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How to Reverse Pandemic Impacts on Student Persistence

Episode 87

January 18, 2022 40 minutes


EAB’s Meacie Fairfax and Ed Venit explore pandemic ripple effects that will continue to impact student persistence at colleges and universities for the foreseeable future. They cite studies showing that student feelings of isolation, disengagement, depression, and other mental health challenges-a growing concern for years-have all worsened during the pandemic.

They also point to learning challenges that have plagued K-12 students during the pandemic as well as the recent plunge in community college enrollments as additional headwinds that four-year institutions will be dealing with for years to come. On the positive side, Meacie and Ed highlight the opportunity facing higher ed leaders who have little choice but to modernize their approach to student retention and success.



0:00:11.6 Speaker 1: Hello, and welcome to Office Hours with EAB. Today we’re going to explore a topic that isn’t much fun to talk about, namely, reasons why the pandemic is making it harder than ever for students to stay in school, and succeed. But we’re also going to highlight the incredible opportunity university leaders have in front of them to make the changes required to keep more students engaged, in school, and on track to earn their degree. Thank you for listening, and enjoy.


0:00:46.4 Meacie Fairfax: Hello, and welcome to Office Hours with EAB. My name is Meacie Fairfax, and with me today is the person who directs research into the best ways to improve student retention, and graduation rates, my friend, and my colleague, Ed Venit. Hey, Ed.

0:01:01.6 Ed Venit: Hey, Meacie. It’s great to be with you today, and thank you for the lovely introduction. I appreciate that.

0:01:07.3 MF: Oh, absolutely. And well, Ed, we talk every day, and I know we have a lot to talk about today to share with our listeners, and a limited amount of time to cover it, so I’m just gonna dive right in for us. As we all know, for most of the past two years you’ve been focusing your research, and your discussions with university leaders around how to keep students enrolled, engaged, and moving forward in their quest to earn a degree in the midst of the global pandemic, and everything else that has come along with it, so could you give us, just to start off, a quick summary of how those conversations and your thinking possibly has evolved since May, or March 2020, and set the stage for what we really want to talk about today, which is the current state of affairs, and your thoughts on where we go from here.

0:01:54.6 EV: Sure, Meacie. Obviously, there’s been a lot of change over the course of almost two years now, if you think about that this really started for us in March 2020, so we’re rolling up on the two-year anniversary, as awful as that sounds, pretty soon, and those two years have been a period of tremendous change. And that’s not a surprise to anybody, you can look at anything that you do inside higher education, really, anything in society, and it’s all been subject to some pretty massive upheaval. And in that time, we’ve evolved considerably. One of the things that, as you know, we’ve been very interested in is trying to understand maybe some of the good things that have come from the pandemic, in other words, innovations that have slingshot us forward in ways that maybe we weren’t moving as forward quickly before. I’ll give you one example, and that’s the use of virtual tools.

0:02:44.0 MF: Sure.

0:02:44.6 EV: And of course, we talk a lot about virtual classrooms, and how that was both a difficult, but maybe a high payoff experience for a lot of faculty members moving their classes online. I know I have friends at teacher colleges, and they really like a lot of the advantages that a virtual classroom brings, and they’re trying to figure out how to keep some of those things in their classes going forward, be they in-person, or virtual. So we now have a professoriate that has a whole new skill set to teach, that they did not have a before, and frankly, that we were probably going to need them to have going forward. Another good example is the use of those tools for virtual advising, and student support.

0:03:25.4 EV: We didn’t realize before the pandemic how many students we were missing with a physical location, simply having a nine to five office that a student has to go to, and sit down, and have a 30-minute appointment. It seems great. I mean, that’s how we do things in this world, but a lot of students were just simply missing that, didn’t have time for it, felt intimated by it, maybe they weren’t on campus very often. And now, as a result, being able to engage with student support this way, we hear from advisors again and again that they’re seeing students they’ve literally never seen before, who have never had a chance to sit down and talk with them, and they’re talking with them in really interesting, creative, and very supportive ways. I’m so excited about the opportunity that these sort of advances have for supporting students, really, indefinitely, for the next foreseeable future, for the remainder of our careers.

0:04:12.4 MF: Yeah. And it sounds like from everything that you said too as well, that it serves not only faculty and staff, but students as well, in terms of some of these changes that took place.

