Responding to Students of Concern

Best Practices for Behavioral Intervention Teams

Topics: Student Affairs, Student Health and Wellness, Mental Health and Counseling, Student Health Centers, Alcohol and Drug Use, Student Experience, Special Populations, Academic Support Programs

Practice #14: Student-Facing Case Management

Expanding Case Management Models on Campus

EAB Research Highlights Two Primary Approaches

Forum research shows that innovative institutions are increasingly developing supplemental resources with the time, bandwidth, and skill set to monitor long-term and complex cases. The Forum’s work reveals two models for providing this type of care: Assigned Case Leads and Dedicated Case Manager.

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Model #1: Assigned Case Lead

Harper College Distributes Case Management Duties across Team

In Model 1, the BIT works as a group to select and assign a case lead for the student. This person is usually a BIT team member but in some cases might be someone outside the team based on a pre-existing relationship with the student or specifi c skill set. The case owner is then responsible for student outreach, follow-up with campus and local community, updates to the BIT, and recordkeeping. When the case is formally closed, the case owner has discharged their responsibilities.

One institution that has successfully implemented Model 1 is Harper College. Each week, the team receives about four or fi ve new referrals. The chair handles most of the referrals, but at any given time, each team member has several cases for which they are responsible. Some cases require one or two weeks of monitoring and referrals, while others may require long periods of assistance.

At Harper College, team members on call receive referrals by phone or email and serve as the initial point of contact for new cases. Serving as the initial lead requires them to follow up with referrers to gather additional information and collect relevant details from other student service units. The initial case lead also makes a preliminary assessment to determine if an emergency meeting is necessary.

Once the preliminary information is collected and recorded in a database, the initial lead presents the case to the team at the regularly scheduled, bi-weekly meeting. At that point, the team may decide to reassign the case based on a number of factors. If the case is reassigned, the new lead then follows up with the student and serves as their main point of contact until the case is closed.

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Preventing Burnout by Distributing Assignments

Assigned Case Owner Strategy Reduces Strain on Busy Staff

Interviewees report that this model allows them to be more eff ective in their work with students of concern because it spreads the responsibility for ongoing follow-up among a variety of practitioners. Other benefi ts of Model 1 also include the ability to handle more complex cases without adding a new position, the fl exibility to customize the dedicated point of contact to a student’s needs, and the potential to reduce staff burnout.

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Model #2: Dedicated Case Managers

Hiring of Student Affairs Case Managers Is on the Rise

In contrast, Model 2 involves dedicated case management resources. Institutions who use this approach have one or more FTEs responsible for regular student follow-up, communication, and ongoing support. Individuals in case management roles typically have backgrounds in counseling, social work, or student development.

While Forum research reveals a variety of different organizational structures for case managers, we strongly recommend placing the position within the Dean of Students office. This reporting structure allows the case manager to serve in more of an administrative capacity (rather than in a therapeutic role), maintaining open lines of communication with various campus stakeholders.

Case managers spend the majority of their time meeting with students, keeping records, and consulting with the campus community about students of concern. Other key duties include coordinating with other offi ces, assisting students with withdrawals and reentries, coordinating crisis response, and consulting with faculty and staff.

Case managers typically serve on BITs as either full members or conveners. The Forum, however, does not recommend having the case manager act as the BIT chair because it could potentially create a conflict of interest.

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A Gatekeeper and a Resource Coordinator

The University of Miami’s Dean of Students Case Manager

The University of Miami stands out as an excellent example of using case managers eff ectively. Currently, Miami employs three case managers: one in counseling, one in residence life, and one in the Office of the Dean of Students (ODOS). Interviewees report that these case managers serve as front-line support for the Division of Student Aff airs. The graphic below focuses on the Dean of Students case manager.

The Dean of Student’s case manager oversees the initial evaluation of referrals, conducts outreach to the campus community, meets with students, and consults with faculty and staff . The person also convenes the Student Assessment Committee and handles the group’s recordkeeping.

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A Future Trend?

Dedicated Student Assistance Offices

The Forum’s work also uncovered a possible future trend in student case management. A handful of institutions have established dedicated student assistance offices to handle a variety of tasks from helping with withdrawals to providing student crisis response. Depending on how the office is structured, it may contain case managers as well as administrative staff to help with scheduling, recordkeeping, and low-level follow-up.

For example, Iowa State University’s Office of Student Assistance and Outreach Services contains three full-time staff members who are responsible for a range of duties including referring students to campus services, providing crisis response, and maintaining records for student interventions.

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A Variety of Missions and Resources

Other Institutions with Dedicated Assistance Offices

Forum interviewees highlighted other examples of dedicated student assistance offices such as those at Syracuse University and the New School. While the mission, staffing, and resource allocation varies across institutions, all of these offices play a role in managing follow-up and support for students of concern. Research contacts note that additional duties for these offices range widely and may involve threat assessment, counseling, and referrals to campus resources.

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Peaks and Valleys Across the Year

Key Student Stress Moments Escalate BIT Workload

Although some schools are investing in dedicated resources to help manage the ongoing follow-up for students of concern, many teams still struggle with the “tyranny of the immediate,” going from the processing and managing of one case to the next.

The pace of BIT work frequently escalates at high-stress moments such as midterms and the end of the semester. As such, a case that seemed urgent last week might easily be superseded by a more immediate crisis, which can lead to some students falling off the radar.

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Monitoring Complex Cases

Practice #15: Ongoing Case Review and Tracking