Utilizing Degree Audit and Reengagement Strategies to Improve Student Retention and Completion at Rend Lake College

by Marci Rockey / Sep 8, 2016

Rend Lake College initially sought to identify potential barriers to completion for a cohort of high school students who had taken CTE dual credit courses, enrolled at the college but did not persist to completion. Data indicated that 6% of students who did not persist or transfer actually completed a certificate but never received it. Furthermore, an even higher percentage were within one semester of completing a CTE degree or certificate. These numbers combined to represent 20% of students being one graduation application or one semester away from completion. Low-income students were particularly impacted with reductions in financial aid distribution as a result of non-attendance leaving a balance on their student account and serving as a barrier to reenrollment.

As a result of these findings, Rend Lake instituted a credit and credential attainment strategy. Students that had completed but not applied for a degree or certificate were identified as well as those who had stopped out near completion. From there, transcripts were systematically audited and staff made outreach to individual students. At the end of the Spring 2016 semester, these efforts resulted in the identification and awarding of 350 certificates that had been earned but never applied for by students no longer attending the institution. Since that time, the team reports that the number has increased by an additional 635 certificates bringing the total conferred as a result of this project to 992 certificates. 

Rend Lake was one of five colleges who were part of PTR’s first cohort of second-year implementation and evaluation grants. These teams are expanding on the work completed in the first year of the PTR project. Rend Lake’s PTR team is setting the stage for scaling change at their institution. In addition to the degree audit and outreach, the institution removed the graduation fee, instituted professional development for faculty and staff to stress the importance of completion, and strengthened campus partnerships related to early alert and other student support strategies.  The work being done at Rend Lake may inspire you to institute or strengthen strategies to support student retention and completion at your institution.

Read Improving CTE Student Retention and Transfer at Rend Lake College with Degree Audit and Reengagment Strategies to learn more.