0:04:21.2 EV: Yeah. Right. And we don’t have great numbers on things like retention rates and such because this is also new, and on top of that, there’s so much change going on, but just based on the qualitative feedback, students love this stuff, they really appreciate the flexibility, they appreciate the access. Surprising, a group that also appreciates it is oftentimes the frontline staff. [chuckle] Virtual environments allow for more flexible working hours, and if you are a parent with a child that say you’re taking care of during the day, and you wanna work evening hours, well, we can do that now. We can do that on the weekend. And guess what, that’s when students are available too. So in the midst of all this though, we started to notice a trend. And I’ve talked to a lot of college presidents, and provosts, and other senior leaders across the course of the last few years, and the conversations have been on a variety of different subjects, all related to student success in some way, and the pandemic is obviously a part of those conversations, but one common thread across those conversations has been where people’s mindset, or sort of frame of reference is. Everybody’s very focused on the now.

0:05:25.3 EV: And that’s understandable, we have a lot of change, very sudden, we’re making a lot of decisions for the very first time, never had these challenges before, there’s no playbook, but the focus has been on the immediate, what are we doing this semester, how are we reopening our campuses, keeping students safe, how do we deal with different things, mandate-wise, and such, how are we just going to essentially come back to life? And it’s all very focused on the near term, and it really got me thinking a lot about, “Well, what about the medium- and longer-term effects of the pandemic?” What will happen in the future? Is this ever going to be “over” for us in some way, or are these changes going to be permanent features that we have to deal with across the course of time? And I’m not talking about the good things like virtual advising, I’m talking about some of the more negative effects. We know the pandemic has a disproportionate effect across our population, there’s a lot of indication that it’s increasing inequities, and that’s happening in education as well. But what are some of the specific things that are happening on campuses right now, or maybe will be soon happening to campuses, that we… Just aren’t thinking that much about. Maybe some people are thinking about it, but we’re not thinking about it as a large community, so I really was interested in exploring some of those ideas.

0:06:39.8 MF: Well, it makes me think of, right, we may find that many of our leaders are still in a reactive mode, and that very few, or to your point, alright, that summarize what you just shared, are looking far to think about the advances that they need to make as they think about the fall term, and just essentially, other terms. And so you talked about a couple of things, and one of the things I was hoping that we could talk about a little bit further, and you were alluding to it, I think, and just as I kind of cut in here, was about student disengagement, and I was wondering if we could talk a little bit more about that?

0:07:15.5 EV: Yeah. Obviously, a salient feature. Before we get into that, I just wanna say a little bit about where all this came from.

0:07:20.8 MF: Sure.

0:07:20.8 EV: We have four different things we’re gonna talk about here, student disengagement just being the first of the four. And as I started thinking a little bit about the medium- and longer-term future, so across the course of the next few years and decade, I did a survey of the firm, if you will. I don’t know if all the viewers, listeners, I suppose, this is a podcast, you can’t really see much, can you?

0:07:45.0 MF: For sure, yeah. [laughter]

0:07:48.9 EV: Maybe that’s next year, we’ll start doing vlogs. Listeners may not know that EAB does work in a lot of different areas. We have a team that works on K-12, we have a team that works on mental health, we have a team that’s part of a larger student affairs team. We’ve got folks that are working on technologies, we have folks that are working in the two-year space, the four-year space, all over the place, folks in enrollment, and success, and just general operations. So, there’s a lot of interesting things going on around the firm, but everybody’s sort of focused on their own areas. I wanted to go around and ask the research leads from each of those groups, “Well, what are you thinking about for the medium and long-term? What are you hearing, what are you worried about, what kind of data are you seeing?” And ask those folks to, essentially, send me what they got, and talk to me about the future. And from those conversations, these four ripples emerged. These are things that have been popping up in their research, or in the literature they’re reading, or in their conversations that they felt were the things that they wanted college leaders to know about, so they could begin to plan for, not just 2022, but those futures. Now, the first ripple, as you already mentioned, is student disengagement.

0:08:56.0 MF: Yeah, I’m excited to get into it, so that was a bit of excitement there. [laughter]

0:09:00.9 EV: Well, it’s on everybody’s mind, right? We’ve got campuses. And we should say this is probably more about social disengagement, right? Not the…

0:09:06.6 MF: That’s right.

