Figures and Tables


Habley Retention Model
Student A: Low ACT, Low Motivation
Student B: Low ACT, High Motivation
Student C: High ACT, Low Motivation
Student D: High ACT, High Motivation
Example Outcomes That Effective Career Planning Can Support at Different Life Stages
The World-of-Work Map
Percentage of Students Persisting in Their Current Major, by ACT Scores and Interest-Major Fit
Percentage of Students Attaining a Timely Postsecondary Degree, by ACT Scores and Interest-Major Fit
Example Interest-Major Fit
Example of Risk Indices
Career Decision Making Model
Career Center Resources by Stage
Pyramid for Success
Expected and Hypothesized Paths to Outcomes
Results–Path Model
College Developmental Course Best Practices
Three Pillars of Success
Test Only Placement Model
Multiple Conditions Placement Model
Multiple Considerations Placement Model
Decision Zone Placement Model
Considerations in the Change Process
Attitudes Toward Change


Projected Population Percentage Change in Regions by Race and Hispanic Origin: 1995–2025
Projected Percentage Change in Public High School Graduates from 2008–09 to 2018–19 by Region and Race/Ethnicity
High School to College Pipeline by Race/Ethnicity
Degree Completion Rates at Two- and Four-Year Institutions
Percentages of College Participation/Completion of the U.S. Population 18 Years and Over by Race and Hispanic Origin: 2009
The Public and Private Benefits of Higher Education
Cost to Recruit an Undergraduate Student: 1983–2009
Cost of Tuition and Fees: 1983–2009
Impact on Tuition/Fees Revenue: Typical University
Impact of 3% Improvement in Retention Rates on Tuition/Fees Revenue: Typical University
Impact on Cost of Recruitment
NAEP Pipeline—Reading Scores 1984–2008
NAEP Pipeline—Math Scores: 1986–2008
NAEP Pipeline—Writing Scores: 1998–2007
NAEP Pipeline—Science Scores: 1996–2005
Entering Class Admission Test Pipeline to College—2006–2010
ACT’s College Readiness Benchmarks
Percentage of Students Meeting Benchmarks for 8th Graders, 10th Graders, and High School Graduates (2010e)
Percentage of Students Achieving at Least a 2.5 GPA by Performance Level
Percentage of Students Retained from Year-to-Year by Performance Level
Percentage of Students Making Reasonable Progress by Performance Level
Percentage of Students Persisting to Degree by Performance Level
Salient Psychosocial Constructs from Educational Persistence Model and Motivational Theory Perspectives
Psychosocial and Study Skill Factor Constructs and Their Representative Measures
Meta-Analysis Results: Predictors of Retention
Meta-Analysis Results: Predictors of GPA
SRI Scale Definitions and Sample Items by Student Control Factor
Sample SRI-College Profiles
Results of Hierarchical Linear Regression Models for Predicting GPA at Four-Year Institutions
Results of Hierarchical Linear Regression Models for Predicting GPA at Two-Year Institutions
Results of Hierarchical Logistic Regression Models for Predicting Retention at Four-Year Institutions
Results of Hierarchical Logistic Regression Models for Predicting Retention at Two-Year Institutions
Success Rates Passing Foundational Studies Math (Spring 2009), by COMPASS Pretest and Behavioral Rating Levels
Success Rates Passing Elementary (Precredit) Math, by COMPASS Pretest and Behavioral Rating Levels
Mean Math Gain Scores for Elementary (Precredit) Math, by Math Pretest and Behavioral Rating Levels
Categorizing College Interventions
Categorizing Psychosocial Factors (PSFs) & SRI Scales
One-on-One Meetings in Student Affairs
2007 Retention in 2008
Resource and Services Utilization
Association of Risk Level & Academic Service Use on Retention & First-Year GPA
2004 Survey Respondents
2010 Survey Respondents
Dropout-Prone Characteristics, 1980 and 1987 WWISR Studies
Practices with the Greatest Mean Contribution to Retention
Interventions Cited as One of the Top Three Interventions by 9% or More Respondents
Summary of Retention Rates by Institutional Type: 1983–2011
Percentage of Respondents Identifying Retention Interventions Among the Top Three
Five Select Learning Initiatives from the What Works in Student Retention (WWISR) Survey (Habley et al., 2010)
Remaining Thirteen Learning Assistance Initiatives from the WWISR Survey (Habley et al., 2010)
Top Five Advising-Related Practices
Incidence and Mean Ratings of 10 Remaining Advising Practices
Ratings and Incidence Rates for First-Year Transition Programs by Institutional Type
Transition Programs Identified Among Top Three Interventions ≥ 10% of Respondents
Percentage of First-Year Seminar Types
The Expanded Retention Framework
Prevention, Intervention, and Recovery Initiatives Chart


