The EPI/SwailLandis

Retention Certification Program

EPI Certification Team, Beaver Creek, Colorado, June 2019

The Educational Policy Institute, in partnership with SwailLandis, has created a certification program focused on student retention and success in higher education. For over a decade, EPI/SwailLandis has been providing Retention Institutes to practitioners in higher education. To expand the learning and understanding of student retention, EPI has created certified levels to provide a layered proficiency program so that individuals can best help make change at their institutions.

The certification program is aimed at individuals and institutions. An individual can go through each of the levels on his or her own. However, if an institution gets several of their staff through certification, the institution can use the Retention Certification badges on their website and materials. For an individual or institution, here is a brief description of the three levels.

EPI Certification Team, West Palm Beach, Florida, January 2019


LEVEL I provides an introductory to student retention and success. Participants are given national data to help define both the trends and root causes of student departure from higher education. The Level I workshop provides data and analysis on historical issues with student retention and introduces strategies through policies and practices to ameliorate departure and retain students. The Swail Geometric Framework for Student Retention is introduced as a manner to understand the process from the student and institutional perspectives. Participants are given an opportunity to define their own issues and learn from others in their new found network of professionals. The capstone of Level I is an introduction to leadership and change management.

LEVEL II provides an update and more intense look at the data regarding student success and also brings participants’ own data to the workshop. Using the Swail Geometric Framework for Student Success, participants are introduced to more detailed policies and practices for student success.

LEVEL III is the capstone of the certification series and focuses on essential elements of leadership and institutional shaping. More information on best practices is provided, but the focus in Level III is on implementation and change management of the institution. At the end of Level III, individuals and institutions should have the building blocks for institutional change.




Certification is strongly encouraged for any higher education practitioner who has responsibility for student retention and success. This can include program directors and staff, college deans, administrators, including those in student affairs, academic affairs, financial aid, recruitment and enrollment management, and top administrators of the college. The largest impact of training is when a holistic team from an institution completes certification, giving them a common language and understanding from which they can build their strategic plan for student success.

INDIVIDUAL CERTIFICATION. An individual can attain certification in each of the three levels, which each level requiring the requisite of the previous level. Thus, Level II certification requires completion of Level I. Certification remains for five years upon completion. At that point or before, the individual must either complete the next level or repeat the same level.

INSTITUTIONAL CERTIFICATION. To become institutionally certified, the institution must have several staff members complete certification at either the I, II, or III levels. There are three types of institutional certification that coordinate with each level: Bronze, Silver, and Gold, and are based on how many individuals are certified. Because individual certification has a five-year renewal period, institutions must ensure that the number of people certified is retained over time through additional workshop trainings.

As well, an institution can have the certification done for faculty/staff at their institution upon request.



EPI offers certifications at several Institutes each year. See our events page for an updated list. As well, EPI will conduct a specialized certification onsite upon request.


EPI Certification Team, San Antonio, Texas, September 2014

EPI Certification Team, Banff, Alberta, July 2014

EPI Certification Team, Tucson, Arizona, March 2014