Los Angeles Mission College
Executive Summary Retention Consultation
Retention Study and Analysis Conducted by:
Stan Spanbauer, Ph.D.
USA Group National Quality Academy
October 21-22, 1996
LAMC College Strengths
LAMC Strengths and Weaknesses (reported by students)
Detail of Retention Recommendations
Scope of the Consultation
On October 21-22, 1996, Dr. Stanley J.. Spanbauer, President of USA Group National Quality Academy, an affiliate of Noel ˇ Levitz, Inc., Iowa City, conducted a retention study and an analysis for Los Angeles Mission College which included:
The objectives of the visit were to:
The campus visit included meetings with key College administrators , interviews with several faculty members, department chairs, directors, staff, and students and meetings with those responsible for various areas of student admissions, financial aids, and the business office. The following were involved in interviews:
Before outlining the specific observations and recommendations, it is important to cite the strengths, challenges, and opportunities that surround Los Angeles Mission College. These represent the framework from which the retention recommendations flow.
Los Angeles Mission College Strengths
1. Strong leadership at administrative, faculty, and director levels.
2. Forward looking, visionary personnel throughout institution.
3. Friendly, caring, and professional atmosphere.
4. New facilities that are attractive, clean, and well maintained.
5. Good documentation pertaining to facility utilization, faculty assignments, grading, and student withdrawals.
6. A genuine sense of pride and loyalty among college personnel throughout the institution.
7. A customer service focus, especially in student services departments.
8. A phone registration system that is now working effectively.
9. Caring faculty and staff with a strong desire to assist students.
10. A registered child development center serving children of students and college personnel.
11. A new technology building (construction
almost finished) with a strong focus on individualized
learning and information networking using computer technology.
12. Several unique programs to serve the special needs of students, such as Basic Skills, PACE, EOP&S, and Disabled Students.
13. A strong community which the college serves--light manufacturing area along the I-5 business corridor.
Los Angeles Mission College Challenges
1. Lack of adequate financing to provide needed staffing, throughout the college and especially in support/services areas.
2. Need for permanent appointments in key leadership positions.
3. Lack of adequate space, especially in academic and student services departments.
4. Need for further upgrading of student lounge area with a review of cafeteria needs of students during evenings and weekends.
5. Lack of good data on reasons why students leave early.
6. Education is usually a second priority for students behind their care and welfare of their families.
7. Class schedules not available early enough to encourage better student planning.
8. Students believe that the majority of the teachers are excellent, however, they state that about 30% are not caring and empathetic to their needs.
9. The major offerings of the college not always relevant to student and employer needs of the regions.
10. Grading systems and standards appear to be inadequate and need review.
11. Space for faculty is a problem for both students and faculty who need more privacy.
12. Lack of an on-going systematic program of staff development.
13. Classes students need to graduate are often not available.
14. Students are scheduled in classes without having the necessary background and competencies to be successful.
15. Students feel they need more activities and athletics.
16. The Child Development Center at full capacity and not open during late afternoon and evening hours.
LAMC Strengths and Weaknesses (Reported by Students)
1. Variety of classes
2. Excellent Child Care Center
3. It's a small, peaceful campus
4. Adult atmosphere
5. Beautiful campus
6. Small classes, not crowded
7. Faculty really care
8. Teachers are usually patient and take time to help students
9. Financial Aid, EOP&S, Disabled students programs, etc. are effective
10. It costs less than other colleges and universities
11. Teachers are cool (all really good)
12. Administration is willing to listen to ASO
1. It's crowded in some areas--Financial Aid and other office spaces
2. Need a greater variety of classes (we only get basics). More upper division.
3. Need student lounge (kick back place).
4. Need ASO office area.
5. Need more athletics (also advertise what we have).
6. Child Care not available in evenings and is up to capacity
7. Food and refreshments needed during off hours (fruit machine).
8. Difficult to get in some classes.
9. Have to go somewhere else (community extension) for some classes.
10. Bus routes should be reviewed.
11. Teachers need office space to talk with students.
The success of an institution and the success of its students are inseparable. Experience shows that successful institutions do not leave their students' success to chance; they focus on the needs of individual students and continually improve the quality of the educational experience for all students. Successful retention programs require campus-wide support because all persons on the campus--faculty, staff, administration--are equal partners in retention.