This is not simply another book on college student retention. In fact, although college student retention may be the most studied and discussed aspect of American higher education, over the last forty years, nearly every empirical study on the causes of attrition and the impact of interventions on retention has yielded only modest results. Some studies yield confounding and even contradictory results. The literature is also replete with “how-to” retention advice on virtually every campus program—advice which is either anecdotal in nature or difficult to adapt to other campus cultures. One would expect that observable strides in college student retention would coincide with the proliferation of retention studies, but this is not the case. Sadly, one out of every three students who enters higher education in a given fall term will not return for a second year (ACT, 2010e) and approximately 40% (Tinto, 1993) of all college students will never earn a degree anywhere, at anytime in their lives. Those percentages have not changed appreciably since the middle of the twentieth century.

Our firm conviction is that because of stagnant college retention and persistence-to-degree rates, this cannot be just another book on student retention. We do highlight the urgency of the retention issue and its impact on individuals and society and we provide brief overviews of retention theory and research. We also document the direct and indirect costs of recruiting versus the return on investment of students who succeed. We respect and believe in the necessity of theoretical perspectives and in the importance of empirical research, but this book does not include a comprehensive review of the retention literature. There are many other places where readers may go to find such reviews. We will, however, focus on research to the extent that it supports our assertions. For example, a thread throughout the book is our use of the results from ACT’s What Works in Student Retention (WWISR) (Beal & Noel, 1980; Cowart, 1987; Habley & McClanahan, 2004; Habley, McClanahan, Valiga, & Burkum, 2010) surveys because they provide three decades of longitudinal results from institutions of higher education. The consistency of WWISR results on the causes of attrition and on practices that lead to student success are at the core of this book. In addition, authors affiliated with ACT, Inc. have made significant contributions to the literature on student success, particularly on the impact of psychosocial characteristics and career development. Most of the references contributed by ACT researchers are attributed to major juried journals and published books on measurement and on applied research. Those works provide a focal point for our discussion of student success.

If this isn’t simply another book on retention, then what is it? First and foremost, this is a book for practitioners and those who are responsible for coordinating and leading retention efforts at both the institutional and the public policy levels. We urge these individuals to focus intensively on those components and interventions that have been consistently tied to student success. Our study of the literature caused us to peel back the layers of theory and identify the core conditions that are necessary for students to succeed in college. We concluded that there are three primary—and, perhaps in the reader’s mind, intuitive—conditions necessary for students to be successful in college. The first of these is that students must learn. Although this condition may seem so obvious that it needs no further discussion, the fact is that many students are not academically prepared to learn and thus succeed in college. Many do not demonstrate the academic skills necessary for success in the classroom and, as a result, their ability to learn is compromised. Students will succeed if they learn!

The second condition necessary for success is that students must exhibit behaviors and develop personal characteristics that contribute to persistence. Among those are motivation, commitment, engagement, and self-regulation. The degree to which these characteristics fuel the desire to achieve an educational objective is directly related to the likelihood of success. Students will succeed if they are committed to their academic goals.

The third and final core condition is the ability to identify and commit to a plan of study that is congruent with interests and abilities. The attrition landscape is filled with students who entered academic programs where their choices were based on inaccurate information, inappropriate advice, or simply unrealistic expectations. Students will succeed if they connect to a plan of study that fits with their interests and abilities.