0:09:08.2 EV: The word engagement is a broad one in the student success community, but here, we’re specifically talking about the interactions of students with other people on campus, and this is a huge missing part of the college experience. There’s no way around it. We can move classrooms online, some good, some bad with that, but you really can’t move the social life online that well. It’s just not one of those things. And if you happen to be a residential campus, where this is a huge part of your value proposition, and why you can charge a premium, that’s a difficult moment right there. So, we lost the campus. We also have students that are in a bunker mentality mindset, like we… Maybe especially, early on the panic, but some of us still have a little bit of that mindset, of let’s hunker down and wait this thing out. And so we wanted to look at the data and see how this was affecting us, because if students are truly socially disengaged, is that gonna snap right back, or is that something that schools are gonna have to work on, drawing students back in, out of their rooms, into the community, and connecting them with each other, maybe doing a lot more there than ever before. And we have some numbers here I’d like to share with you if it’s okay.

0:10:13.7 MF: Sure. Please do.

0:10:15.7 EV: There’s been some great survey work done here by Inside Higher Ed, and their survey… Or sorry, survey partner, I should say, called College Pulse. And they have been working with students, surveying them pretty regularly across the course of the pandemic. A Spring ’21 survey asked students what they miss the most about campus life, and students were allowed to pick multiple, I think they were nine options, they were allowed to pick three of them, but 73% of students, so three-quarters of students, the top response, by far, was they miss friends and social life. Interesting enough the second choice, I think it was like 44%, was the in-person classrooms. The next choice after that was clubs, and activities, so another social activity that they were missing, clearly it was a hole in their life. But we had had the hope that with schools largely returning to some sort of in-person experience in Fall ’21, that, that might just snap back. I mean, we are resilient people, we like to socialize, what did you expect, that the world would get better all of a sudden, and we would be able to like, with a big relief, emerge and then begin to socialize again? And unfortunately, that’s not what the numbers are showing. That same polling group went and asked students in November, this November, pre-Omicron, I wanna be clear.

0:11:34.2 MF: Okay.

0:11:34.5 EV: So before all of those fears. How much were they socializing relative to the past, and about a quarter, 28% said they were socializing more than ever before, which is I think maybe your response you’d expect from a lot of first year students, especially those leaving the home for their first time on their own.

0:11:51.9 MF: That’s right.

0:11:53.1 EV: I know that I certainly socialized more than ever before in my first year at college. [chuckle] But I imagine that’s a common experience for many people. Well, that’s the good news. The bad news is the combined 52% said either that they were socializing less than ever before, or more than in the spring, but still less than before the pandemic. So on the balance, a large number of our students were still in some way, shape, or form not back to “where they’ve been” when it comes to socializing with each other. So, even though we’ve put the environment back in place, not perfectly, certainly there’s some restrictions, and their students’ mentalities have not fully recovered yet. And so schools might need to be doing more here to prime the pump, if you will, on the social experience at college, and get this thing restarted a little bit. We shouldn’t just expect that it’s going to naturally happen on its own, getting back to where we were before.

0:12:47.2 EV: And I just wanna say one more thing before I get into what we might be able to do about it, and that’s that we weren’t terribly good at this to begin with. About a quarter of students, first year students instead, before the pandemic, just before, I think it was in 2019, were surveyed, and said that they did not feel like they were part of a community on their campus. That’s one in four of your students, they were already saying, this wasn’t really a place that I felt terribly socially engaged, so they weren’t getting that value and the trouble there is that those students were about four times as likely to drop out and not return for the second year on that campus and we don’t know, that maybe they went somewhere else, but the numbers clearly indicate that if you don’t feel like you’re part of a community, that you’re less likely to stick around. And indeed, this is the most foundational work on student success that’s been done, that’s been going all the way back to the ’70s, that we’ve been talking about this stuff.

0:13:38.1 EV: So what should we do about it? And the interesting angle here is you keep doing the things you’re doing, obviously, offer the sort of life you wanna offer on your campus, but ironically, the virtual environments may actually provide an answer for us here. Our students are more virtually engaged than any prior group of students. They were born digital natives; I think they were about… Incoming students were about three years old when the iPhone came out. Sorry, if that makes you feel old, it makes me feel old. [laughter] But they’ve lived their whole lives that way. We know from our work in the admission space, and this is something coming from our admissions teams, that they are using tools, we have one at EAB we call Wiser that engage students with each other in the prospective student process. So before they even come to campus, they’re talking with each other and trying to get each other to matriculate at this school and build that kind of community. They also get to talk to current students, and it’s a way to build a community before you even physically are in person with anybody.