The retention recommendations that follow represent our basic belief that the most successful retention programs are those which:
The recommendations which follow adhere to these beliefs. They were rated by those who attended the executive briefing following the two-day consultation and are listed in priority order.
Retention Recommendations : (Prioritized on October 22, 1996)
(4.57) Profile the stayers and leavers at Los Angeles Mission College.
(4.52) Mobilize the entire campus for retention. Make it visible.
(4.52) Improve flexibility in course scheduling, teaching methodology.
(4.31) Conduct an intensive review of the assessment processes and basic skills program together with the requirements for students for entering the various programs of study.
(4.31) Provide customer service training for front-line staff to enhance a student-centered environment.
(4.26) Review intake processes for entering students.
(4.26) Develop a strong staff development program with on-going training opportunities for faculty, staff, and administrators.
(4.16) Review needs of ail stakeholders (potential students, employers, other educators, and internal employees, and use this survey data to develop new programs and improve program design and delivery.
(4.15) Utilize student satisfaction data to monitor student expectations.
(4.15) Create an enrollment management/retention task force to develop action plans .
(4.15) Review Financial Aid's processes and determine whether more students should be eligible for assistance.
(4.10) Establish a system to survey
students who leave and determine the reasons for their
Note: This could be a part of the profile shown in the first recommendation.
(4.10) Review hiring procedures to promote openness in the selection process and diversity among faculty and staff, especially with part-time instructors.
(4.10) Establish structure to enhance the business/professional center idea and foster business/community markets and partnerships.
(4.10) Conduct an organizational climate survey among all personnel to determine levels of satisfaction and areas where challenges exist.
(3.84) Encourage greater articulation efforts with K-12 schools in region.
(3.57) Use strategies proven successful in EOP&S, PACE, etc. to enhance regular programs and services.
On the pages which follow further information on each of these recommendations is given together with a detailed outline of suggestions to consider.
Detail of Retention Recommendations
The recommendations provided are based on observations, interviews, discussions, and information/data analysis completed over a short period of time. Therefore, these recommendations are based on a "snap-shot" review, and should be followed by a comprehensive study conducted internally to validate these findings.
Many recommendations are presented for consideration-seventeen in all; and some are duplicated, primarily for emphasis. An internal group of twenty-two College Personnel attended the executive briefing on October 22,1996, and participated in rating each recommendation. They are presented in the priority order established as each recommendation was rated on a scare of 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree).
The prioritized recommendations will be helpful to the Enrollment Management/Retention Task Force when it establishes goals, objectives, and actions plans.
1. Profile "stayers" and "leavers" at Los Angeles Mission College
The most important source of data for the study of retention is the student currently enrolled at the institution. Campuses in the best position to be proactive rather than reactive in their retention efforts have hard data to answer the following questions:
Who enrolls and why?
Los Angeles Mission College is encouraged to continue to study student enrollment patterns. The Title III initiatives, and continued analysis of the data, should make it possible to track students systematically, and this valuable information should be shared as appropriate. The following areas are offered as possibilities for further exploration of the variable impacting retention:
High school grade point average (GPA)
The USA Group Noelˇ Levitz, Inc. has a software package, Action Track which can assist in monitoring and tracking students and helps customize services to meet the individual needs of students.
2. Mobilize the Entire Campus for Retention and Make the Effort Visible
The College is to be commended for the outstanding work it has done already. The Title III initiative is paying dividends and the staff involved have done a good job in alerting all about the importance of everyone being concerned about retention.