Hand in hand with these core conditions are the retention programs that support them. One of our concerns is that many institutions are using a shotgun approach to retention programming. That is, although we believe that all aspects of campus life contribute to retention, this book will not be a “how-to” compendium of multiple programs and services. There are many far more detailed, indeed book-length, resources on specific campus programs and services aimed at improving retention. This book is focused not on such details but rather on the basic principles that guide retention practices. We believe that institutions must focus on those programs that maximize the possibility that the core conditions above are addressed. In addition, we agree with current critics of retention efforts who suggest that many retention efforts involve simply layering on of additional services when an at-risk population is identified. The result is a hodge-podge of unintegrated programs.

Our focus has been narrowed down to four intervention areas: assessment/course placement, developmental education initiatives, academic advising, and student transition programming. There are multiple reasons why we focus only on these four intervention areas. First, in over four decades of research, these areas have been consistently cited as the most important retention initiatives in all institutional types. Second, these areas best support the three essential conditions for student success. Third, in an era of finite resources, institutional student success strategies that stress these areas are most likely to maximize the return on the investment of scarce institutional resources, both fiscal and human.

As important as these intervention programs are, we felt that the existing institutionally based retention framework supported only a limited definition of student success. The framework is both linear and temporal. It is predicated on the notion that when students enter specific colleges, they should be retained, they should persist from year to year, and they should earn a degree in a reasonable time frame. If these conditions are met for a significant percentage of the student body, then the institution is successful. Measures of institutional quality and accountability are based on the linear and temporal assumptions. As a result, the outcome metrics are retention and graduation rates. The rates tell a story about institutional success, but not about student success.

We will make the case that the existing retention framework must be expanded to account for additional measures of student success. We will argue that true student success is predicated on student achievement of educational goals regardless of the institution where the goals are achieved and the time it takes a students to achieve them. The expanded framework is not confined to one institution and it is not constrained by time or a narrow definition of student outcome. The outcome measure is the student’s attainment of an educational goal even if the achievement of that goal includes enrollment in multiple institutions and ultimate completion over an undefined time period. The framework poses the question: What would we do (or do differently) if the outcome was individual student success? While many would argue that student success is the underlying goal of all postsecondary institutions, the fact is that success is an institutional metric that discounts the educational achievements of students who pursued and perhaps achieved their educational goals at other institutions.

Finally, everyone associated with higher education has a role to play in improving student success. Those who make policy and allocate resources can have a positive effect by reviewing and revising accountability measures and structuring interinstitutional cooperation. Campus leaders must envision and work at developing a student success culture. In addition, administrators, faculty members, student affairs, and technical and support staff must recognize that the quality of relationships that students have with all members of the campus community are pivotal to student success.

Following are brief introductions to the five sections of this book.

Section 1: What Do We Know About Retention and Persistence to Degree?

We review the evolution of complex student departure terminology in Chapter One, suggesting that the semantics surrounding student departure have evolved considerably over the last sixty years. Early definitions defined departure as a student problem—one of curiosity but limited institutional consequence. Students who departed before earning a degree were dropouts, nonpersisters, or simply leavers. Later definitions (retention, attrition) focused on institutional descriptors. Current thinking acknowledges that the causes of departure are shared by students and institutions. Recognition of this evolution positions institutions and their representatives for a breakthrough to create solutions based on a much broader definition of retention.

In Chapter Two, noting that this book was not intended to provide readers with an exhaustive review of the literature on retention theory, we provide a brief overview of the five major perspectives from which retention theory is drawn: sociological, psychological, organizational, economic, and cultural. We argue for an eclectic, integrative approach to these theoretical perspectives, observing that no single perspective can completely capture the complexity of student retention. In addition to these theoretical perspectives, we describe two models that are useful in conceptualizing factors influencing student retention: Seidman’s Retention Formula (2005b) and Habley’s Staying Environment Model (1981). This chapter also includes a review of student and institutional characteristics, as well as institutional retention interventions. In simplifying theoretical underpinnings that are varied and intertwined, we assert that educators are now coming to understand that virtually all of what we know about student and institutional characteristics related to retention and about practices that promote retention has not changed appreciably in more than four decades. This chapter opens the door to consider new ways of looking at retention from the broader perspective of student success.

