Ready or not here it comes. This is not whether we like it or agree with it, Performance Funding is being introduced in 25 states and most of the other states are contemplating it. The Obama administration is also gearing up to tie its $1 billion in federal assistance to performance. As higher education continues to compete with other worthy causes, legislators and stakeholders are becoming increasingly results- oriented.

The most attentive performance standard is that of Graduation Rates. College completion rates are, in fact, scandalous with four year averages about 55% and two year degrees about 30%. Add to this, skyrocketing tuition and the historic level of student debt, and this issue cannot be brushed aside.

What do we know about college completion rates? We know that the greatest determinants’ in graduation are the student’s integration into the social and academic life of the institution. We know that student/customer service issues account for over 70% of drop-outs and transfers. If we are truly going to address student outcomes, this is where we should start. As in business, it is seldom a problem with the actual product, but rather the customer experience in obtaining it. Likewise, most students love their teachers and classes, but the overall experience is lacking.

Those institutions that recognize the student experience is the new battleground for success and funding will be the survivors.