6 Ways to Decrease Student Attrition In Career Education Programs

6 Ways to Decrease Student Attrition In Career Education Programs

6 Ways to Decrease Student Attrition In Career Education Programs

To decrease student attrition in career education programs, focus on leveraging your student data and building support services.


There’s no program with an attrition rate of 0%, but even decreasing student attrition just a few percentage points could have a big impact on schools and students alike. Life happens, and sometimes students drop out due to financial or personal concerns. Other times, students fail to complete their program for a reason that could have been prevented—if only they had a little extra support. 

In short programs, even missing just a few days can put students well behind their required hour, and they may not feel like they have the time to catch up. In longer programs, students have more opportunities to encounter barriers in their educational journey.  

Fortunately, new technology makes discovering and retaining at-risk students easier than ever before, allowing vocational education programs to bring down their attrition rates. Here are six tips to help identify and break down common educational barriers BEFORE students become at risk to help decrease student attrition.

Table of Contents

Leverage Behavioral Data to Decrease Student Attrition

Many schools use last day of attendance (LDA) as a measure of student risk. But unfortunately, LDA doesn’t consider risk signs that occur before a student stops attending class, like tardiness or declining grades. If you’re only entering grades every so often or using a system that doesn’t reflect tardiness, you’re missing a critical piece of the puzzle. 

To decrease student attrition, you must implement a solution that: 

  1. Gives you a timestamped record of student attendance to identify tardiness 
  2. Allows you to quickly visualize factors like tardiness and progress without spending hours pulling reports. 


Identifying abnormal trends in student behavior will help you decrease student attrition and keep more students on track.

Act Proactively to Decrease Student Attrition

Traditional attendance methods like paper sign-in sheets sometimes take days to get back to registrars. By the time staff identifies an at-risk student, they may have been absent for a week or more. The more time a student misses, the more makeup time they’re facing—further increasing the likelihood that the student will drop. 

A real-time attendance solution allows your staff to identify an absence the moment it occurs. If an at-risk student isn’t in class, staff can call them, text them, or even reach out to them on social media to get them in class and create a plan to catch up on missed time.

Improve Staff Support to Decrease Student Attrition

All the student data in the world isn’t going to decrease student attrition if your staff doesn’t have the time to act on it. When looking for a real-time attendance solution, find one that integrates with your other systems—SIS, LMS, and CRM—to automate data transfers between the systems. Eliminating manual data management from your staff’s day-to-day tasks gives them more time to focus on students.

Improve Progress Visibility to Decrease Student Attrition

Many schools only provide students with progress reports periodically or upon request, causing students to feel disconnected from their education. They may not realize how many hours they miss out on by skipping just one or two classes. 

When students have easy access to their progress, they see how far they’ve come and how far they have left. A mobile app-based solution puts the progress report in the student’s pocket 24/7. As a result, they’re motivated by their progress and able to make decisions that propel them to graduation.

Offer Blended Learning to Decrease Student Attrition

Career education programs are hands-on and require lab or classroom instruction, but even hands-on programs typically offer some portion of theory-based instruction. Transitioning to blended learning gives your students a simple way to complete their time and education without commuting to campus. 

When DeHart Technical School, an HVAC school in Modesto, California, transitioned to blended learning, it saw an increase in enrollment, attendance, and on-time graduation rates. DeHart offers a mix of live online classes and practical on-ground classes. 

According to Damon Fugett, Director of DeHart Technical School, if a student is absent, it’s far easier to call them and tell them to log on to a Zoom call than to get them in the building. In addition, he found that students became more excited to attend class in person.

Provide Support Services Outside of the Classroom to Decrease Student Attrition

Decreasing student attrition isn’t just about what you do inside the classroom. Many career education students are nontraditional and may be working full time and/or supporting a family, requiring additional support outside the classroom.

Here are five ways your school can support students outside of the classroom to decrease student attrition: 

  • Bus passes: If a student has a car issue or a sudden change in their transportation situation, it may impact their ability to attend class. Many schools offer bus passes or other transportation resources to ensure students have a consistent way to attend class. 
  • Parking: In dense areas, the cost of parking can quickly add up. Offering onsite parking for every student who drives will help eliminate this potential financial barrier. 
  • Childcare services: Many large schools and campuses offer onsite childcare centers to support student parents. While an onsite center may not be possible for small schools due to budget and space constraints, schools can partner with local centers to provide childcare for students and staff alike. 
  • Home internet: If a student consistently misses their online assignments, it may not be because they’re slacking. It could be a simple Wifi issue. Fortunately, many community organizations offer free or reduced-price Wifi. Understand what resources are available, and help your students get connected to keep them on track. 
  • A student break room: If students are on campus all day or coming directly from work, they need a place to sit down and grab a bite to eat. According to Ena Hull, COO of Legacy Education, after surveying students, she found that even something as small as having a broken microwave can be a source of dissatisfaction for students. 
Start Decreasing Student Attrition

By improving your data collection/management and supporting your students and staff with the tools and resources they need to succeed, your school can stop student attrition in its tracks. 

Request a demo to learn how CourseKey helps over 300 career education campuses across the country decrease student attrition.

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