0:14:37.5 EV: And there, we saw some schools experimenting and leaving this on, as students arrived on “campus” during the pandemic and there were some upticks there, students were using those tools to find each other. So there’s an opportunity here where we can use the virtual experience to foster in-person connections, if the university creates that avenue, that platform. And I’ll add that there’s another angle here which is interesting. If you curate the content in those communities, you form communities around experiences that we know are hugely valuable for student engagement, like internships and activities, work with professors, that you can even further drive engagement through these platforms by curating and pushing that content out of the students. So that’s our first ripple. Students’ sort of social disengagement that we may have to do a little bit more work over the course of the next, who knows? Few semesters to draw students back into the community that once existed before.

0:15:30.2 MF: So Ed, let’s dive into more of the ripple effects that you have here. We have some time here left and I definitely want to give enough time to all of them, so let’s dive in and talk a little bit more about the student mental health and what we’re seeing there.

0:15:42.8 EV: So that’s the second ripple. And it’s kind of a close cousin to the social engagement, but I don’t think it’s gonna surprise anybody listening that we’ve had some mental health challenges over the last couple of years. It’s been very stressful. And this is for everybody, I wanna be clear, been very open talking about some of the struggles that I’ve had and the experiences that I’ve had trying to live through this with everybody else and the stresses there, how much I’ve grown. And so from that experience, I’m very empathetic to this one. We have a huge mental health challenge on campus. This was growing for years and you can look at numbers around the number of students with depressive episodes, who qualify for anxiety disorders, the actual utilization of counseling centers over the last decade, these things have all been on the rise. So this was already a growing concern on campus, it isn’t an area where… There was some investment occurring.

0:16:33.7 EV: Well, obviously, the pandemic created a hugely new stressful environment and something like 75% of students said that the pandemic increased their… Sorry, decreased their mental health, worsened it in some way and actually 18% said worsened significantly. So right there with the rest of us, they had huge challenges. So this is an area where we need to be making some investments, because it was already a growing area that is now on fire, if you will, an area that schools are pretty overwhelmed. If you think about mental health being delivered through a counseling center, the appointments are full, the capacity is taken up and so what more can we do to meet this demand is the big question that’s on everybody’s mind. And I wanna frame this as a pandemic ripple because not like mental health just happens automatically and trauma can persist for a long time for a lot of us. The experiences that we went through, some people will get over it quickly; others, it will be some time. And that we also need to be thinking about the students that will be coming to us from the future, those who have had these experiences, but they were during high school, even grade school. What will they be bringing with them when they come to campuses? So this is clearly a challenge that needs a lot of investment and that schools are struggling to keep up with in one area where they should put a lot of focus on. Not just for the pandemic, but for the future.

0:17:52.5 MF: Yeah, and I think it was really interesting too, I think you had talked about, or maybe you’ll bring up here in a moment, talking about some of the surveys that have been out there, where you normally rank this stuff in terms of what are the top priorities for presidents, and we’ve seen some change there.

0:18:10.8 EV: Yeah, it was surprising, I saw a survey from last February, February 21, that asked college presidents what their top concerns were, and above enrollment, which is a huge concern for a lot of schools, about dealing with the pandemic, obviously a huge one, the top concerns was student and staff mental health across it. So let’s not forget about everybody else involved in the campus in regards here. This podcast is focused on students but we do wanna acknowledge that of course these concerns have been shared by everybody. But yeah, it was the top of the list, and I don’t think you would have seen a survey that would have said that prior to the pandemic, it’s clearly a huge priority for a lot of schools, for senior leaders in a lot of schools.

0:18:49.0 MF: Oh, absolutely. And I think one of the words that have been leading out, even as people have been talking about this, has come into our vernacular, has been languishing, talking about this kind of eroding and an increase of this feeling of uncertainty and not knowing when or how things are gonna change. And so, as you know in terms of my focus with equity and in some of the work that’s happening there, I definitely want to talk about and bring up, talk about the special focus and emphasis that needs to happen for students of color. ‘Cause we talked about what wasn’t happening prior to the pandemic and for many of them, they couldn’t necessarily find the care or the need that they needed on their campuses. So I just wanna talk about what’s going on there in terms of a priority.

