Executive-style coaching is making its way onto campuses across the country as schools struggle to keep students from dropping out. Only 58 percent of full-time freshmen enrolled at four-year institutions in 2004 managed to graduate by 2010, up one percentage point from the year before, according to the latest available data from the Department of Education.
Coaching has helped California State University's Monterey Bay campus beat those odds, says Provost Kathy Cruz-Uribe. Last year, 78 percent of freshmen returned to school as sophomores, up from 65 percent in 2006-07, the year before the school added its coaching program. “If you’re the first one in your family to go to college, you may not know how to navigate the university and take advantage of the resources in the best way,” Cruz-Uribe says. “Coaches can really work with us to ensure the success of our students.”
In much the same way career coaches help executives reflect on their job performance and goals, student coaches talk with freshmen about studying, financial challenges, family issues, and long-term planning. Eric Bettinger, an associate professor at Stanford University’s School of Education, compared the academic records of more than 13,500 students; half had received coaching and half hadn’t. He found that freshmen in the coached group were 15 percent more likely to still be in school 18 to 24 months later.
Many universities are starting to build their own coaching programs, says Luke Iorio, president of the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching, a training company. Iorio says his group is teaching counselors and career advisers to become coaches at four U.S. schools and is negotiating with about a dozen others. “We are seeing more schools move … to take these coaching services in-house,” he says. “Universities already have a significant investment in student counselors and services, so this is a way of adding on to what they are already doing.”
Sundar Kumarasamy, vice president for enrollment management at the University of Dayton, has made coaching services available to the Ohio school’s 2,000 freshmen for the past two years. About 400 students signed up this year, and the school pays about $200,000 annually to work with them, he says. Since hiring the coaches, Dayton’s retention rate has gone from 87 percent to 89 percent, Kumarasamy says. Even a “1 percent increase in the retention rate can translate to multimillion dollars in revenue” for the university, he says. “It makes so much more sense to keep students rather than lose them. It is not only the right thing to do, but it is financially much more viable for the university.”
Source: Bloomberg BusinessWeek, April 23, 2012