Section 2: The Case for Intensified Campus Efforts

Higher education is changing. Institutions are facing major demographic shifts in their student bodies, new technology influxes, and pressures created by the global economy that have an impact on students, faculty, and staff. It is in this context that institutions must grapple with a decades-old issue: student persistence and retention. In this first section, we offer what we believe to be compelling reasons why increasing the number of students who succeed in college is a national imperative.

In Chapter Three we review the basic demographic changes that are affecting student success, chiefly that by 2050 50% of the United States population will be minorities. The implications of these major demographic shifts are multifold. For example, it is expected that the U.S. Hispanic population will increase dramatically, yet college enrollment and persistence to degree among Hispanic students is significantly lower than that of all other racial/ethnic groups. In addition to the Hispanic population, the college access and completion picture for black and for Native American/Alaskan Native students is also bleak. These demographics provide significant cause for concern when considering the future preparedness of the U.S. workforce in relation to increasing global competition. If the U.S. educational system is not able to ensure that more underrepresented minorities have access to and are able to complete college, the nation will be at a competitive disadvantage with the economies of other developed countries.

In Chapter Four we explore both the public and private benefits of higher education, arguing that the government has long taken an active role in promoting higher education through legislation such the Morrill Acts, National Defense Acts, and through other government funding subsidies. This vested public interest should come as no surprise given the number of public economic and social benefits of higher education. College graduates provide benefits such as increased tax revenue, greater productivity and consumption, decreased reliance on government support, and a positive economic community. As individuals, college graduates earn higher salaries, have greater mobility, have increased personal savings, have access to better health care, have longer life expectancies, provide a better quality of life for their offspring, and enjoy increased personal status, to name only a few benefits. When looked at in their entirety, the benefits of a single college graduate can be quantified at $97,180 (McMahon, 2009), with the public benefits outweighing the private benefits.

Institutional economics of retention are explored in Chapter Five as we discuss the cost of recruitment in relation to the cost of retention. Direct costs of recruitment are relatively simple to calculate. They include personnel, travel, facilities, and supplies. Indirect costs are more difficult to calculate, but they are part of the costs of providing a competitive recruitment process. Indirect costs of competing for students include, but are not limited to, such things as classroom technology, recreation centers, and residence hall renovations.

Retention costs, however, are difficult to calculate and include lost tuition, cost of replacing a lost student, lost student aid, and reduced need for instructional staff. While it would be problematic to produce an exact figure, and it is far easier to measure recruitment costs than it is to calculate retention costs, the authors maintain that it is more cost-effective to retain a student through to degree completion than it is to replace a lost student. In addition, the benefits to the individual student retained are immeasurable.

We build a strong case that because retention and degree completion statistics have been stagnant for nearly a half century, investing in retention programming is not only cost-effective but is also an institutional imperative. Finally, we call for concerted efforts to provide evidence and empirical data on student success beyond anecdotes and heartwarming stories. In an environment of finite resources, it is critical that institutions show that what they do makes a difference in student success.

Section 3: Core Components of Student Success

Building on the previous section’s focus on the need to intensify retention efforts, this section addresses what we believe to be the most important components that should guide campus retention programming.

First, in Chapter Six we examine the roles of institutional culture and student engagement in student persistence. The strength of the American higher education system is in its diversity, which creates unique campus cultures, each with its own ethos. This diversity means that there is no such thing as the “right” institutional culture just as there is no such thing as a typical student. Our review includes the results of the Project on Documenting Effective Education Practice (DEEP), which is derived from the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), as well as Kramer’s elements that foster student success (2007). Those reports suggest that student success must be woven throughout the culture of an institution. Student success is everyone’s responsibility. Finally, we present concrete suggestions for creating a culture that supports and encourages student success.

