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If you were asked the question, “When should you begin thinking about student retention?” The answer may be…

  • When the student begins attending classes
  • When the student begins to show at-risk behaviors such as missing classes
  • When the student goes trough orientation

The truth is retention begins with marketing. How often do we tell potential students that earning their high school equivalency is free and easy? Let’s ask ourselves – “Is it really free? Is it really easy?”

Although instruction may be provided at no cost to the student, there are the incidental costs of participating in any educational program can prohibit participation. These costs may include childcare, transportation, or missed work opportunities. Furthermore, students need to cover the expense of the actual test.

Our marketing messages are often intended to make students more comfortable and less afraid of the academic rigors of the tests. However, making students believe that the test is easy sets up an unrealistic expectation. What happens when the student begins instruction and discovers that they may have many gaps in skills? Learning is not easy.

Why does this matter? It’s all about expectations and these expectations are tied to learner persistence. Perhaps the better message to market an adult education program is tied to the benefits of earning the high school equivalency.

For ideas and examples, check out Literacy Action Network’s Campaign I’MPossible. They  tie the learner’s goals and benefits of earning a high school equivalency diploma to the marketing message. It’s the first step in a strategic and well thought out retention plan, and often the most overlooked element of student persistence.

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