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Successes and Setbacks: What Students Say Are the Biggest Factors in College Outcomes – Part Two

As we explained in part one of this blog series, we are sharing some excerpts from a three-part white paper that summarizes our student success survey. Part two is now available, and you can download it here.

The goal of the survey was to encourage continued awareness about what students experience as factors leading to their success. Student Connections relies on feedback from students (and academic experts) to inform the evolution of our products and services and to more effectively pursue our nonprofit mission. Central to that mission is partnering with colleges and universities to help more students realize the lifetime of opportunity promised by higher education.

In part two of the student success white papers, we review what former postsecondary students said about the biggest obstacles to their success. In their responses, students

confirmed that financial concerns are the biggest threat to completing school and becoming successful. The survey also revealed the cascade of related challenges that this issue can produce. Half of all students worked either a part- or full-time job to mitigate financial pressure. This was more likely among part-time students than full-time students. In effect, students trade a lighter class load for the distraction of a nonacademic workload.

Although financial stress was common among all student groups, responses show that the problem was more acute for students who did not advance as far along the academic path. This confirms the potential that financial literacy skills have for boosting retention and completion. Students who left school without a degree also were more likely to report that balancing school with family obligations was a challenge to their success. Younger students indicated that balancing the demands of coursework and college social activities was a challenge, often leading to procrastination.

These and other results from the survey remind us that nonacademic factors, such as financial literacy and time management, can jeopardize academic outcomes. Schools, which understandably prioritize academic learning, often lack the resources to individually counsel students about practical decisions. Although this represents a risk, it also highlights a strong opportunity for institutions to use alternative solutions to strengthen the effectiveness and perceived value of a postsecondary education.

To read the complete summary of the student survey, including more details about how different student demographics responded, click here to download the white paper. Next month, we’ll post about the third part of the summary, which examines the skills and resources students most value in achieving success.