Career Colleges – Recruitment, Retention, and Graduation

Career colleges have steadily been increasing their enrollment as adult learners decide to return to school. Their popularity is due to their flexible schedules, accelerated programs and the practical field experience their faculty bring into the classroom. Over two million students attended accredited career colleges in 2005-2006 with two-thirds graduating within three years of enrollment. Both administrators and faculty are charged with recruiting, educating, retaining and successfully graduating their students. Below are several helpful tips for administrators and faculty.


1. Know Your Target Population:

a) Market your ad campaigns within the markets that your target population reside, work, and play.

b) Don’t limit yourself to newspaper ads and television commercials. Adult learners also frequent Craigslist, MySpace and YouTube.

2. Network:

a) Create collaborative partnerships with local high schools in your area. Visit their guidance counselors and offer to make a presentation to students.

b) Participate in College Fairs. Many event planners are looking for diverse types of colleges including technical, career, community, and traditional 4-year colleges.


1. Assess Your Students:

a) A brief personal assessment at the time of enrollment would help to identify which students are coming in with additional responsibilities like full-time employment, children, a sick spouse, financial difficulties etc. which might put them at risk for dropping out.

b) Faculty should be made aware of which of their students have academic weaknesses which may put them at risk for prematurely dropping out. Students with disabilities i.e. ADHD, learning disabilities may need to have academic accommodations within the classroom setting.

2. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate:

a) Encourage students to speak with their advisor or program chair if their situation has changed and they may not be able to attend classes regularly. Most instructors are willing to work with a student, but they can’t help if they don’t know there is a problem. The idea of ongoing communication must be fostered at the time of enrollment.

b) Faculty are encouraged to provide ongoing feedback to their students. The end of the semester is to late for a student to find out they are failing a course. Also provide positive feedback to students to help keep them motivated.

c) Faculty and staff are encouraged to provide informal mentoring. If you have made a connection with a student, maintain that relationship. If you see the student in the hallway briefly stop them to see how they are doing and offer a few words of encouragement.

3. Help Your Students Be Prepared:

a) Students are encouraged to know what are the educational and skill requirements for the job they are seeking. During their college tenure they should be seeking to get these experiences either through a paid or volunteer position to increase their competitiveness.

b) Students should be encouraged to start preparation for graduation at least three months before their anticipated graduation date. They need to be sure their portfolio contains a professional cover letter, resume, letters of recommendation and reference list.

c) Students are encouraged to begin to try and secure an internship or a job by sending out job applications on a weekly basis. Some students erroneously believe a job will be waiting for them on the others side of the stage when they graduate and unfortunately this is not the case. Also some employers require local and national background screens which can delay a job offer until the results come back.

Finally- Don’t let your students give up. Reach out by phone or email periodically to say hello and offer encouragement. Most successful people recount the difference that one person made in their life. Let’s be that difference!!!