Assessing the effectiveness of a comprehensive retention improvement initiative: studying the success program

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Montana State University - Bozeman, College of Education, Health & Human Development


The mission of the community college is to increase access to higher education for all students. Low retention and completion rates make achieving this mission difficult. This qualitative case study explored the Students Using Core Completion to Excel with Support Strategies (SUCCESS) program, a retention improvement initiative developed at a small, two-year college in Montana. The program was offered during the 2016-2017 academic year in a trial phase to determine which parts of the program were most effective. This research project sought to understand the program through the experience of the four major groups of participants: students, faculty, staff, and administration. From a pragmatic perspective, the goal was gaining understanding to inform efforts to modify and improve future versions of the program. Initial categorization of data examined the benefits, challenges, and recommendations for improvement of the program; as well as participants' thoughts on reasons for leaving or staying in school. Analysis showed that offering accelerated courses, scheduling courses in an efficient manner, and providing a mechanism for students to form relationships were major benefits to participating in the program. Faculty, staff, and administration also saw the value of the process as an opportunity to try new things and to develop relationships with peers across campus. Communication and lack of developed policies were highlighted as the biggest challenges, but were also offered with specific recommendations as areas for improvement.




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