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3 important numbers for the career college library

August 19, 2011

How often do you hear one of these three numbers; enrollment, retention and placement?  I would really love to know how often traditional academic librarians hear them.  Despite what college or university you work with, those three numbers are critical to the college’s success.  This post will be the first in a series where I talk about each of these metrics and how they relate to the career college library.  So let’s explore a little bit about what each of these numbers mean and why they are so important. 

Enrollment: So let’s get the obvious out-of-the-way, college enrollment is the number of students that apply and get accepted for take classes at a particular college.  Admissions requirements vary from college to college, even with proprietary schools.  No matter what type of college, enrollment is critical.  If you don’t have students you don’t have a school.  Colleges of all types do all kinds of things to increase enrollment.  Open houses, recruiters, etc.  And college enrollment is going up, (U.S. Dept of Ed, Institute of Education Science).  It might not be obvious how libraries impact this number, or what that number means for libraries, but we will get to that.

Retention:  This is it, the big one.  Once the student is enrolled how do you keep then in school until the complete their program of study.  There is so much research done on retention rates it’s mind-boggling.  The flip side to retention is attrition, or the number of students that drop out of school.  You might be surprised how these numbers are calculated.  A drop can be from a class, a program switch (major change), or completely dropping out of school.  The differences in where and how these numbers get reported also vary by college, but regardless.  No matter which way you slice it – once you get them sitting class you need to keep them there to be successful.

Placement:  What happens after course work is completed?  Did the graduate get a job?  Does the job have any relation to what they studied in school?  That’s what this number is looking at.  In career colleges this is a critical number and in some instances can decide on whether a school can continue operating or not.  Almost every college has some sort of department who focuses on this, some a bigger than others.  What crosses college type are the placements that are really important.  You know who went to a college and was successful after finishing their degree at said college – they use that to help with enrollment actually.  I can remember several conversations with the admissions department on all the various people who had graduated from their school and had gone on to become extremely successful in their field of study.  It’s like a badge of honor.

So there is a down and dirty look at three critical numbers to colleges and universities.  The next couple of posts will look closely at how the library can play a part in those numbers and how knowing that can help you show college administration why the library is important to the success of the school.  I hope to get some feedback on this and explore how these numbers differ from college to college.  If you have a different interpretation please share.

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