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Twokin Consulting: Persistence or retention - what is the difference?

Updated: Feb 14, 2023

As we work with client schools, Twokin Consulting has found that it is quite common for people to think of student persistence and student retention as interchangeable terms. While retention rate and persistence rate are used to measure the success of students in their academic pursuits, they have different meanings.

At Twokin Consulting, we list to explain that Persistence should be thought of from the perspective of the student. For example, "I persisted as a college student." Note that, "I retained as a college student" does not make much sense from an individual perspective. Also, persisted can refer to a student staying at the same school or that they are still attending college - "I persisted at college XYZ for my second year," and "I persisted in my college education and I am now at colleges ABC for my second year."

Retention is from the institutional perspective. For instance, the university "retained Paul as a student." The statement, "The university persited Paul as a student" does not make sense. Retention rate refers to the percentage of students who enroll in an institution and continue to be enrolled in subsequent academic terms. It is a measure of how well an institution is retaining its students and how successful it is in helping them achieve their academic goals.

At a perfect university where all students return for the second year, then the university would have a 100% retention rate and 100% of the students persisted. As an alternative, suppose none of the students return for the second year and all transferred to other colleges. In this case, the university would have a zero percent retention rate and the persistence rate of the student continuing college would be 100%.

In is June 2022 Retention and Persistence report, the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center highlights that of 2.3 million people who started college for the first time in fall 2020, 75.0 percent persisted at any U.S. institution by fall 2021. Of this, 8.6% persistent at other school and 66.4 percent persisted at their original institution. That is, the institutional retention rate was 66.4 percent. This is demonstrated in the the graphic.

Both retention rate and persistence rate are important indicators of student success in higher education, and Twokin Consulting works with institutions to maintain high rates in both areas. A high retention rate indicates that students are satisfied with their educational experience and are likely to continue their studies, while a high persistence rate shows that the institution is effectively supporting students in completing their degrees.

Twokin Consulting specializes in helping supporting colleges, universities, and nonprofits organizations in brainstorming strategies and ideas for improving operations.


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