0:19:32.8 EV: Yeah, and you and I both know that we’ve had many conversations about this, that it’s kind of a two-fold nature. There’s a part of it which is stigmatization, I don’t know that I wanna be associated with the idea that I’m seeking help, and another huge part of it is comfort. Can you find someone to connect with who understands your background and experiences that you feel comfortable opening up? You don’t have to explain everything all over again, and so that’s one of those experiences where if you look at the numbers and you see who’s actually making use of mental health services on campus, it’s overwhelmingly white students. Students of color are not using as much, and this is obviously an area that we would like to get these numbers up, not just simply because it was already inequitable, but because of the disproportionate impact that the pandemic had upon a lot of communities of color, and how those students might be carrying a lot more trauma away from that experience.

0:20:25.3 MF: Absolutely. Just knowing where we are with time, is there any other things you want to share in terms of insights or conversations you’ve had about this before we move on to the next topic?

0:20:34.0 EV: Yeah. Our mental health teams done a lot of good work on this and I encourage everybody to go check out their work on our website, just start googling mental health on and you’ll find a lot of it. And they have four recommendations. I was hoping to just rattle off really quickly for folks to get a sense of what that work may be.

0:20:49.2 MF: Yeah, that would be fantastic.

0:20:51.4 EV: And the first one is this, the general thing is we need to get mental health counseling beyond the counseling center, we need to be able to do more of this around campus and how are we gonna do that? Well, turns out you’ve got a lot of programs already out there that are meant to address aspects of mental health, stress reduction programs, various different healthy life programs, just support groups, who can you connect with and talk to? So there’s capacity out there, it’s a matter of connecting students to that capacity, and this is the match-making problem. You have to get students to understand that there’s stuff out there to help them and that they have stuff that’s there specifically for their specific challenge.

0:21:28.4 EV: Understanding well, maybe I don’t need full on, huge once a week therapy session, but I would like a little bit of help addressing these concerns. Well, we got that for you. So if there’s a way to do management and particularly through online portals, how we’ve seen some schools explore that. This is how we connect students to the things that we’re doing. So use the capacity that we already have. Two is you can add more capacity by adding touch points into the student experience that you may not expect. So for instance, you can build mental health into course curriculum, you can ask professors to do that, especially if it’s driven into the topic, have reflection moments. What we’re trying to do there is normalize the conversation and get students to feel comfortable about talking about these things, decrease that stigma, and hopefully have some students who need help decide that they’re gonna step forward.

0:22:13.7 EV: Three is, you gotta do hiring in the… We already talked about this a little bit, you gotta do hiring in your mental health center that has staff that reflects the diversity of your campus. You gotta be able to meet students’ needs from a demographic and personality and identity standpoint, for that you’re gonna have to offer essentially diverse people within your counseling center so the students have those they connect to. And four, and this one’s less obvious, but we don’t always do a great job understanding the impact of what we’re doing on student success and mental health is one of those things that might often get assessed on utilization or student satisfaction, but I wonder how many schools out there are also trying to link the impact of those services to retention rates, or graduation rates, or academic success.

0:23:00.9 EV: If you have those kinda data, you could then begin to do assessments that then argue for additional investment, “Hey, we know this really works. This is the sort of program that keeps students in school, they get better grades, let’s put more dollars here, we know it works, expand the program.” And the sense of our team is that most schools, most counseling centers don’t have that kinda data available to them, most student help groups don’t have that kinda data available to them but if they did, they could make even smarter arguments in the future for even more help.

0:23:29.4 MF: Those are fantastic. And thank you for sharing those. And so let’s go into the third piece of what we’re here to think about, and I will not list it off, I’ll let you tell it to our listeners here what we’re gonna talk about next.

0:23:42.0 EV: Yeah, so the transfer ecosystem is maybe one that, it surprised me a little bit when I saw this, but once I did, oh my gosh, it made sense. And let me tell you a little about what we’re talking about here.

0:23:53.5 MF: Sure.

0:23:54.0 EV: Within… Sorry, across higher ed, the enrollment impact’s been felt very, very heterogeneously. Overall, we’re down about 8% from where we were in Fall ’19 in terms of enrollment. So the two-year declines have been about 8%. There’s been a 3% at private, non-profit four years, 4% at public four years, but a whopping 15% at two-year schools. The two-year schools are really, really struggling on enrollment right now, and that is a big deal for two-year schools, but it’s going to be a big deal for everybody in a short order because almost every aspect of higher education is in some way, shape or form dependent upon two-year schools, either as a source of transfer students or even if you’re a more selective school, maybe your students are taking dual enrollment classes while they’re still in high school, they were doing less of that during the pandemic.