Chapter Seven includes a brief review of relevant literature that underscores the importance of student academic preparation for college-level coursework and the dramatic impact it has on college success. We describe the level of preparation necessary for college success and the effect of solid preparation on student grade point average, progression, retention, and persistence to degree. Then, we examine the purported key indicators of college readiness, including high school grades, dual enrollment programs, and advanced placement courses. We conclude that grade inflation, dual enrollment, and advanced placement may actually mask the college readiness picture because (1) grade inflation is on the rise and (2) students who participate in dual enrollment and AP programs are those who are already most likely to succeed in college. Such programs focus on the academically talented students, not on average students and certainly not on at-risk students. Despite these initiatives, overall academic preparedness is not improving, and some would suggest it is declining. One certainly is that the global competitiveness of U.S. students is in decline. Finally, we discuss the role that postsecondary institutions can and do play in college academic readiness.

Chapter Eight focuses on the relationship between psychosocial development and student success. Along with other researchers, we contend that to fully understand student persistence one must understand student personality, attitudes, and behavior, and we offer a meta-analysis supporting that position. The meta-analysis pinpoints the relationship between educational persistence and theories of motivation and self-efficacy. We explore nine domains that encompass students’ psychosocial development in relation to persistence, including: achievement, goals, commitment to institution, perceived social support, involvement, self-efficacy, self-concept, academic skill, financial support, size of the institution, and institutional selectivity. Of these factors, the academically related ones are the most significantly correlated with student success. Finally, we focus on the use of psychosocial assessment tools to assist colleges in the creation of targeted initiatives to improve retention and academic success in high-risk areas.

Chapter Nine focuses on the role of career development in student success. We present a review of the literature, concluding that career development and direction are a critical component of student persistence. Our belief is that structured career exploration is necessary because students frequently lack the knowledge, confidence, and social support to engage in significant career exploration on their own. For many students college is the first opportunity they have to explore career options in a meaningful way. Our assertions are bolstered by empirical data showing that career planning has a positive impact on student success because it broadens student opportunities, increases a student’s sense of purpose, creates academic relevance between coursework and a student’s real-life goals, and increases a student’s overall engagement with the institution. Career exploration and development also is an element of student-environment fit, drawing attention to students’ strengths and encouraging persistence by aligning students’ educational goals with their interests and their values. Finally, we offer a number of practical ways for an institution to guide students through the career exploration process.

In Chapter Ten we provide an analysis of the collective impact of academic, psychosocial, and career development initiatives on student persistence and success. All three areas are incorporated into a comprehensive model that informs and supports academic persistence and success. Academic success builds confidence and thus drives all other indicators and success outcomes. Finally, we present a pyramid for success, which depicts a cognitive foundation upon which the psychosocial and career factors rest. Within the pyramid framework, we offer specific intervention strategies to successfully integrate the components of student success outlined in the preceding chapters.

Section 4: Proven Student Success Practices

Guided by the critical components (culture, academic preparation, psychosocial development, and career preparation) discussed in the previous section, the focus of section IV includes the identification and discussion of the practices that provide the best opportunity to successfully address those components. This examination is based on a review of three decades of data derived from ACT’s What Works in Student Retention Surveys (WWISR).

In Chapter Eleven, we report on the first comprehensive and collective review of all four WWISR studies comparing and contrasting the common themes that run throughout. This comparative view, including all institutions, provides a broad perspective of practices that are particularly successful in student retention. Following our review of the themes, we explore the data patterns from three perspectives: institutional characteristics that contribute to attrition; student characteristics that contribute to attrition; and retention programs, practices, and interventions. In all four WWISR surveys, student characteristics were rated as the single greatest cluster of factors contributing to attrition. Finally, utilizing additional data reports run on WWISR (Habley, McClanahan, Valiga, & Burkum, 2010), we examine high-risk populations and the specific factors that contribute to minority student attrition and retention. We conclude that over the last forty years most of what we know about the causes of attrition and about successful retention initiatives may have varied in semantics but not in substance.

