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Webinar Focuses on Innovative Answers to College Retention

As the emphasis moves from college access to completion, the issue of retention is a hot topic in higher education circles. Just how do you keep students coming back after their freshman year and engaged all the way to graduation? And just whose responsibility is it—high schools, colleges, nonprofits?

There are so many reasons that students drop out of college: Some are struggling academically. Others lack direction. Often, it's a matter of finances.

To keep students on track, colleges and nonprofits are trying all kind of ideas. There are peer-mentoring programs, tutoring services, financial-aid guidance, and help with the social transition to college. Schools have a responsibility to provide supports to help students succeed. But many are struggling with just how to do that. (See my recent story on the issue here.)

Tomorrow, Education Week will host a free webinar, "Unlocking the Secrets to College Retention," from 2-3 p.m. (Click here to register.)

I will be moderating the event that features two presenters who will offer innovative approaches to helping students stay connected in college.

Carla Wood, director of the Academic Success Center and the Retention Czar at Philander Smith College in Little Rock, Ark., will talk about some creative efforts on campus to support students in the transition to college with academic and counseling supports. Something about the mix of initiatives worked: The retention rate at Philander Smith jumped from 51 percent in 2004 to 77 percent in 2009.

Also presenting at the webinar will be Elisabeth Mason, co-founder and chief executive officer of Single Stop USA. This nonprofit organization helps students tap into programs to help with finances, such as Pell Grants and food stamps, as well as legal services. In 2010, the organization served nearly 10,000 community college students to access $23 million in benefits and services. Miami-Dade Community College and Central New Mexico Community College are among the sites where Single Stop provides services.

More than half the webinar is dedicated to your questions. So, please join in what promises to be an interesting discussion tomorrow afternoon.

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