0:24:46.3 EV: So this is a huge enrollment source that we count on to fill in our upper division classes in the four-year space that is not gonna be as large as it used to be, the recruitment poll is just gonna be smaller. And this is also critical for two-year schools because a significant number of students will move not from two-year to four-year, but from two-years to two-year as well. So, if you’re a two-year school…

0:25:07.4 MF: Interesting.

0:25:08.1 EV: That enrolls a lot of students from two-year schools, this is also a potential challenge for you down the road, and we don’t know how long this is gonna last. This will last as long as the enrollment attraction, the two-year space lasts. But it doesn’t mean that there isn’t work to be done here because frankly, this is another area that was pretty broken before the pandemic. We are not very good at doing transfer articulations, students lose a lot of credits between schools, and we lose a lot of students between schools. The vast majority of students who started at two-year school have the intention of moving on and getting a bachelor’s degree, but I think the number is something like 30% actually do.

0:25:42.6 EV: And so something’s going wrong there. And furthermore, we know that those numbers are inequitable. You’re far more likely to make that leap and get that bachelor’s degree if you’re White or Asian than if you’re Black or Hispanic, and so it’s the system that was already right for improvement, [chuckle] if you will, before the pandemic, and I think this is actually one of those great opportunities where the system is gonna get stressed and has to fix itself finally to deal with the stress, but ultimate beneficiaries are gonna be students and the institutions themselves. But this is one of those cans we can’t keep kicking down the road, we gotta focus on this one, and the good news is we got a little bit of time to really get it right, but the attention needs to start now.

0:26:19.5 MF: Absolutely and it sounds like we don’t want students to no longer be kind of left out in the ether or have to find their way back to our institutions after they may have lost their footing or are trying to figure out what’s gonna be their next step because they may have gone to an institution that’s not working for them and I wanna bring in just a little bit of a personal commentary because I was one of those students and I had a number of stop outs, my first and second school did not work out for me and I realized just how hard that process was 20 some years ago, oops I’m dating myself, but I will say that this is, like you said, is ripe for our opportunity and to fix this transfer system and the thing more broadly about how we support these students when we’re thinking about this equity moment as well, in terms of our first generation students are black, Latino, Latinx, native, low-income and others.

0:27:08.0 EV: Well, so there’s really two big things that we need to be doing to fix this system and we are screwing things that require a partnership between institutions. I already alluded to the first one is, do what you can, audit your transfer articulation and see what you’d be doing by taking more credits to more of your partners. We are surprised again and again about the number of stories we hear. A lot of this, by the way, is coming from our Moon Shot for Equity, a group that we’re doing work with now in three cities, the one that’s for this long is Milwaukee, we got 4 schools in Milwaukee that are building a transfer consortium among many other things with the purpose of trying to promote equity and they’re discovering all kinds of stuff like, they had no idea that a course wasn’t articulated in one school or another one, because some decision was made a long time ago. And everybody teaching those courses, degrees, they’re actually the same course we should accept that. So doing an audit there, so you make sure you’re taking as many credits as possible and then making that transparent to students as they are applying to your campus, let’s not make that process so laborious for students to figure out, if you think about it, it should be almost instantaneous, you should be able to know, “I have these credits, how many of them are gonna apply to school A, B or C because that affects my choice about where I wanna go.”

0:28:19.7 EV: Schools that can do a better job increase in the number of articulations and the transparency around that, just do a better job attracting students and the system will be fair for them. The second thing is you can develop deliberate pathways and again, this is some work we’re doing in Milwaukee by which schools are setting up such that maybe you do the first two years at the local two-year school and then you finish out at the local four year school. It’s the same program, it’s almost seamlessly a hand-off, it doesn’t feel like I’m moving between situations. And it’s the deliberate pathway that I knew I got into when I started at the two years school this was always my intention. These are becoming more and more popular across the country, but they do require a lot of work in schools to partner together, but when they happen they are very valuable programs and provide pathways for students that weren’t as clearly defined as before, to strongly encouraged schools to do all of those things, build out your transfer articulations, build out the automation of the process and start working to get partners on dedicated programs that allow students to bridge the gaps, without losing credits and with knowing exactly what they’re doing and what their intentions are.

0:29:21.0 MF: Yeah. And the last thing I’ll add there too, because I’ve been working with this Moon Shot regions as well, is that just to make sure that you understand that process as well, ’cause what we found in those regions is that they were usually 13 doors that students had to go through that weren’t clear and we also found out as well is that there were just needless hurdles that they weren’t aware of and they weren’t aware of where the transfer populations were coming from and that’s another reason of wanting to collect the data, we found one of those institutions, 2% of their enrollment was coming from, which is significant so you definitely wanna make sure that you’re doing that work.

