retained or persisted into their second academic year compared to 60% of our first-time part-time students who entered in the spring term. This is a 7-percentage point difference.
So, what did we learn from this exercise?
There is a much larger gap in retention/persistence rates between full-time and part-time first-time students entering in the fall term.
Regardless of the term during which students entered our institution, first-time part-time students retained or persisted at lower levels compared to first-time full-time students.
How can this information be useful? As our institution works to improve student success metrics like retention and persistence rates, it is helpful to understand which student populations are achieving at lower levels. In this case, special outreach to our part-time students may be needed to keep them engaged in our institution specifically, and higher education in general.
What percentage of your part-time students retain or persist into their second academic year? We encourage you to take the time to explore your institution’s PDP dashboards to find out.
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