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Have we gotten student success completely backward?

aerial campus photo, Furman University
An aerial view of the Furman University campus.

In an article appearing in The Chronicle of Education, Aaron Basko, associate vice president for enrollment management at the University of Lynchburg, in Virginia, cites the Gallup-Purdue Index, which lays out “The Big 6 for Student Success.” The study polled over 30,000 students and correlated on-time graduation, career engagement, and overall well-being to a set of six college experiences including being highly involved in extra-curricular activities, having a mentor, and working on a long-term project.

Basko suggests that institutions might be looking in the wrong places to boost their retention numbers. Instead of correcting or focusing on all the things that can go wrong in the college experience – financial stress, mental-health challenges, dating issues and academic woes, for example, he said the solution to bolstering overall well-being among students could be much simpler.

He wrote, “Maybe while we are out collecting data, looking for red flags, and trying to anticipate student deficits, what we really should be doing is making sure every single student has a reason to stay and can articulate what that reason is.” He mentions Furman University’s The Furman Advantage in the course of explaining how some schools are leaning into Gallup’s “Big 6,” as part of their institutional identity.

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