Student Success Insights Blog

Top insights as we close out 2015

Looking ahead to our 2016 priorities

by Ed Venit

On October 27 and 28, nearly 300 student success leaders from across the country gathered here in Washington, D.C. for the Student Success Collaborative’s third annual national summit, CONNECTED. Across two days, attendees digested an assortment of student success content: 17 sessions that spanned original research, 10 member-led case studies, collaborative workshops, and a closing address revealing EAB’s long-term vision for student success. In the end, members walked away armed with innovative, proven tactics for helping students succeed on their respective campuses.

For those who were able attend—as well as for those who weren’t—I wanted to recap four key takeaways and next steps to close out the year. As we work together for greater impact in 2016, these are likely the areas where we’ll devote much of our effort.

1. To monitor and mitigate rising student risk, institutions must create responsive intervention infrastructures.

In this year’s keynote research presentation, I posited that student success leaders can learn from population health management (PHM), a strategy in the health care sector to improve outcomes through differentiated care. A critical component of PHM is monitoring “rising-risk” patients for changes that indicate risk escalation. Providers that adopt PHM report lower overall costs per patient and fewer unnecessary readmissions.

Higher education institutions can translate this principle into practice with a comprehensive intervention architecture. As institutions move to implement such a model, one of the central challenges will be finding the capacity to interact with more students given limited human resources. In our research, we heard from innovative members who are creating successful rising-risk safety nets by prioritizing evidence-based triggers to monitor, schedule interventions across the year, and identify low-cost strategies for proactive outreach such as student call centers.

Some of the PHM practices that we addressed at CONNECTED and in our related white paper might be applicable on your campus. In the coming months we plan to roll out a blueprint that will help you consider ways to support students using a PHM framework.

Not a member of SSC? Donwload your copy of our PHM white paper here.

2. Institutions are beginning to understand the financial dimension of student success.

Traditionally, most institutions have considered financial aid to be part of the recruitment and enrollment process; however, EAB research this year showed how strategic deployment of financial aid can also serve as an effective retention tool. We heard how many institutions leverage financial aid with their continuing students to promote good academic behavior, address persistent unmet need, and prevent unpaid balances from impeding the progression of upper-class students.

Yet many institutions still struggle to put the data and processes in place in order to effectively intervene with students when financial barriers first arise and before they lead to low performance and attrition. In response, SSC launched a new financial data research cohort. Four SSC members will provide years of historical financial data to our Data Science team, who will spend the year investigating the predictive nature of financial data for student success. We will report on our findings at CONNECTED 2016 and determine whether (and how) financial data should be incorporated into SSC.

3. There is much more we can do to engage faculty as advisors, instructors, and academic decision-makers.

The importance of faculty to the student success mission was underscored this year in both research and member case studies. One key takeaway from the various sessions is the importance of meeting faculty members where they are—leaders must understand the roles faculty play in student success and work with engaged faculty members to influence peers whose lack of engagement stems from logistical barriers, not a philosophical disconnect.

During the two-day summit, we heard examples of members who successfully engage faculty in data-driven advising through peer training teams, dedicated resource portals, and innovative strategies to reduce the effort required for proactive intervention with students.

We hope members walked away with a number of proven tactics to better engage faculty in student success initiatives. Because this is such a core focus for our members, we will continue to develop resources that will help institutions empower and engage key campus stakeholders.

Download the meeting slides for strategies to engage faculty.

4. Metrics-based accountability structures can promote a proactive, success-oriented approach to advising.

Poll screenshot

We know from one of our live polls at CONNECTED that the majority of attendees (54%) believe a new push for metrics will be the primary focus in 2016, while the second-biggest group (17%) will focus on who “owns” student success.

Student success can no longer be an initiative that’s owned by everyone and no one. Through our research, we’ve found that the institutions that are the most successful at inflecting student success invest heavily in redefining the advisor role. For instance, incentive and accountability structures keep advisors pushing for better student outcomes.

In order to have accountability, however, there must be clear metrics for measuring success and performance. But while there’s a lot of data out there, which outcomes metrics actually matter? How do we collect granular metrics and improve processes such that gathering these metrics is productive and seamless?

As the debate over success metrics plays out both on the national stage and on individual campuses, it is clear that metrics (both old and new) are becoming increasingly important to leaders like you. Share what metrics you are tracking (or plan to track) as we continue our research exploration of this critical issue.

Learn more about health care's lessons for student success

Our white paper examines how PHM can serve as a model for developing a high-ROI, campus-wide strategy for improving student success.

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