The PTM Retention Model
Proactive Transition Management (PTM) has developed a retention model to improve this increasingly more important measure of institutional quality. Because most small, private colleges have limited resources, PTM has applied over 30 years of experience and research as a college president and consultant to college presidents and trustees to develop a cost effective retention strategy specifically tailored to each institution.
Using the four stage model of Assessment, Strategy, Management and Renewal, the PTM Retention Model includes:
Review all current retention plans and strategies and conduct phone interviews with the president, chief academic officer, chief enrollment officer, chief student life officer, chief institutional advancement officer, and chief financial officer prior to a campus visit.
Conduct focus groups with all major stakeholders – administrative units (admissions and financial aid, business office, student life, facilities/housekeeping/cafeteria, institutional advancement), faculty (by school or college or major groupings), students (in general and specific groups like SAAC, student government, IFC and Panhel, performing arts, honor societies), trustees, alumni, and even townspeople – plus individual interviews with key leaders (president and cabinet members) over a three-day period on campus.
Assist the registrar, chief enrollment officer, and institutional research director to identify data that impacts directly and indirectly on retention (more than who leaves, but who stays and why, as well as specific target populations such as female athletes from out-of-state, music majors, fraternity men, etc.).
Integrate insights gleaned from the campus visit and relevant data into a strategy that includes the following components: a 12-year comparison of retention and graduation rates at the client institution and 8 peer or aspirational colleges/universities; a philosophy of retention; a comprehensive analysis of retention data; and recommendations (usually in excess of 25) of specific strategies to improve retention.
Submit a comprehensive retention strategy tied to the campus visit and the data to the president for review.
Present a final plan to the audiences determined by the president, but ideally first to the Board of Trustees and then to an all college staff meeting, a faculty meeting, and an open student forum.
Ensure that the recommendations are aligned with the ethos and culture of the college or university and affirm the mission
Ensure that the presentations emphasize the unique ethos and culture of the college as key to successful implementation
Assuming an entering class of 350 and an estimated net per student revenue of $20,000, improving retention by just 2% would yield over $400,000 of additional revenue over three years (350 X .02 = 7 X $20,000 = $140,000 X 3 years additional net revenue = $420,000).
Sample Retention Strategies
Below are two examples of over 100 specific strategies I have developed based on drilling down into the retention data and focus group sessions at clients of PTM:
One institution discovered that out-of-state female athletes return for their sophomore year at a rate of 80% while non-athletes return at a rate of 65% and that women who joined sororities returned at 90%. This fall all out-of-state female non-athletes will be placed on two floors of one residence hall and the RAs on both floors are leaders in their sorority. The predicted impact is an increase in FY to Sophomore retention from 65% to 80% or at least six more students returning as sophomores. At $20,000 net tuition, room and board, that’s $120,000 in one year!
Another college in a rural area with a DIII football team having strong student support was encouraged to establish a marching band. For a cost of $500 per uniform and $3,000 for a part-time staff conductor, 25 FY students and 25 upperclassmen participated with both groups recording higher than normal retention. The impact on the bottom line is hard to define, but even the most conservative impact would be hundreds of thousands of dollars. In addition, the upbeat attitude of the marching band members had intangible positive effects on retention.
PTM is designed to be a boutique firm working with a small number of clients in order to provide personalized and individualized service. Each retention strategy is unique and tailored to each client.
Dean College (MA)
It is with pleasure that I write this letter of support on behalf of Dr. Peter T. Mitchell and Proactive Transition Management. Dean College has had the privilege of working with Peter in a variety of roles since 2008. This summer I invited Peter to campus to present a 3 hour Retention Workshop to our Academic Deans and the Retention Work Team. The presentation focused on retention data, trends, roles and responsibilities of all members of the college community, issues and recommendations as it relates to Dean College.
Dr. Mitchell was outstanding in his understanding of retention issues and trends and was able to deliver an informative, eye opening three hour presentation to almost thirty staff members at the College including Academic Affairs, Faculty, Athletics, Student Development, Residence Life, Advising, Facilities, IT and Admissions. Dr. Mitchell combined his knowledge and expertise as a former President of three different institutions, his experience working as a consultant with colleges and universities addressing retention as a major theme in higher education and was able to provide concrete examples and ideas that could be implemented in the short term as well as suggestions for the College long term. The staff respected Dr. Mitchell and took his ideas and recommendations with enthusiasm. He is a very engaging, charismatic presenter that has the ability to get his audience actively involved in the presentation. Dr. Mitchell was also able to read his audience and made everyone feel that their input was valued. At the end of the presentation, it was noted that the attendees were excited and onboard that retention is truly everyone’s job. We received many thank you notes after the presentation from participants from all levels of the organization and many even suggested this presentation be delivered to the entire Dean community.
