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Student Success

What is “Student Success?”

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The term “Student Success” has become a big deal in higher education recently. We though it would be valuable to talk about how “Student Success” is being defined.

  •  States define student success as simply, “graduate.”
    • Graduation rates for traditional undergraduate degrees are 50% or lower.
    • States are basing funding allocations on graduations rates.
    • We are not meeting our state mandated requirements for graduation.
    • Students are either dropping out or stomping out and usually with significant debt.

When we (Daniel and David) think about “student success” we think of it as a much broader topic.

  • Governments are measuring students success by only looking at the statistics, these are only one measure of success.
  • Various groups of persons will define student success differently than just by statistics:
    • Students will ask themselves, “How successful am I?” “Am I smarter now than when I began college?”
    • Friends, upon the conclusion of the graduation ceremony will say, “Congratulations on your success!”
    • Parents: “Okay you have a degree, now what kind of job are you going to be able to get?”
    • Educators will regard success as not only the completion of degree but also a certain transformation that we observe over the 4-6 year experience and also some intellectual groundings.
    • Society will often equate the success of a student on their ability to get a job or not.
  • As students experience various classes they are not necessarily thinking, “what am I learning,” rather their thoughts are, “what kind of job can I get with this knowledge?”
  • College can be a very difficult and expensive process. When they graduate and are not making much money, or working in the field they studied in, it can be very discouraging.
  • We can be guilty, to a degree for contributing to how success is defined.
    • The goal is to graduate. The goal is also to get good grades.
    • What is your G.P.A. when you graduate? Did you get a gold cord?
    • Are you invited into a prestigious society?

We place a great deal of value on these measures of success, however when you go to apply for a job, these measures are usually not a factor.

We don’t have to look very hard to see some of the very rich and famous who dropped out of college. There are many examples of individuals who point out that “You can be successful without a college degree.”

Professors explore their student’s education with probing self-talk questions:

  • Does this student have the ability to:
    • Process?
    • Learn?
    • Connect unrelated thoughts?
    • Meet deadlines?
    • Be able to solve real-world problems?
    • Be able to provide value to an employer?

We (professors) will complain and say, “My gosh, what are these students learning in high school because they are obviously not prepared for what is going on in college.” We then spend a good amount of time remediating these students. We are quick to point that out, yet we don’t look on the other side of it. If we define student success as a degree we think, “Okay, we’ve done our job!” You know what? The high schools also define student success as a degree. Are those students necessarily prepared for college? No.

Do we ask:

  • Are our students prepared for the job market?
  • Are our students prepared for what happens after college?

No. not often.
How many colleges actually have a course to teach students about life after college?
The transition from college to career is something that is best when it is not taught overnight.

We don’t want our students to be sitting in their room, sometime after that June commencement ceremony asking the question: “How am I supposed to go forward?”

If we say, “That’s not our responsibility, it ‘s our job to educate them and get them out of here.” If we say that, then we don’t have a right to criticize what’s happening in high schools.

In our upcoming podcasts, we are going to look at these issues more specifically.


We welcome your feedback to our work.

Email:  General Information   |   Dr. Daniel de Roulet   |   Prof. David C. Pecoraro

Thank you!

Daniel & David

What is Student Success?

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SC 107 What is Student Success?