Never Let It Rest: Lessons about student success from high-performing colleges and universities

George Kuh
Jillian Kinzie
John Schuh
Elizabeth Whitt


College costs are rising and enrollments are at an all-time high, yet the proportion of students earning degrees has stayed more or less constant for decades. This leads some to conclude that colleges aren't holding up their end of the educational bargain. The question, Do they graduate? is receiving the most scrutiny by state legislatures and by those drafting the reauthorization legislation for the Higher Education Act. A time-honored approach to improving effectiveness is to learn what high-performing organizations within a given industry do and then to determine which of their practices are replicable in other settings. A team of 24 researchers coordinated by the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) Institute for Effective Educational Practice at the Indiana University Center for Postsecondary Research set out to do just that. The Documenting Effective Educational Practices (DEEP) project was a two-year study of 20 four-year colleges and universities that had both higher-than-predicted graduation rates and higher-than-predicted scores on the NSSE. One of the most important conditions characterizing the DEEP institutions is an intentional focus on institutional improvement. In this article, the authors illustrate what this improvement-oriented ethos looks like in practice and conclude with some ideas for what other institutions can learn from DEEP.


Academic Achievement, School Effectiveness, Higher Education, Graduation Rate, Educational Quality, Institutional Characteristics, Institutional Evaluation, Educational Improvement, Educational Quality, Faculty Development, Participative Decision Making, Case Studies, Educational Legislation, Educational Environment


Common themes set colleges and universities that succeed apart from those that don't. Those themes include:
An improvement-oriented ethos including
positive restlessness
they invest in student success
Decision making informed by data
These colleges tend to:
stay the course
provide leadership from every corner
create a collaborative environment
get and keep the right people
convert challenges into opportunities

These schools are able to create environments where students are able to succeed regardless of their backgrounds and should be seen as models for other schools.

APA Citation

Kuh, G. D., Kinzie, J., Schuh, J. H., & Whitt, E. J. (2005). Never let it rest lessons about student success from high-performing colleges and universities. Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning, 37(4), 44-51.

About the Study

Links to Article
Publication Type Report
In Publication Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning
Type of Research Mixed methods
Research Design Survey research (qualitative or quantitative)
Intervention/Areas of Study
Level of Analysis Institutional-level
Specific Populations Examined Undergraduates
Peer-Reviewed No
Specific Institutional Characteristics of Interest
Specific Course or Program Characteristics
Outcome Variables of Interest Academic achievement or performance, including assessment scores and course grades, Institutional effectiveness
Student Sample Size
Citing Articles,50&sciodt=0,50&hl=en