0:29:51.8 EV: Yeah, there was a lot to be discovered there. There’s just so much schools don’t know about transfer and what their role is in the larger ecosystem.

0:30:00.5 MF: Absolutely, so let’s go on to the final piece in terms of what we’re talking about here, in terms of the K-12.

0:30:05.3 EV: Yeah, okay so this is the biggest concern that I have. It’s also the furthest out, but when we start sharing these data, and I just wanna prepare everybody it gets a little bit grim, folks, so I just wanna prepare you for that, that we’re talking about what’s happened in the K-12 space and many of you have children and you know that their education was quite disrupted over the course of pandemic and you know what kind of impact is that gonna have on college down the road, but I also wanna have the caveat here that this is far away, we may never experience these challenges and if you do everything right, we will not experience this challenge, this is more of an awareness issue, but what’s happening in K-12. Okay, so obviously they had their own moved to the virtual environment and maybe looking at the college space and saying that’s difficult with adults, imagine doing that with seven-year-olds and so the experience is, it’s difficult. What kind of impact did it have? Well, we looked at, and this is where I was talking a lot with our K-12 team, they were pointing the two big things, one was what’s happening in high school absenteeism, nearly doubled. Normally, we have about three million students that are chronically absent and I think it’s defined as 10 or more days missing from school in a year.

0:31:15.0 EV: That doubled, estimates are somewhere in that range and we think that of those students, an additional 600,000 over one million of these students, this is estimates from McKinsey, won’t be coming back to school. So we’ll have a smaller high school population, we were already expecting to have a smaller high school population at the end of the decade, that might be happening right now because of the pandemic, so there aren’t as many students in high school and we don’t know how well prepared they’re gonna be for college. Will they have learned as much across the course of the pandemic? Are they gonna show up for the first day of classes like we are used to, or are they going to need additional help getting up to speed on math and writing the notes things that we need to do a lot of work in the first year? That’s what happened in high school. Let’s go a little further back and one big insight from the K-12 team is, educators have known for some time that the learning that you do early in elementary school is a constituent of pathway for learning for the rest of your life.

0:32:18.4 EV: The big moment is third grade, third grade is when you stop learning to read and start reading to learn and the curriculum actually changes at third grade and more more incumbency is put on the students, so you have to be able to socially read to teach themselves as part of their assignments. Well, if you’re not a strong reader at that point, you then naturally begin to start falling behind, there’s been a focal point that researchers focused on for years and there’s all kinds of socio-economic effects tied up in here. So I wanna acknowledge that as well. But what the research says is essentially if you are not past or if you aren’t testing as reading competent in third grade, you’re far less likely to go to college and rarely catch up. So third grade is biggest inflection one.

0:32:56.0 EV: Our current third graders are the highest to a class of 31. So, this is the beginning of the next decade that we’re talking about here in terms of who’s coming to college. If we actually impacted learning in early K-12 as bad as we might have been, we could be feeling the aftereffects of that all the way through the next decade or all the way through to the next decade. We obviously hope this isn’t gonna happen. But that is how long this could be. Now, what kind of impact do we have? Well, looking at test scores we know that from K-8, the students are about four months behind or unfinished if you will, in reading and about five months unfinished learning in math. And these numbers look worse when you look at communities of color, or sorry, schools that serve communities of color and schools that serve lower income communities. Those numbers are looking even worse.

0:33:50.9 EV: So, it really did happen. We had an impact in K-8 especially, we have the attendance issue in high school. And these things are coming our way to some degree, hopefully not a big one, but to some degree across the course of the next decade. It’s gonna be something we need to prepare for. But it’s something we have time to prepare for. So, this is something I’m trying to call a lot of attention to simply because it’s maybe not the thing that a lot of people are thinking about, but it is going to define so much of our work going forward.

0:34:20.6 MF: Oh, absolutely. And then obviously it sounds like our K-12, our school districts have the work cut out for them. So, let’s talk a little bit about what now can our college or university partners, what accommodations or adjustments do they need to make?