Chapter Twelve provides an overview of the impact of course placement practices on student success. Based on our review of the literature, we contend that only 25% of students entering college are prepared to succeed in the classroom (ACT, 2005), leaving nearly 75% of college students underprepared and at-risk in at least one subject area. One way that institutions can reduce this risk is to place students in the correct courses, where their academic skills are identified and the coursework matches their performance level. Effective course placement minimizes the possibility of frustration, which often leads to failure. The benefits of an effective course placement process include producing data to help with resource allocation decision making, creating proper program enhancements including course revisions and learning support programs, helping design targeted retention initiatives, and assisting in accreditation and securing funding opportunities. We provide several suggestions for assessing student academic readiness and appropriate course placement, including four course placement models: test only placement, multiple conditions placement model, multiple considerations placement model, and the decision zone placement model. Multiple models allow institutions of differing sizes, missions, and student populations to work with a model that best fits their needs, their students’ needs, and the institutional culture.

We discuss developmental education initiatives in Chapter Thirteen. Developmental education is a broadly defined term that may include remedial coursework, tutoring, supplemental instruction, and other forms of learning assistance. We point out that President Obama and the Gates Foundation have identified developmental education as the gateway to college degree attainment for at-risk student populations. We explore the role of higher education institutions in remediation, noting that while there is an obvious need for remediation, there is a gap in the literature when it comes to assessing the overall effectiveness of remedial/developmental programs. ACT’s WWISR survey (Habley et al., 2010) identified four specific areas in developmental education that can make a significant contribution to student retention and success. They include required remedial coursework, supplemental instruction, tutoring, and early warning systems. These areas are discussed in Chapter Thirteen; in addition we present a brief glimpse of thirteen other areas of developmental education that were not found to be as effective or as widely used, but which may still have a positive effect on student persistence. We conclude the chapter by highlighting several promising programs and innovative ideas both at the institutional and statewide level.

Academic advising is the next student support program covered in this section. In Chapter Fourteen, we note that the history of academic advising spans nearly the length of the history of American higher education, whereas more formal and structured advising programs are a more recent development. Advising offers every student the opportunity for interaction with an institutional representative with whom they can build a relationship and develop an individual plan for academic and cocurricular engagement at the institution. We explore multiple advising theories and delivery models and frameworks for refining the way that academic advising is delivered to students. We also look at best practices in academic advising as well as factors that affect the success of advising programs.

First-Year Transition Programs and the role they play in student success are covered in Chapter Fifteen. First-year transition programs are designed to help students move from existing educational, career, and social environments toward academic and social integration into college life. We delineate first-year transition programs as constituent parts of a broader concept often called the first-year experience and focus on describing the increasingly complex and comprehensive approaches to first-year transition programs. These programs are specifically designed to ease the transition process. Orientation programs, which previously were single events, now serve as the beginning stage of a longer-term transition process that includes practices such as extended orientation, first-year seminar courses, and learning communities. We explore the emergence and effectiveness of learning communities and first-year seminars and conclude by noting that a successful first-year program is not a one-size-fits-all process, but rather a program based on the unique confluence of students’ needs with institutional characteristics and culture.

Section 5: Making Student Success a Priority

The final section draws upon all of the information presented throughout the book to offer a comprehensive student success framework for policymakers, institutions, and individuals.

Chapter Sixteen targets institutional and public policymakers and describes the expanded retention framework. This framework suggests there are important roles that policymakers and institutions can and should play to support a more holistic focus on student success. Based on our contention that the responsibility for student success must be shared between institutions and those engaged in public policy, we offer several recommendations as to actions that can be taken. As the foundation of these recommendations, we continued emphasis on building an integrated and holistic P-20 educational system. At the postsecondary level, policymakers should streamline transfer and articulation agreements between institutions to minimize complexity and expand options for students. We encourage the development of common course numbering systems and broader implementation of course applicability systems to help students move seamlessly between and among colleges. In addition, we contend that accountability measures must be redefined from a focus on retention to an overall student success model because it is more important for students to meet their educational objectives (regardless of where they began) than it is for a single institution to take credit for and be held accountable for student success. Finally, we cite a number of institutional policies that may inhibit student transitions, and we advocate for a thorough continuous review of institutional policies and requirements to ease student transition into, out of, and within the institution.

