'Intrusive advising' pushes at-risk students through to graduation

'If they're not going to come to you, you go to them'

A handful of schools nationwide are participating in a new data-based "intrusive advising" program. 

The "Achieving the Dream: Community Colleges Count" initiative pushes higher education institutions to identify and act on barriers to student success.

Northeast Wisconsin Technical College (NWTC) recently introduced intrusive advising, and so far the institution has seen success. 

The goal is to improve credential completion to 60% from its current 48%. Yet that rate varied further depending on race: about 50% of white students earned their degrees last year, compared with 49% of Asian students, 47% of Hispanic students, 27% of black students, and 24% of Native American students.

To help boost these rates, NTWC provides mental health, community connection, food, and clothing services in addition to the typical academic support. Advisers proactively reach out to students, instead of waiting for students to come to them.

For example, in one introductory class, students learn time management skills and ways to boost their confidence. 

The right messages can help students become more resilient

"These students may be the ones who need the most help, and are also the least likely to see it," says Pamela Gerstner, associate dean of general studies. "If they're not going to come to you, you go to them."

The additional support has paid off—particularly in developmental math classes, according to the school. In 2014, just 51% of students passed elementary algebra, compared with 75% last year. The pattern held across pre-algebra as well, where 64% of students passed in 2014 and a full 74% passed in 2015 (Zarling, USA Today Network-Wisconsin, 2/21). 

Focus your advising efforts on the students who need them most

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For predicting students' future success, GPA may beat placement tests

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