Academic Alert Systems at Community Colleges

Strategies to Identify and Intervene with At-Risk Students

Topics: Community College, Student Retention and Success, Advising, Academic Affairs

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As public institutions face increased pressure from students, parents, and state legislators to increase student success measures (e.g., retention and graduation rates), administrators seek new ways to support students at-risk of withdrawing or poor academic performance. Comprehensive alert and intervention systems identify at-risk students before major problems occur and target flagged students with aggressive outreach to make it more likely that they will receive appropriate support in a timely manner. This brief profiles the alert systems of 10 community colleges.

  • Key observations from our research:

    1. Alert systems identify at-risk students and direct them to helpful campus and community resources, boosting their academic success.

    2. High school grades, demographic, and professional commitments are common predictors of student risk for course drop, failure, and withdrawal.

    3. Systems alert administrators of low course attendance, poor academic performance, and inappropriate classroom behavior.

    4. Regular trainings in system operation and promoting the systems as a tool to reduce faculty workload secures faculty buy-in.

    5. Dedicated retention and enrollment management administrators operate alert systems and conduct outreach for students who receive alerts.

    6. Typical outreach methods include phone calls, mailed letters, and emails, though other media are used on a case-by-case basis.

    7. Advisors work with students to develop step-by-step action plans with specific deadlines once students respond to outreach attempts.

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