Date of this Version
Journal of Southern Academic and Special Librarianship (Spring 2001) 2(3). ISSN: 1525-321X. Also available at http://southernlibrarianship.icaap.org/content/v02n03/orgeron_e01.htm.
Higher education has seen the emergence of new models of student support services. These models vary greatly, ranging from those that, for example, simply streamline the registration process, to others that base new building construction on studies done about the information and service access needs of students.
In the recent past, colleges and universities have felt the impact of significantly higher drop out rates among freshman, and they have made attempts to assuage these rising attrition rates. Through extensive study of college campus culture and student needs, many institutions are changing long-standing protocols and adding a technology rich, user friendly environment in an effort to minimize the freshman drop out rate.
Loyola University New Orleans, like most institutions, is actively pursuing ways to bolster its student retention. Statistics show, of the freshmen that enrolled in four-year colleges in the United States in the fall of 1996, 26.4% did not return the following fall. Although Loyola's attrition rate for the 1998-1999 school year was 16.35%, far better than the average, retention remains one of the University's major endeavors.
In an effort to better serve students, each year Loyola conducts the Student Satisfaction Inventory (SSI). The SSI gathers student opinions concerning academics, campus life, and support services. Using the survey results, a retention task force implemented by the administration discovered that overall students were unaware of the various support services available on campus such as Writing Across the Curriculum, disability services, tutoring, and career counseling. Other institutions have witnessed similar situations. A task group focused on improving retention at Ivy Tech State College found that the facilities for support services units and the staffing levels for those units were, indeed, appropriate, but students, overall, were unaware of their existence.
In response to student opinions at Loyola, the President of the University suggested that an existing lab located within the Library could be redesigned to serve as a resource clearinghouse—to represent all of the different academic support services on campus.
Since the University’s administration sees student retention as a natural by-product of student success, seeing to it that all of Loyola’s students have access to support services is an important step towards ensuring that each student is successful. We are working under the assumption that that if students are aware of the various support services on campus, use will “naturally” increase. Then, with increased use, we would expect to see an increase in our student's success rate. It is felt that if we can increase student success, then in turn retention rates should increase, too.