Universities find hundreds—or thousands—of students unaware they can graduate

Schools saw completion rates and other student success metrics rise

Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) saw graduation applications and graduation rate rise after new tools helped advisers find students who were ready to graduate—but didn't know they were, Carl Straumsheim reports for Inside Higher Ed.

Before VCU partnered with EAB's Student Success Collaborative, graduation advising was a "reactive process," Seth Sykes, associate vice provost for strategic enrollment management, told Inside Higher Ed.

Advisers sent an email to every student who should be eligible to graduate, based on credits completed and current GPA. But after that, it was on the students to collect the necessary paperwork, schedule appointments with advisers, and submit the graduation application before the deadline.

But after making over the advising process and joining EAB, Sykes says the process is much more proactive. Using the technology, advisers can find students who are missing a requirement for their major or whose grades drop below department requirements.

Advisers can also flag students who are only an application away from graduating.

Together, the efforts have contributed to a 19% increase in graduation applications this spring over the year prior, adding up to about 336 students. VCU also saw its graduation rate rise to 62% from 59%.

"We have a plan in mind about what we need to do in terms of advising, but without the tech support to implement it, it's really difficult," Sykes told Inside Higher Ed. "Technology and goodwill need to go hand in hand."

Finding thousands eligible to graduate

California State University (CSU) Fullerton dedicated special advisers to students near completion, called "graduation specialists." Last year, the specialists identified nearly 7,000 students at risk of missing their expected graduation. But using a range of interventions, they helped about 2,500 graduate on time.

Sometimes the intervention was very simple—just pointing out to students they could save time and money by registering for an independent-study course now instead of in a later semester.  

The university made several other changes to its advising approach. For example, the school now requires students to attend a advising workshop after earning between 75 and 84 credits. At the last workshop, more than 2,000 attending students said they didn't know when they expected to graduate.

Combined, these efforts have helped raise CSU-Fullerton's graduation rate by 11 percentage points since 2012, up to 62%. The institution also reports that it has closed its achievement gap between students of different ethnicities from 12% to 8% in the same time period.

Read more: How CSU-Fullerton used SSC to raise graduation rates across the institution and narrow the graduation gap

How better tech helps

Ed Venit, senior director at EAB, says it isn't just about having the right data—advisers also need to have the right tools to analyze and make use of that data.

Running the right inquiries in an institution's enterprise resource planning system can be challenging. The way forward, Venit says, is to "create user-friendly interfaces and democratize it so everybody can get access" (Straumsheim, Inside Higher Ed, 12/9).

Thoughts on the story? Tweet us at @eab_daily and let us know.


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