0:34:34.7 EV: Yeah. So these are some big ones. And this is our work, Meacie, we do this all the time where we’re talking a lot about advising, and student support, and making investments there, the work we do around navigate, our student management system and the student management systems that are all about essentially increasing the ability to support students. We think there’s gonna be even more need for that, so make the investments. This is one of those no regrets investments. If you invest in advising in student support and these problems don’t happen, you won’t regret it because your current students will benefit as well. You already needed to make this investment. Virtual advising, big deal here. We’ve already talked about it in a lot. I won’t go any more in length, but I think it opens up a lot of doors for providing this kind of support.

0:35:19.9 EV: And here’s three, if you’re a school that already enrolls a large number of developmental students, students who are not testing at college-ready levels in math and writing, you should probably start preparing for more of those. And if you aren’t in a school that enrolls a large number of these students, you may soon be. So you need to take a look at this. When we look at development education, and of course, we do a lot of this work with the Moon Shot, as well, Meacie.

0:35:44.3 MF: That’s right.

0:35:46.2 EV: We know that the old model of enrolling students in no-credit, non-college level preparatory courses with incredibly high fail rates is a broken model. It doesn’t work. The newest research has been over the last few years points clearly to the success of co-requisite models. How do these work? You enroll a student in a college-level course, and then they’re also required to take a supplemental course that essentially catches them up as they go. The great news here is they get the college credit, and the pass rates are higher. So if you haven’t moved to that co-requisite model or you’re thinking a little bit about it, the time is now. Get that in place so that you’re prepared for the future. And again, this is a no regrets thing. This is already a good move to make. Make it now, even if the challenges that are maybe coming to us from a K-12 space happen or don’t happen, you’ll still be glad you did. So, these are investments that are just good ideas.

0:36:39.4 MF: Yeah, this is fantastic. I honestly feel like we have to take a moment to breathe here and then take in all the information, and great information that you shared with us. These are some of the, like you said, same challenges, just more acute now. And we’ve always needed to address these challenges, and now we really have no choice or no reason not to do it in terms of all the information that you shared with us. I do wanna mention that Ed does have a whitepaper coming out soon, and he’s gonna do a deep dive into more of these issues. So, I wanna sure that you’re on the lookout for that. And any last thoughts? Is there anything else that you want to share, Ed, before I kind of take us out?

0:37:12.9 EV: Yeah, just a little bit of optimism here. And I do encourage you to read the whitepaper. It’s gonna be called the Pandemic Ripple Effect. It’ll be up on shortly. There’s a lot of scary data here. This is pretty heavy stuff. And I just wanna leave with a little bit more of a positive, a little bit more of optimism left. The fact that we’re talking about these issues now and not merely about what’s happening right in front of our face, but a little bit further out, and if I could, we’re looking at this stuff, means that all the challenges that we’re talking about here are not likely to happen in the worst-case scenario. We’re going to be aware of these things and we’re gonna be working on them. The whole point of talking about this is so that they don’t happen or that we can mitigate the impacts if they do happen. And there’s some more good news, which is look back to all those innovations we’ve had during the pandemic. We haven’t fully digested just all the whole new opportunities we have available to us.

0:38:04.8 EV: And the last thing I’ll say here is that one of the big positive ripples from the pandemic has been the investment of public expenditure in higher education. We’ve spent something like $77 billion from our affiliate funding on higher ed. That’s somewhere between the GDP of Maine and Delaware. There’s a lot of money. And this is opening up opportunities for schools to support students and make investments in itself that they’ve never had before. It also suggests that maybe we’re gonna get this kind of support going forward when folks realize what sort of a challenge we have recovering from our pandemic. And our recovery, may take a lot longer than other areas in society. So I’m just speculating here, and maybe a hopeful speculation that that’s a harbinger of additional partnership from governments and education going forward. And again, that’s just a huge help because we’re all going to be in this together. And this is a fundamental thing that we do in our society and such a foundational part of our economy. We are all invested in making sure that these issues never come to light. And in fact that we emerged from the pandemic much stronger than we entered it as educators and as an educational system.

0:39:01.8 MF: Oh, absolutely. And we…

0:39:06.1 EV: Yeah. Go ahead.

0:39:07.3 MF: And, no, and I was about to say, just to kind of carry us out, that was great in terms of hope and optimism that we should have for what we can do together and these challenges which will actually pose as opportunities. So, I wanna thank you again, Ed, and for everyone listening. We’ll be back soon with some more topics. And until then, everyone, please be safe.


0:39:32.6 S1: Thank you for listening. Please join us again next week when our experts share advice on how to leverage the data you’ve already collected on your admits to focus your current outreach efforts on those who are most likely to be convinced to actually enroll. Until then, thank you for your time.


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