The President is encouraged to continue to acknowledge the importance of this work on behalf of the College and its students. The immediate goals should focus on establishing retention goals for LAMC and developing a comprehensive retention plan.
a. Establish Retention Goals for Los Angeles Mission College
The College must decide what it wants the first-to-second year retention rate to be in September of 1997, 1998, and 1999.
Los Angeles Mission College has the potential of making at least a 7-10% improvement in the re-enrollment rate each semester by mobilizing a phone team of faculty, staff, and administrators to call every student who was enrolled the previous semester. Many colleges have experienced tremendous success with this approach in the past. It sends a very clear message to the student that "you matter to us!"
The 1997-99 retention goal should be optimistic, but reachable. The three-year goal will depend on the extent to which LAMC is committed to implementing the recommendations of the enrollment management/retention task force and those contained in this report.
b. Develop a comprehensive retention plan
Specifically, the enrollment management/retention task force should continue to build on the work of this study by developing timelines for implementing the strategies recommended in this report, as well as those that will come from the individual focus groups. In addition, the committee should create ample opportunities to interact with the campus community to ensure that the retention effort is embraced by all.
3. Improve Flexibility in Course Scheduling and Teaching Methodology
Students interviewed and reported they were generally satisfied with the instruction they are receiving at the College. They feel that most of the teachers are very well qualified in their disciplines and make a real effort to reach students: The faculty are to be commended for these efforts.
One problem that surfaced relates to course scheduling. Students reported that they do not have enough time to make good decisions about the courses they should take for the next term. Often, they are expected to make on-the-spot decisions about classes. It is therefore recommended that class schedules be made available at a much earlier date to enable students to make meaningful decisions about their course choices.
Students have also requested more flexibility in the learning/teaching process. They reported that some required courses are available at unusual times making it impossible for them to enroll. Additionally, there is concern that some teachers use the same teaching methodology day after day. They would like to see greater variety in the way that instruction is delivered.
a. Improve Flexibility in Course Scheduling
Study the current processes related to producing the course schedules and focus on improving the timelines for making the schedules available for students .
Review the schedules of all required courses in each program area and determine if it is possible to increase the flexibility of the offerings. Track students who travel to other Los Angeles colleges for some of their courses and decide whether it is possible to make it easier for them to enroll at LAMC.
b. Improve Flexibility in Teaching Methodology
Ask each department to study the methods currently being used by teachers. Consider some alternative approaches to enable students to receive instruction with a variety of methodologies. Encourage teachers to examine the feasibility of shifting from being primarily information disseminators to becoming facilitators of learning activities. In some cases, this can be accomplished best through team teaching approaches.
Examine the methodologies used in some of the special programs for LAMC students and determine whether these can be also used in regular programs. Consider training programs to enable professors to learn some new quality improvement teaching tools for possible use in the teaching/learning processes.
4. Conduct a Review of Assessment Processes and the Basic Skills Program and Examine the Requirements for Students Entering the Various Programs of Study.
It is recognized that the Los Angeles Community College District has an open admissions policy to give all students access to its programs of study. However, many students are enrolling in courses that require background learning experiences in the subject area. Many do not have this background information, and are doomed to fail.
Los Angeles Mission College is to be commended for initiating a strong Basic Skills programs to assist students with deficiencies in English, reading, and mathematics. It is a strong program with excellent staff and good materials. However, not enough students enroll in these developmental courses.
The following activities are recommended to improve these problems:
a. The entire assessment process should be reviewed to determine if it adequately measures past student achievement.
b. Teachers in the various programs should review student requirements and decide whether the prerequisites are adequate.
c. Counselors should encourage more students to enroll in the Basic Skills courses to enable them to be successful in later advanced courses.
d. The Basic Skills department should be expanded to accommodate many more students then it currently serves.
e. Basic skills faculty and staff should be given time and resources to benchmark innovative programs in other colleges.
