Five Idaho colleges increased retention rates for non-traditional students by 500 percent above the national average by simply changing key practices. Results were achieved through a three-year pilot designed to improve retention and completion rates at Idaho community and technical colleges and fuel the state's economy with skilled workers.
Non-traditional students -- unemployed workers, alternative high school students, young single parents and dropouts -- face work schedule conflicts, family obligations and geographic and financial barriers to higher education. Statistically, more than half of students who enter a two-year certificate or degree program in Idaho drop out in the second year, often debt-ridden.
The pilot project, funded by the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Foundation, used nationally proven best practices designed to lower barriers and develop resilience. Schools delivered enhanced advising, mentoring and remediation techniques; monitored student progress; and created support groups for almost 500 non-traditional students.