It’s a match! Second chance majors bolster at-risk student outcomes

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts more than 500,000 new nursing jobs will be added by 2022. Unsurprisingly, this dramatic growth has caused interest in nursing programs to skyrocket nationwide. The high cost of clinical space and skilled faculty, however is forcing community colleges to adopt increasingly strict admissions thresholds. As a result, many students are turned away from pursuing their dream careers, leaving colleges struggling to address their needs.

While institutions may typically focus on how to retain students after they’ve been rejected from their preferred program, Volunteer State Community College (Vol State) takes a proactive approach, reaching out before students are faced with this disheartening news. Advisors flip the script by offering students admittance into less competitive programs that are still aligned with their interests.

Reach out and reroute

Advisors at Vol State create a donor list of students who don’t satisfy the requirements to enter or remain in a competitive program. Then they partner with a data analytics team to compile a list of acceptor programs. Potential acceptor programs are judged on three criteria: the extra time and credits donor students would need for completion, the similarity of career opportunities offered by donor and acceptor programs, and the amount of acceptor program requirements that are satisfied by donor students.

Recapture at-risk students and boost under-enrolled programs

Once a match between a donor student and acceptor program has been found, the student receives an acceptance letter congratulating them on their admission into a new program. As one Vol State administrator shared, consistent positive messaging is key. Rejection from a dream program is understandably distressing for students, so the college’s rerouting initiative instead aims to make the experience a positive one. Students are praised for their accomplishment and strongly encouraged to reach out to an advisor to further explore their options.

Vol State administrators recognize that many students may be hesitant or confused about switching programs. Advisors make a point to be proactive and reach out to students who do not respond to the initial acceptance letter to schedule a face-to-face meeting.

Recapture at-risk students and boost under-enrolled programs

Redirect to accomplish retention and student success goals

While the goal of proactive rerouting is to support at-risk students in highly competitive programs, Vol State has found that it has the added benefit of filling under-enrolled programs. For example, Vol State students redirected from the highly competitive engineering program are often encouraged to join the related mechatronics major. This helps boost a program which, despite a promising career outlook, has often suffered alienation because of its unfamiliar title.

When institutions leverage student data and advising services into proactive rerouting for at-risk students, they can make significant strides in increasing retention and eliminating roadblocks to student success.

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