5. Provide Customer Service Training for Front-line Service Workers to Enhance a Student-centered Environment
It is essential that the College view itself as a part of the service industry. A key feature that distinguishes one post-secondary institution from the next is the students' perceptions of service quality and value received. Implementing a College-wide customer service training program for all front-line service staff is a must, based on interactions with many service workers. The lack of communications between offices often presents tremendous service challenges to the students. LAMC administrators recognize that student-centered staff in front-line positions are key to making students feel they belong on a campus, thus helping to improve both recruitment and retention. Students who are employed in key positions on campus should be trained, also, to deliver the same service expected of full-time college staff.
The most effective way to make your campus more student-centered is to listen to your students. During the meetings, students expressed a need for involvement in the life of the campus. To that end, we recommend a specific strategy for getting students involved strategically and productively in their own success on campus:
Assemble focus groups to take a more intensive look at the data and make appropriate recommendations. Individuals should be selected for each group and one scale from the Students Satisfaction Inventory assigned to the group. The groups will explore their respective scales in depth, asking detailed questions about each item included in the scale. (Don't be surprised if the students take a different view when you probe further. Even though the score(s) are high in some cases, students will still give you insights for improvements.) Direct each group to make specific recommendations to be considered by the Enrollment Management/Retention Task Force and/or staff of each area as appropriate, i.e. academics, student life, registration, admissions, financial aid, personnel, etc.
The Enrollment Management/Retention Task Force should test the recommendations for student centeredness by asking one basic questions: "Do the recommendations put the students' needs ahead of those of the faculty, staff, and administration?" If they do, then the task force can prioritize the recommendations based on likely impact on retention.
6. Review Intake Processes for Entering Students
One feature of the total quality improvement process is its focus on process management. Process management requires the flow-charting of each primary process and the reviewing of each activity to. remove possible glitches.
The Student Services Department is to be commended for flowcharting many of its functions. However, some key processes are not detailed and this is recommended together with another look at the current flowcharts.
Once flowcharts are in place for each main function (admissions, registration, financial aids, disbursement, etc.), they should be analyzed to determine if there are any problem areas that need correction. Using some of the total quality tools, these problem processes should be pinpointed to determine root causes and come up with tentative solutions. The Plan, Do, Check Act (PDCA) methodology is especially useful to ensure that there is good data on these solutions before permanent corrections are made.
As service workers and their managers get acquainted with the tools and techniques of process management, they will focus routinely on continuous improvement for all the functions they are responsible for.
7. Develop a Strong Staff-Development Program that Features On-going Training Opportunities for College Employees
Professional development programs for faculty, staff, and administrators are extremely important to the continued success of any institution of higher learning. Community colleges, in particular, ate expected to deliver cutting-edge programs with exceptional service delivery. To achieve this expectation from its constituents, LAMC must provide and insist on appropriate training for all employees.
Faculty must be expected to become familiar with the newest developments in their fields so that their students have the edge in the job markets they pursue. In the more technical areas this means establishing relationships in those business fields, going there to learn about their new technologies and processes, and returning to the LAMC classroom to prepare students accordingly. Faculty should also be encouraged to learn some of the tools and techniques used in institutions that have implemented formal programs of total quality improvement in instructional processes.
As detailed in an earlier recommendation, the implementation of a college wide customer service training program for all front-line staff is a must.
Administrators and managers need to be well versed in continuous quality issues which focuses on employee empowerment and teamwork, productivity, information and analysis, strategic planning, project management, and other important leadership skills. Effective college management and leadership are dependent on the management's ability to be supportive to those who are delivering programs and services daily on the college's behalf.
8. Review the Needs of All Stakeholders and Use Data to Improve Existing Programs and Develop New Ones for the College
Los Angeles Mission College has many stakeholders including students, employers, internal faculty and staff, government agency representatives, and educators from institutions. It is important that all stakeholders be identified and included in decisions related to program design, delivery, and evaluation.
The first step in this process is to identify the stakeholders of the College who should influence these decisions. Once they are identified, the stakeholders should be asked to provide program feedback to help the College determine its offerings .
