South Dakota's technical schools are retaining students at a higher rate than the national average. The state's four tech schools are keeping 78% of their students. The national average is 62%.
Nick Wendell is the executive director of the South Dakota Board of Technical Education. He credits the high retention rates to transition initiatives that help students handle their first year. Wendell also says they've focused on resources for veterans and other non-traditional students.
"A bulk of our students are outside that 18-24-year-old age range," Wendell says, "which means they come to us maybe working full time or part time, maybe they have family or other obligations. So building a class schedule and a plan can be challenging. So they need different kinds of support."
Wendell says the tech-school format helps students form social connections quickly, which can also improve retention.
"A number of our programs are designed to be two-year programs, so it's an accelerated model. And almost from the very beginning you're in more program-specific or major-specific courses surrounded by people who are also pursuing credentials in a specific area," says Wendell.
South Dakota's tech schools have individual retention rates ranging from the low-70's to mid-80's. Mitchell Technical Institute has the highest retention rate at 84%.
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