As a higher education professional with over thirty years of experience working with student success and retention, I can honestly say that Peter was outstanding. Peter is current on the data, research and best practices that I have seen at all the retention conferences and workshops that I have attended. I also think his experience in roles ranging from Director of Admissions through that of College President enhance his credibility with a wide range of audiences.
I highly recommend Dr. Mitchell for any college or university that is looking for a professional to work with them to address student success and retention to effect immediate and long term change that will positively impact their institution. From knowledge to delivery, Dr. Mitchell was terrific. He was also extremely easy to work with from initial point of contact through conclusion of presentation.
If you have any questions or need additional information please feel free to contact me at (508)541-1552.
Cindy Kozil, Vice President Enrollment and Retention
Pfeiffer University (NC)
I want to thank you for the excellent consulting work that you recently completed for Pfeiffer University. You had a short period of time and a limited budget to make a meaningful determination about our ability to retain students. I particularly appreciated the approach that you took by interviewing different groups of stakeholders and gaining perspectives that might normally be overlooked.
Your focus and dedication resulted in a report that was full of impactful short and long-term solutions that ranged from simple inexpensive changes to complex capital programs. Several of the recommendations were implemented almost before you left campus!
I believe your extensive experience in, and understanding of, higher education was the key to providing valid direction on our issue. You lead this effort with confidence and those that participated felt assured that you accepted their input openly, privately, and without qualification, allowing you to produce consequential solutions.
It was a pleasure working with you and I want to thank you for your leadership and contributions to Pfeiffer University. We look forward to the opportunity to work with you and PTM again soon.
Samuel J. “Chip” Asbury, IV
Chairman, Board of Trustees
Thank you so much for your work for Pfeiffer University. Your presence on campus helped set the stage for some needed changes in attitudes, thoughts, and processes. In each of your group meetings you were professional and offered opportunities for those present to be heard. This set the stage for dialogues outside of the meetings themselves.
The senior administration and trustees were impressed with your style, but more important with your ability to cut to the issues and identify solutions based on your findings. I was impressed with your ability to request the exact information from the institution that you needed in order to reach your conclusions. I know you spent many hours outside of your physical presence on campus “crunching the numbers” in order to provide us meaningful data sets.
Finally, your presentation to the Board of Trustees was excellent. Many expressed the view that it was the best presentation they had had from a consultant. All in all, you gave us more than expected. I will be glad to talk with anyone concerning your work with Pfeiffer.
Dr. Jerry M. Boone
Wingate University (NC)
It is with appreciation and respect that I offer my recommendation for Peter Mitchell and Proactive Transition Management (PTM). Dr. Mitchell has worked with Wingate University for the past eight years, seven of which have been annual contracts whereby Peter provides twelve days of consultation on a variety of projects. Perhaps the best summary I can offer is that PTM’s tagline – “Aligning Expertise with Ethos” is an excellent description of the type and quality of Peter’s work. He has a knack for understanding the ethos of an institution, and then applying his experience and expertise to strategic planning, problem solving, assessing current challenges, identifying new programs, managing enrollment, and branding.
Peter’s on-going consulting engagement with Wingate University has been foundational to our success in recent years. His strategic planning work with the University’s leadership and our trustees resulted in market-sensitive objectives that have helped define Wingate to prospective students at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Peter’s clear understanding of our institutional strengths and of the competitive higher education environment in North Carolina ensured that our strategic plan would produce increased enrollment. Our incoming first-year class has grown by more than 30% over the last four years, and we continue to add graduate and professional programs to meet local needs.
Peter’s knowledge of branding, marketing, and enrollment planning has also been essential in our efforts to attract strong academic students to our athletic programs, to increase campus and community fan attendance at our athletic events, and to seek additional financial support for athletics via our Bulldog Club. His deep understanding of recruitment strategies, financial aid modeling, pricing analysis, and enrollment management has greatly supported my work and has led to the largest enrollments in Wingate University’s history.
In addition to his efforts in planning and recruitment, Peter has also been instrumental in our work to retain and graduate our students. His engagement with Wingate over the past four years has led to a roadmap for improving student persistence. Peter leveraged institutional data to examine targeted subpopulations in need of group-specific solutions. He led a 30+ faculty/staff retention strategy summit to ensure buy-in from all campus constituencies and to supplement our quantitative analysis with qualitative feedback from the "boots on the ground." Peter has also garnered the support needed from senior administrators and trustees to implement our retention initiatives. Without his advocacy, our good ideas would remain just that ... ideas. Peter’s enthusiasm, expertise, energy, and experience combine in his consulting work to yield powerful and positive results – just what colleges and universities need most in these challenging times.
Dr. Mitchell has my highest recommendation, knowing that the president and trustee leadership who hire Peter will be well-served by his consulting skills and interpersonal relationship.
Dr. Rhett Brown, President