Several strategies may be used to obtain this information. Surveys, focus groups, interviews, and the use of advisory committees are examples used in other colleges .
The use of several total quality planning and management tools will be helpful in gathering this information and making decisions about its use. Several colleges have trained facilitators to assist department faculty and staff with these important decisions.
9. Utilize Student Satisfaction Data to Monitor Student Expectations
Los Angeles Mission College is commended for using a systematic approach to gather information about student expectations. These expectations serve as the point from which students make qualitative judgments about your institution. It is therefore essential for Los Angeles Mission College to incorporate a continuous and systematic approach for assessing students' expectations and satisfaction with all programs and services on campus. A brief summary of the study conducted at LAMC during Spring, 1996 is included below, however, the entire report should be circulated throughout the College and reviewed by all personnel.
The most critical areas to target for retention improvement are those areas of campus programs and services where students express high expectations and low satisfaction. The College can shape its "action agenda" for retention by first identifying:
A random sample of 179 students at Los Angeles Mission College completed the Student Satisfaction Inventory in Spring, 1996. Expectations and levels of satisfaction with the College's programs and services are detailed here.
Data from the inventory's 12 scales are presented in order of greatest importance to Los Angeles Mission College students with the corresponding satisfaction and performance gap mean scores (on a scale of 1 through 7 with 1 being low and 7 being high):
Student Satisfaction Inventory Results
Los Angeles Mission College Means
|Safety and Security||6.30||5.45||0.85|
|Concern for Individual||6.26||5.36||0.90|
|Admissions and Financial Aid||5.97||4.99||0.98|
|Campus Support Service||5.62||5.04||0.58|
Maximizing benefits means knowing how to use the results. Los Angeles Mission College can derive the greatest benefits from the Student Satisfaction data by considering the following strategies for prioritizing the performance gaps indicated in the Campus Report:
a. What is the size of the gap(s)?
Strategy: Attend to the largest gaps first.
b. How important is the goal?
Strategy: Work on the goals that are most critical at LAMC first.
c. How many students are affected?
Strategy: Choose those gaps that affect the most students first.
d. What are the consequences of not meeting the goal?
Strategy: Select those gaps that have the most serious consequences if the gaps are not closed first.
e. What is the probability of reducing the gap?
Strategy: Attend to the gaps that have the greatest probability of being closed with the available resources first.
10. Establish an Enrollment Management/Retention Task Force
It is strongly recommended that a cross-functional team of College personnel be given the primary responsibility of coordinating the review of this report and the design of long-term goals, strategies and action plans. Unless there is such a written plan that is monitored regularly, meaningful change will not happen.
An existing committee, such as the Student Equity Committee could be assigned to this project or a new one could be established.
This task force should have up to twelve members representing students and all personnel levels of the College. This should be a high-level committee responsible to one of the senior executives of the College.
It is also recommended that this task force receive assistance in developing the long-range plan and the strategies to be used for implementation. Each recommendation adopted should have an action plan which has the following:
This task force should also receive training in project management, conflict resolution, and consensus reaching to enable them to properly facilitate the action plans and assist others in successfully completing this project.
11. Review Financial Aids Processes and Determine Whether More Students Should be Eligible for Assistance
Approximately ten percent of LAMC students are receiving Peel Grants and an additional 30-40 percent are receiving BOG Grants. This is a very low percentage of students, based on comparisons with other colleges we have worked with.
Study other colleges in the Los Angeles Community College District and determine if the LAMC experience is unusual. If it is, develop a plan to increase the number of students who receive assistance.
12. Establish a System to Survey Students Who Withdraw and Determine Reasons for Their Leaving
The College is commended for collecting considerable data on students that is valuable to this retention study. Included is an extensive report that shows a week by week accounting of student numbers for each course. The report also shows the number of students who leave each week and the number of students who complete each course successfully (receive "C" average or better). Conversely the report shows the number of students who are unsuccessful (receive a "D" or "F") in each course. This information should be studied further to note significant correlation related to retention.