Chapter Seventeen offers practical suggestions for creating a student success culture at an institution. As we consistently contend, there is no cookie-cutter formula for an institution to follow in creating a culture that supports student success. We offer a dynamic approach, Appreciative Inquiry (Cooperrider & Srivastva, 1987), for creating an institutional plan focusing on student success, Appreciative Inquiry shifts the focus away from problem identification to an opportunity creation focus. We recommend that institutions focus on the Appreciative Inquiry Summit phases (Define, Discover, Dream, Design, Deliver) to build their student success interventions. Finally, we state that viewing student success through the Appreciative Inquiry framework allows an institution to meet the unique needs of their students and design a customized approach to student success.

In the final chapter of the book we present a practical plan for all members of the academy to contribute to student success regardless of their position or authority at the institution. The plan focuses on change at the micro level and outlines what an institutional representative can do to instigate the change process. We suggest that three areas of human capacity need to be deployed: cognitive skills, interpersonal skills, and intrapersonal skills (Klemp, 1988). By delving into these three areas, practitioners will be well positioned to cultivate opportunities for student success in their work. Our final charge to practitioners is to take action and to create change that fosters student success.

The Authors

Dr. Wes Habley has held numerous positions at ACT, Inc. and is currently the principal associate and coordinator of ACT’s Office of State Organizations. He earned his BS in music education and MEd in student personnel from the University of Illinois-Urbana/Champaign, and his EdD from Illinois State University in educational administration, where he was recently inducted into the College of Education Hall of Fame. Prior to joining ACT, Habley served as an academic adviser and later as director of the Academic Advisement Center at Illinois State. Habley also served as the director of Academic and Career Advising at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

Habley is coeditor of two editions of Academic Advising: A Comprehensive Handbook. Among more than 100 additional publications are ACT’s What Works in Student Retention? (2004, 2010), monographs on four national surveys of academic advising, and book chapters in Fostering Student Success, Developmental Academic Advising, and Faculty Advising Examined. Additional work has appeared in the NACADA Journal, The Journal of College Student Personnel, NASPA Journal, NACADA Monograph Series, the Jossey-Bass New Directions Series, and monographs from the First-Year Experience Program at the University of South Carolina.

Habley has delivered more than 400 presentations at meetings of professional associations and has served as a consultant or workshop leader at more than 125 colleges in the United States, the Middle East, and Canada.

Habley has served the National Academic Advising Association (NACADA) as a founding board member, past president and past treasurer of the. He inaugurated the Summer Institute on Academic Advising (1987), and served as its director for 22 years. In 2006, Habley was named director emeritus and in 2007 the Summer Institute Scholarship was named in his honor. He is the recipient of NACADA’s awards for Outstanding Contributions to the Field of Academic Advising and Service to NACADA.

Jennifer L. Bloom, EdD, is a clinical professor and director of the master’s degree program in the Higher Education & Student Affairs Program housed in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policies at the University of South Carolina. Prior to her appointment at the University of South Carolina in August, 2007, she served as the associate dean for Student Affairs & the Medical Scholars Program at the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Urbana-Champaign. She earned her doctorate in Higher Education Administration from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1995.

Dr. Bloom served as the 2007–08 president of the National Academic Advising Association (NACADA). She received the NACADA Outstanding Advising Administrator Award in 2005 and University of Illinois’ Campus Academic Professional Excellence Award in 2007. In 2008, she received the University of South Carolina’s Black Graduate Student Association’s Faculty Mentor Award as well as the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Urbana-Champaign’s Senior Class Special Tribute Award.

Dr. Bloom has coauthored three books, three book chapters, and eleven articles. The first book, Career Aspirations & Expeditions: Advancing Your Career in Higher Education Administration, was released in 2003 and coauthored by Nancy Archer-Martin. The second book, The Appreciative Advising Revolution, was released in September 2008 and is coauthored by Bryant Hutson and Ye He. The third book is titled Appreciative College Instruction: Becoming a Positive for Change in the Classroom and is co-authored by Bryant Hutson, Ye He, and Claire Robinson. In addition, Dr. Bloom has delivered 10 national webinars and over 160 presentations on her work at institutions and conferences across the country.

