Online institutions must take notice of the patterns of non-traditional learners attending both traditional brick and mortar and online schools. Attrition of students, especially in the first year of college continues to rise.
Institutional enrollment numbers at face-to-face institutions provide evidence that students are no longer graduating in the traditional four-year period but are on a much longer path to getting their degrees. Educational leaders and policy makers fear higher rates of attrition and challenges due to the deep economic recession may negatively determine the fate for many students in higher education. The US economy since 1970 has gone from a manufacturing based economy to one of information based. As tuition and room and board cost continue to rise at an alarming rate, online education becomes a logical alternative. The future US economy will need quicker education and training for its future employees. Because it is information based system there is also global competition. The challenge will be for enough qualified workers to meet the needs of the marketplace.
From a global economic perspective it is important that the United States’ higher education community increases the number of adult learners who earn college degrees. The highly educated Baby-Boomer generation is approaching retirement age and as they depart from the workforce, America will need to replace their knowledge, skills and experience with younger workers who have been prepared with a comparable education background in addition to the information based jobs that will need to be filled.
Unfortunately, current college age enrollment trends indicate that the nation is falling behind in terms of the percentage of high school graduates going to school and will need to make up for this by educating more older adults to offset the shortage of appropriately qualified traditional aged college students.
It is imperative that a model of prediction concerning student retention in online learning is found to assist institutions across the higher education community in preventing attrition and advancing student persistence and setting a path for students to be admitted into a university.
Current information indicates that the presence of transfer credits that a student has and the tendency for a student to drop out after two courses may indicate that the initial attempts at college enrollment online may be more exploratory than traditional college. Surveys indicate that almost half of seniors at traditional colleges attend multiple institutions for classes. How institutions work with students through faculty, administrative personnel, offices and other students may be more important in online institutions. Institutions must develop policies and practices that influence student achievement and ultimately effect student enrollment and retention. Educational leaders and policy makers must take notice of factors that effect the online learner is especially important as this population continues to grow.