A withdrawal form should also serve as a check sheet for listing reasons why students leave the College. The College should ensure that it is getting as much information as possible from each student who leaves. Since students often transfer within the Los Angeles Community College System, this would have to be considered when designing the form and analyzing the data. The information gathered would then be plotted on a Pareto Chart to show primary reasons for the withdrawals.
Another determination that needs to be made is what constitutes a "drop out." It appears that many students drop out of one course and continue in others. The Enrollment Management/Retention Task Force should analyze this data and make this determination.
The information gathered in these withdrawal studies should be charted and displayed for all personnel to see. The continued visibility of this data will remind all personnel that retention is a main goal of the College.
13. Review Hiring Practices to Promote Openness in the Selection Process and Ensure that There is an Emphasis on Diversity
Several persons who were interviewed during this study requested that there be more openness in the hiring and selection process, especially for part-time faculty. The students interviewed did not view this as a problem, however.
Since a large percentage of students are Hispanic and African Americans, efforts should be directed toward finding qualified part-time instructors while promoting diversity among faculty and staff.
14. Establish Structure to Enhance the Business/professional Center Idea and Foster new Markets and Partnerships in the Private Sector
The new Technology Center should serve as the catalyst for enhancing relationships with the business community. There are numerous strategies proven successful elsewhere which can provide guidance for this effort. Some examples are as follows:
a. Design and delivery of customized training programs which are provided under contract to business and industry
b. Creation of Technology Resource Center with memberships from business and community providing resources to keep the Center state-of-the-art
c. Design and delivery of distance learning and homebound interactive instructional programs
d. Establishment of Quality and Productivity Resource Center to foster community use of training materials for total quality improvement efforts in the private sector
e. Delivery of credit and non-credit courses, on site, to business and industry
f. Design and implementation of credit programs offered during evening and weekend hours for part-time, employed students.
15. Conduct Organizational Climate Survey Among All Personnel to Determine Levels of Satisfaction
The morale of Los Angeles Mission College appears to be excellent. Most people are content with being employed at the College and the employee retention rate is very good. Since research shows that the contented and satisfied employee is more productive, this positive organizational climate is a real strength of LAMC.
However, there is a need to have on-going, consistent data to support this contention that the morale is high. Therefore, it is recommended that LAMC conduct an organizational climate survey among its personnel to determine the strong and weak points of the organization.
This campus climate survey among employees will provide data to benchmark improvement overtime.
16. Encourage Greater Articulation Efforts with K-12 Schools in the Region
The President should be commended for meeting with superintendents and other school officials in the K- System in the region. These meetings can serve as the springboard for greater articulation efforts, especially in joint programs and services.
The idea of "School Tutorial Centers" seems like an excellent strategy to promote cooperation between the systems while improving the basic skills of both students and parents from K-12 schools.
The offering of LAMC courses to high school students is another way to promote beneficial partnerships while acquainting students with LAMC programs and services .
More efforts in this direction are encouraged.
17. Use Strategies Proven Successful in EOP&S, PACE, and Disabled Student Programs
There are many positive strategies being currently used in these program which could easily be modified for use in regular instructional programs of the. College. The facilitative approaches used by teachers in those programs are especially effective and may also be successful in other parts of the College. In addition, these program faculty and staff have incorporated many "customer service" features into their routine and they appear to be working very well.
Unfortunately, most time and activity on campus is directed toward solving problems rather than learning how to make them not happen (Crosby, The Eternally Successful Organization, 1992). Such is the case with retention. Focusing on the aforementioned retention strategies will surely result in significant enrollment growth for Los Angeles Mission College, however, the results are likely to be short-lived if the systems that were put in place to facilitate the growth do not become a part of the campus culture. Thus, the key to continued success in retention requires that the institution remain in the proactive posture--thinking prevention--not recovery. This proactive, prevention approach can best be attained through: