Retention: A Student Aid Learning Module

Make student retention a top priority on your campus.

According to a 2010 study by Education Sector, "Institutions that make increasing graduation rates a priority will also help their students repay their student loans. Put simply, students who graduate are less likely to default."

Some Quick Tips

Make orientation an ongoing experience.

Don't rush through orientation in just 1 day. To be most effective, orientation should involve multiple touch points and, if possible, include family members. Use orientation to publicize everything your school has to offer, including the support services you provide on campus, so students can address problems early and keep working towards a future of success.

Spot early warning signs.

Are there students who are missing classes regularly? Struggling with grades? Experiencing financial difficulty? Help these students right away, before dropping out seems like their only option. Keeping the focus on early intervention will lead to better outcomes.

Champion faculty-student interaction.

Your faculty and staff serve as your first line of defense. Encourage faculty and staff members to greet students when they pass. By knowing names and faces, you create a welcoming environment and are more approachable. Students who are struggling will be more likely to ask for help.

Create a retention task force.

Your Financial Aid Office can't do it alone. Recruit faculty, staff, and other students to help with mentoring, counseling, tutoring, or any other services that can bolster students who are new to the college. Involve all offices and personnel. Get creative.

Define the SAP (satisfactory academic progress) policy for your campus.

Federal regulations require that you monitor all students for SAP to ensure they will be able to complete their degree. Students who are struggling and don't meet the SAP requirements may lose their eligibility for financial aid. Don't let this happen.

Your Retention Toolkit

Get started on your campus using the free resources we offer…

The More You Learn, the More You Earn

This interactive tool shows the average earnings (and average debt) based on the amount of education attained.


  • Use this tool during orientation to show the importance of a college education.
  • Send a link to students at risk of dropping out. Students need to understand the impact of student loan debt, especially if they don't graduate.

Grants and Scholarships: They're Not Just for Freshmen!

Many students make the mistake of limiting the scholarship search to freshman year only, but money is available even beyond freshman year.


  • Include a link to this information whenever you send out financial materials to students and/or parents.
  • Post this handout near ATMs and banks on your campus.

We Want You to Graduate

Improve your retention rate by encouraging students to use the support services you offer on campus.


  • Customize this handout to give to your students during orientation.
  • Distribute this handout across campus at regular intervals.
  • Get the word out as much as you can.

For Transfer Students: When a College Is Not a Good Fit

A decision to transfer has financial implications that students must consider.


  • Give this handout to any student who is thinking about transferring in to your school.
  • Also give this handout to any student who is thinking about transferring out of your school.

Email for Parents

This email reminds parents of the support services you offer on campus so they can encourage their student to seek help if necessary.


  • Send this email to the parents of all incoming freshmen.
  • Send again to the parents of any students who show early warning signs of dropping out.
  • Adapt this email as needed for your independent students to reach out to and engage their loved ones.

How Is Your Student Adjusting to School?

Parents and loved ones can complete this brief online checklist to determine if their student shows any signs of possible difficulties at school.


  • Include a link to this checklist in emails to parents.
  • Send specifically to the parents or loved ones of any students who show early warning signs of dropping out.

A Focus on Intervention

What should you look for? And what do you do when you find it? Being proactive today can help you address problems tomorrow.


  • Use this information to create a first line of defense for helping students who are struggling.

School Article on Retention

Promote the support services you offer to students who may be at risk of dropping out.


  • Customize this article and publish in your school newspaper at the start of every term.
  • Post this information on your school website year round.

Web Banners

Send the message to students: Dropping out doesn't make cents!


  • Add one of our banner ads to your school's website, especially on pages that talk about your support services, and link to one of our retention tools, such as The More You Learn, the More You Earn.

Tell Us About Your Retention Efforts

How have you improved retention on your campus? We want to hear from you.

See What Other Schools Are Doing

Take a look at some of the great ideas some schools have used to retain students.