The success of higher education institutions rests on their ability to increase student enrollment and retain learners. The foundation of achieving this lies in building a caring relationship with each student. Such a relationship requires empathy and understanding, recognizing that many students are not full-time learners and have demanding responsibilities such as careers, families, and personal obligations that limit their time. Therefore, learners need flexible and supportive programs and care from all higher education personnel.
Supportive programs that are relevant to student needs and aligned with the future are essential for increasing student enrollment and retaining learners. These programs must be based on the pedagogies or student preferences for learning and contain up-to-date curriculum. Technology plays a significant role in delivering such supportive programs and engaging learners.
Creating a Professional Learning Community (PLC) can also have numerous benefits in increasing student enrollment and retaining learners. PLCs provide opportunities for educators to improve teaching and learning, build stronger relationships among team members, and stay on top of new research and emerging technology tools for the classroom. Each of these qualities increases student enrollment and retains learners with interest and passion.
In recent years, our students have faced numerous challenges, including the worldwide pandemic, school shootings, racial violence, climate changes, and mental health challenges. It is imperative that we innovate our approaches to meet the changing needs of our students. Creating a supportive community of care is essential in supporting our students. Sharing care and concern with students helps create a relationship of trust. Using technology such as course “Cafes,” and announcement or discussion areas can help shape the environment and foster a supportive community of care.
When students report personal obstacles, institutions must offer them resources and follow up to ensure a community of care is evident. Each student has varying needs, and by creating a streamlined community of care, we can provide innovative solutions to assist one another. Building a caring relationship with each learner, creating supportive programs, and developing a community of care through innovative approaches is essential for increasing student enrollment and retaining learners. It is our responsibility as faculty and leaders to support our students through the challenges they face and help them achieve their academic and personal goals.
Supporting the academic journey
When students face challenges in their academic journey, it is essential to support them and let them know that success is attainable. One approach that has proven to be very effective in assisting students in this regard is peer mentoring. Peer mentoring is a process where a more experienced student provides guidance and support to a less experienced peer. According to Collier (2022), one of the significant advantages of mentor-mentee relationships is that mentors provide personal connections to the university. This is particularly important for students who may not be aware of the resources available within institutions. Peer mentors serve as a valuable resource to help students understand and access these vital resources.
Peer mentoring has several benefits for both mentors and mentees. For mentees, peer mentoring provides a sense of belonging and connection to the university community. They receive academic and emotional support from someone who has faced similar challenges and can relate to their experiences. Peer mentors can also help mentees set goals, develop study skills, and create a plan to achieve their academic objectives. For mentors, the experience of mentoring provides an opportunity to develop leadership skills and increase their own knowledge and understanding of the university environment. It also allows them to give back to the university community and make a meaningful impact on the lives of their peers.
Peer mentoring is a powerful tool for helping students overcome challenges and achieve academic success. It provides a personal connection to the university and enables students to access the resources they need to succeed. Peer mentoring benefits both mentors and mentees, providing a sense of belonging and a valuable learning experience.
Returning to education after years away can be a daunting experience for many students. They may feel uncertain about their ability to succeed in the academic environment. However, it is important to let them know that achievement is possible, and peer mentoring can be a valuable tool in helping them reach their goals.
Developing peer relationships can be an essential part of a successful return to education. Peer mentors provide a supportive and empathetic environment for students to share their concerns and fears. They offer guidance and support as students navigate the complexities of academic life, helping them to achieve their academic and personal goals.
Peer mentoring programs often pair experienced students with those who are new or returning to education. The mentor provides a listening ear, a sounding board, and practical advice. They help the mentee set achievable goals and develop a plan to reach them. By building a relationship based on trust and mutual respect, the mentor can encourage the mentee to take risks and push themselves beyond their comfort zone.
Peer mentoring is a powerful tool that institutions can use to support students in their academic journey, particularly those returning to education after years away. Peer mentoring programs can provide a supportive and empathetic environment for students to share their concerns and fears. The mentor can offer guidance, support, and practical advice to help the mentee navigate the complexities of academic life, develop study skills, and balance academic and personal responsibilities. In conclusion, building peer relationships through peer mentoring is an essential part of a successful return to education, enabling students to achieve their academic and personal goals while creating a sense of belonging and connection to the university community. For those returning to education after years away, peer mentoring can be especially valuable. Mentors can help them navigate the complexities of college life and provide insight into how to succeed academically. They can also offer guidance on managing time effectively, developing study skills, and balancing academic and personal responsibilities.
In conclusion, higher education institutions play a critical role in the success of students, and building a caring relationship with each learner is essential for increasing student enrollment and retaining learners. Creating flexible and supportive programs that are relevant to student needs and aligned with the future is crucial for achieving this. The use of technology in delivering supportive programs and engaging learners is also essential. In addition, creating a Professional Learning Community (PLC) can have numerous benefits in increasing student enrollment and retaining learners. This approach provides opportunities for educators to improve teaching and learning, build stronger relationships among team members, and stay on top of emerging technology tools for the classroom. Furthermore, developing a community of care through innovative approaches is crucial, especially in times of uncertainty and challenges that students face.
The authors have over 100 years of collective experience in school leadership, school district leadership, and higher education. Dr. Judith Blakely is certified in several states as a school administrator, superintendent, director of special education, gifted instruction, and bilingual education. She has provided service to students and instructors in grades k-12, community colleges, technical institutions, and universities (both private and public institutions). She presently works at a university as a school administrator providing service and support to both the master and doctoral level faculty and students. Dr. Michael Jazzar has served as a university administrator and professor, board trustee, superintendent of schools, principal, curriculum director, counselor, and teacher. He is currently employed as an online university professor. Dr. Michelle McCraney has served as a state college administrator, faculty member, principal, assistant principal, program and staffing specialist, and teacher. She is currently employed as an online university professor.
Carragher, Jean, and Jennifer McGaughey. “The effectiveness of peer mentoring in promoting a positive transition to higher education for first-year undergraduate students: a mixed methods systematic review protocol.” Systematic reviews 5 (2016): 1-9.
Collier, Peter. “How Peer Mentoring Can Help Universities Promote Student Success in a Post-COVID19 Pandemic World.” Metropolitan Universities 32, no. 3 (2022): 37-54.
Lehfeldt, Elizabeth A. 2022. “Care, Community, and Higher Ed Administration.” Journal of Women’s History 34 (2): 141–45. doi:10.1353/jowh.2022.0017.