To say that the past two years were challenging for student success would be an understatement. A global pandemic, a switch to online service delivery, and declining enrollments did not make the jobs of student success leaders easy.
While in the past few years student success leaders may have focused their strategies on reacting to the pandemic, in my work with our partners I’ve noticed they’re being more proactive than ever about student success this year. Below, I’ll discuss how success leaders are bringing their ideas to life.
- Ripple effects of the pandemic on K-12
- College access
- Cross-institutional transfer pathways
- Student data security and ethical use
- Student community and belonging
- Student mental health
- Academic planning, pathways, and meta majors
- Student success organizational structure
- Virtual advising and support services
- Student social (dis)engagement
- College readiness/student readiness
- Financial aid advising and support
- Adult and working learners
- Career and post-graduate success
- Success metrics and accountability
- Quick-win retention tactics
- Alerts, interventions, and support for different groups of students
- Disaggregated data to support equity
- Faculty's role in student success
- Cross-campus coordination for student success
- Dashboards and data visualization
Like the institutions I work with, the leaders we surveyed are focused on data-informed support, retention, and student wellbeing. Here are three ways proactive leaders are addressing these topics on their campuses in the coming year.
3 ways to be proactive this school year
1. Think about retention from every angle
Pandemic-related enrollment declines are being felt across the entire higher ed industry. While there are no magic fixes for retention, there are some common practices I am seeing implemented across the institutions I work with that, when implemented effectively, will help improve retention.
- Continue offering flexible advising and support service options. The days of virtual appointments are not behind us, and being able to meet students where they are will continue to be critical to student success.
- Launch targeted re-enrollment campaigns for recent stopouts. One mid-sized university I work with is planning to launch a campaign for students who stopped out during the pandemic but were only a few credits away from graduation.
- Invest in progress report/early alert campaigns for key student populations. Students enrolled in key gateway course like freshman English, continuing freshman who did not reach 30 credits after their first year, or even TRIO or SAP students may all be good candidates for a progress report campaign.
- Reexamine your transfer admissions process to find opportunities to streamline. Where do you transfers come from and where do they go? What experience do transfer students have and how can it be better? A key to sustaining enrollment numbers may lie in improving the transfer admissions process.
2. Use data to design more equitable support
One of the benefits of Student Success Management Systems like Navigate is that they generate large amounts of data that can be used to drive insights. I have noticed a trend with partners starting to disaggregate the data generated in these systems with an equity lens.
CSU Fullerton’s advising department did just this by disaggregating Navigate appointment data to identify equity gaps and inform real-time strategy for supporting the success of their whole student population. This analysis showed that attendance had fallen among Hispanic/Latinx students and led the University to pilot group virtual advising with Hispanic/Latinx advisors who share a common background with these students. Success leaders also worked with their resource center to address specific pandemic-related challenges with these students.
"Untold campus insights are hiding in plain sight within our student success data. When leaders disaggregate data for a group, their needs become visible. This makes it possible to prioritize the allocation of resources and create policy change."
Additionally, dashboards and data visualization are coming up more frequently in student success conversations, reflecting the growing demand for data to inform interventions. Insights from student success data are of interest to stakeholders across campus, not just in student affairs, and having a visualization resource like dashboards to help communicate that story is increasingly desirable.
3. Coordinate for comprehensive well-being support
During the pandemic, we learned that student well-being and student success go hand in hand. As a result, holistic mental health and well-being support are increasingly becoming top priorities for institutions. Across the past two years, I have seen this reflected in the ways that partners design outreach campaigns, resources, and early alert interventions. Coordinated student success networks are evolving to include mental health and wellness teams and services, as well as faculty, who interface with students the most.
A great first step to further loop faculty in on these efforts is to include more non-academic support reasons in early alert systems, like referrals to the food pantry or concerns about mental health, to make it easier for faculty to refer students for help. I work with one community college partner that has even included alerts like “This student may benefit from wellness services” and “This student may need to borrow Wi-Fi or a laptop to succeed” in their progress reports. As you head into this academic year, I recommend evaluating a) if your campus is ready for the inclusion of these type of non-academic support and b) if your faculty feel supported and ready to use them.
Set your priorities, reflect, review, then react
Take a moment to reflect on how your student success priorities have changed and what that means for how you support your students moving forward. Higher education institutions spent the past two years adapting and reacting to the pressures imposed on them by the pandemic. Now, institutions are in a position to apply the hard-learned lessons from the pandemic in a proactive way that sets them up to successfully support students in this new post-pandemic environment.
Ready to find out more?
Join us for a live webinar on Wednesday, October 26 to discuss strategies for navigating your institution's pandemic recovery and building a better student support infrastructure.