The Student Experience

As part of the No Holding Back project, WICHE conducted student focus groups with 50 students from 10 institutions. The intent of these focus groups was to capture student perspectives regarding policies and practices around administrative and student success holds at the participating institutions.

Students were asked:

To define the term “hold” as they understood it and identify times that they, friends, or classmates had experienced a hold.
How they navigated the holds process, who they interacted with, how they were communicated with, and how they resolved their holds.
About any impacts of experiencing and navigating holds.
Insights or recommendations they would offer for higher education leaders and policymakers


Watch WICHE’s Panel Discussion with Students and Administrators



Hear About Student Experiences with Holds

WICHE conducted student focus groups with 50 students from 10 institutions. Watch videos of typical students’ experiences and their recommendations on how to improve administrative holds.


Community College Student Experience With Pell Grant and Holds

Military Veteran and Registration Holds Experience

Student Confusion Over Registration Holds

Student Demographics

Students self-identified as belonging to one or more demographic groups when they registered for the focus groups. Most students identified with more than one racial or ethnic identity:

Additionally, 10% of the students described being transfer students, and many described themselves in ways that are often associated with ‘non-traditional’ learners: self-described ‘adult’ students, parents, or students who stopped out and returned to school, did not have parental or familial support, or veterans.

Browse selected content from the detailed guide in the sections below

The Student Experience

Student perspectives can be an important part of an assessment of administrative holds. This guide, as well as student quotes and profiles that can be found among other resources from No Holding Back project, provide possible approaches to exploring student insights. However, existing research about best practices for obtaining student feedback should also be consulted.

Questions used for the No Holding Back student focus groups, shown at the end of this guide, are a possible starting point for planning student interviews or focus groups.

Know whether, how, and when to seek institutional review board approval.

Consider authentic and student-centered opportunities to involve students and learn about their needs, concerns, or impressions, for example:

Student journalism, student groups and clubs, student government and leadership.

Courses such as statistics and higher education policy, for which analyzing holds might constitute a class project or student research opportunity

Graduate students did some of the data analysis about holds. They also conducted a student focus group, which surfaced that students often don’t know they have a hold until they try to register for classes or access their transcript. Students want improved communication regarding when holds are placed and how to resolve holds. We are using this feedback to improve communication to students and staff, including in Spring 2024, a webpage dedicated to explaining holds and how to resolve them and possibly posters with QR codes directing to students to the website in various places around campus.

Idaho State University

See more in the detailed PDF.

Selected experiences and testimony from the 50 students who participated in focus groups are highlighted throughout the No Holding Back resources.

Here are some common themes, and more are available in the downloadable detailed PDF.

Students often could not differentiate or name types of holds, but described the impact they had on them, often in more conversational terms.

Students acknowledged that institutions need a way to prompt action and hold students accountable to their financial responsibilities to the institution.

Students who could interpret a hold alert and found them easy to resolve were less likely to describe the experience as a hold stoppage on certain activity and more as a benign process. Students who experienced efficient and successful holds processes often described feeling a sense of trust and well-being in their college.

Students offered recommendations and requests, including:

Alternative mechanisms to prompt or enforce necessary administrative tasks, including proactive and effective communication, rather than restricting registration.

Why can’t you just give a due date? Why does it have to impact registration?

Student at a four-year university

Proactive communication to alert students to impending or upcoming holds and reasons for them, including advance alerts about the impact of a hold on the next semester’s registration, particularly from spring to fall semester.

If I had advice for the institution, it is to communicate with the students every semester to remind about how to avoid holds, and there should be a grace period.

Student at a two-year college


See more in the detailed PDF.

Institutions in the No Holding Back project expressed a desire to hear and consider what students need, for example:

Ask students often about what they see or experience as inequities in institutional practices and take intentional steps to remove them.

University of Guam


Consider holds from the student’s point of view. Ask the questions: is the process, practice, or policy student centered, is it equitable, does it impose an unnecessary burden on students?

Portland State University

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