Steve Robbins is principal research scientist in the Center for Academic and Career Readiness and Success at Educational Testing Service (ETS). He is a nationally recognized social scientist and scholar interested in the interplay of career, personality, and cognitive factors as they affect education and workplace readiness and success. Steve and his coauthors have addressed the evidentiary basis of post-secondary practices on retention, academic mastery, and degree attainment behavior. He has published over 90 research studies and is the author and coauthor of several personality and career-based assessments. These include the Career Factors Inventory (Consulting Psychologist Press) and the Personal Skills Assessment suite in ACT’s WorkKeys system. He led the development of ACT’s ENGAGE for students and teachers, aimed at measuring academic behavior readiness and risk for college, high school, and middle school students.

Previous to ETS, Steve served as vice president of research at ACT, which supports Education and Workforce business units. He oversaw a complex, highly technical staff organized into several departments, including Validity and Policy Research, Psychometric and Measurement Research, Reporting Services, Survey Services, and Education and Career Transitions Research. As a member of the ACT executive leadership team, he participated in product architecture and delivery, and product innovation and development.

Steve is a former professor and chair of psychology at Virginia Commonwealth University. He helped build a nationally ranked and accredited counseling psychology program and was elected Fellow of the American Psychological Association in 1992. More recently he served as adjunct professor in the Department of Management, Tippie College of Business, at the University of Iowa. He taught strategic employee development in the MBA program.

Steve is a skilled management consultant and adviser to business and industry and to academic and education organizations. He is a highly sought-after public speaker and workshop presenter, and has mentored multiple doctoral candidates and professional-level staff. He is a licensed psychologist in Iowa and Virginia, and a member of the National Register of Health Service Providers.


From the initial discussion of this book on student success through final submission and publication, we have been supported and nurtured by professional colleagues and personal cheerleaders who believed in us and believed in the importance of student success.

At the professional level we thank our current and former colleagues at the University of South Carolina, and ACT, Inc. Special thanks go to Jacqueline Snider for locating out-of-the-way and out-of-date resources; to Erin Konkle for a great job in providing the section introductions; and to Katie Pauls for her painstaking preparation of the manuscript. In addition, Jenny thanks Helen Halasz for her assistance and support throughout the writing process. Finally, we each want to thank our coauthors for challenging our ideas, improving our writing, and for fostering a spirit of teamwork without which this project would still be an idea waiting to happen.

At the personal level, we believe that whatever our achievements, they are unquestionably a product of affectionate people who nurture our aspirations and urge us into the future with their expressed faith in our capacities. In that context we thank the following people.

Wes expresses his thanks to his wife, Katherine, who, for more than 35 years, has provided constant support, encouragement, and belief in what he was doing; to children, Brent and Kelly, who have grown into adults who would make any father proud; and to his parents, Gertrude and Florian, who always stressed the value of education even though neither finished high school.

Jenny thanks her husband, Steve Sanderson; her mother, Ada Bloom; step-father, Ed Morrison; brother and sister-in-law, Andrew and Judy Bloom; step-daughter and husband, Kathy and Matt Rassette; Teri Breitenfeldt; Amanda Cuevas; Erin Konkle; Catherine Paulson; and her aunts, uncles, and cousins. Special thanks go out to the prides and joys of Jenny’s life, her grandchildren: Cody Breitenfeldt, Kaitlyn Breitenfeldt, Rachel Rassette, and Rian Rassette.

Steve thanks his wife, Anne, who has stood by him through thick and thin, and knows all too well the tension that surrounds the writing process. Steve and Anne’s children, Jonathan and Abigail, are unique individuals who navigated college life in their own ways with the same positive outcomes; they are inquisitive, caring about others, and dedicated to lifelong learning. Both have clearly defined career goals, and traveled successfully across the College to Work Bridge. Steve’s parents, Marilyn and Lawrence, instilled in him the importance of education and the will to succeed. These values have stood the test of time.

Finally, a project of this scope cannot be completed without guidance and support from members of the editorial team at Jossey-Bass. We thank Erin Null, who guided the process at the beginning and the end, and Alison Knowles and Lisa Coronado-Morse for their support throughout the project.

Section 1


Chapter 1


Defining retention, attrition, and persistence