Despite the significant investments college leaders have made in on-campus support programs for students, very few students take advantage of available resources. A study from the Center for Community College Student Engagement shows that while the vast majority of two-year colleges have built academic tutoring centers, student success courses, and first-year experience programs, less than half of students report participating.
After speaking with students, staff, and examining our own campus visit experiences, EAB identified three major barriers preventing students from connecting with on-campus support services.
First, students feel overwhelmed by the number of programs, services, and clubs offered at the institution, typically presented all at once during new student orientation. The offerings tend to meld together indistinctly, stopping students from participating at all. Second, students may dismiss programs because they fear social stigma associated with needing assistance to achieve graduation goals. Finally, when faced with the myriad options on campus, students will often choose the easiest or none at all.
Mount Wachusett Community College encourages students to utilize on-campus services by understanding their needs and connecting with them early. The college administers a survey at the time students take placement exams that includes a wide variety of questions, including access to technology, confidence in academic decision making, and transportation to campus.
The answers to these questions form part of the student profile in the student information system. The college also uses the survey responses to suggest matches via SMS with campus resources through a Campus Services Referral Matrix.
Rather than receive a list of 30 to 40 resources available to them, students receive customized invitations to participate in right-fit clubs, programs, and services. Students who indicate a specific area of need on their initial intake survey (e.g., support caring for young children) receive personalized nudges that proactively connect them to resources that would suit those specific needs (e.g., on-campus child care). Since launching this intervention in 2013, persistence rates increased 20%, largely credited to increased usage of on-campus services.