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Are Student Success Leaders Ready to Embrace Data and Analytics?

Episode 97

March 29, 2022 41 minutes


EAB’s David Bevevino and Ed Venit share results of a new poll that shows surging interest among student success leaders in applying analytics to boost retention and graduation rates.

David and Ed suggest that institutions may finally be moving out of pandemic crisis mode and turning their attention to improving how they identify and communicate with students who appear to be falling off track. The two offer advice on more effective ways to track performance around student alerts, outreach, and interventions.



0:00:12.5 Speaker 1: Hello and welcome to Office Hours with EAB. Today, we’re going to explore findings from a new poll of student success leaders that shows surging interest in the use of data and analytics. The findings seem to indicate that university leaders may have enough breathing room now, both literally and metaphorically, to move out of crisis mode and take a hard look at what the analytics tell them about what’s working and what isn’t in their efforts to support their students. The conversation is an important one, so give these folks a listen and enjoy.


0:00:51.2 Ed Venit: Hello and welcome to Office Hours with EAB. My name is Ed Venit, I lead our student success research, and I am glad to be back on the pod with you today, joined by my colleague, David Bevevino, who I believe this is your first time on the pod, is it not David?

0:01:05.7 David Bevevino: That is right.

0:01:07.2 EV: Alright. Well, could you tell our listeners a little bit about who you are and what you do at EAB? You’ve been around for a while. I’ve really enjoyed working with you over the years, so I’m glad you could make it on to the podcast today.

0:01:17.5 DB: Yeah, I’m excited to be on. I’ve been with EAB for about 11 years, and most of that time worked on a lot of our student success research for our provost partners, as well as our community college presidents and their teams. But over the past couple of years, I’ve led EAB’S Technology Partner Experience team, which brings a lot of our research and consulting and networking to our broader student success collaborative of about 850 schools or so. And one of the projects that I work on in that role is also the Moon Shot for Equity, and I know today we’ll end up talking a little bit about equity, so I’m excited to share a bit more there, but it’s great to be on as a rookie.

0:01:58.7 EV: Well, welcome. We certainly will talk about equity, you wanna say a little bit more about the Moon Shot and what we’re doing for anybody who may not be familiar, ’cause I’m sure we’ll come back to that just given you and I tend to talk about the Moon Shot quite often.

0:02:10.6 DB: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. For folks who haven’t heard about it, the Moon Shot for Equity is our initiative to erase equity gaps in regions of the country across two-year and four-year institutions coming together to implement best practices, engage in equity-mindedness training, engage in capacity building and leadership development. And we’re doing that, as I said, all in the service of eliminating equity gaps across race and ethnicity, income and first-generation status, and when I say eliminating equity gaps, I mean in graduation and retention, so it’s an incredibly exciting initiative we’ve been doing. We’re working in the Milwaukee-Kenosha region, we’re working in Southeastern Pennsylvania, Greater Cincinnati Northern Kentucky. And lots of conversations across other parts of the country as well. It brings together a lot of different parts of EAB and teaches us a ton about the challenges that institutions are facing, especially as we’ve been going through the pandemic and fingers crossed, emerging from it at least a bit.

0:03:16.4 EV: That’s right. So very glad to work with you on that, I’ve had a great experience working with the Moon Shot over the last couple of years. And what I’ve learned from it, it’s nothing like rolling up your sleeves and really getting into something to understand the nuances and details of life, something like closing equity gaps is so hard and why it has been a struggle over time, it’s a very complex and deep issue with a lot of facets to it, so it’s been as much a learning exercise for us as it is a service delivery exercise. And the one that I think we’re gonna get even smarter with going forward, a soft plug, if any listeners wanna learn more about the Moon Shot for Equity, go on to and put that as a search term, it’ll pop right up. And there’s a chance you’ll talk to either me or David at some point.


0:04:00.6 DB: That’s right, yeah. We’ll be excited to.

0:04:02.8 EV: So if you enjoyed hearing our voices, there’s a chance to hear that even more in the future, but that’s not what we’re gonna talk about specifically today. One of the things that David and I have done over the years is that we were both cut our teeth in the research division at EAB, that was of course the core of what we do, and it’s also the oldest thing of what we do the original conceptualization, if you will, of what the firm is, a best practice research firm. And one of the things that we’ve done over the years is do topic polls to understand a little bit more about what our partners, our members, they’ve evolved over the years, are interested in us working on. And David, I know you’ve had a lot of experience with these polls in the past, let’s set it up for the audience so they understand what we’re talking about and why this is something that is of interest to them. Why they should continue to listen to us. [chuckle]

0:04:53.2 DB: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Yeah, so gosh, we’ve been doing topic polls since we started doing our research at EAB back in 2007, and they are a great way for us to get a sense of, in a snapshot in time, and then looking at them year over year, what is top of mind for our partners in terms of specific problems they’re trying to solve, the major issues that they’re facing, and where do those things fall in their list of priorities, not just what they’re focused on. ‘Cause if you think about a provost or community college president or a four-year university president, they’re focused on so many things, but what’s that order of priority, and then how does that differ across different types of institutions and different types of leaders within an organization? So it’s always a highlight of a year for us, it guides a lot of the work that we do for the programs that we put on for our partners, whether it’s for CONNECTED or major Student Success conference or for any of our other research… Excuse me. Research white papers and things like that. It’s a great moment.

0:06:01.8 EV: Yeah. It’s one of the great things about EAB that I know we both really strongly believe in is the democratic notion of we’re gonna work on what our partners want and what most of them want is gonna be the thing that we purpose the most and hauls our way to get that. There are a couple of nuances here, of course, as well, which is something may not show up high on a poll, but be a critically important issue, and the reason why it might not show up that high is, we’ve talked about other years either… We’ve already done a lot of work on that and our partners feel satisfied. Or everybody understands this is a big issue, but it may not be within their purview. You can’t do much about it. And I think we should come back and talk about two of those things as we get into the poll. Two really interesting things, and I’ll teach you right now. One of them is mental health, other is transfer students. So we should come back to that as we discuss the poll results and explain the nuance between, well, this is a very important issue, but no one seems to feel the ownership over it.

0:07:00.9 EV: And what might that mean for the future of where we might go here? I also share your enthusiasm for the polls, ’cause it’s a way to get a real snapshot into what what our partners want. It’s also an indication of where the overall trajectory of where people’s interest is. So I like thinking about this in a year over year change. And you know me, given my background in paleontology, I kind of think about year over year change. Usually it’s on it’s course…

0:07:24.1 DB: Much longer time frame.

0:07:25.7 EV: A little bit longer you would think, but in this case, it is interesting to see how it’s evolved. Now, with this particular topic, one of the interesting things about it, maybe the most interesting thing is, the last time we did a poll was February 2020. Literally right before we all went home. And we did that poll, analyzed it, you may recall this, you and I had a meeting. We did the poll, we analyzed it, and we realized none of this matters anymore. The world has changed so much, just in the course of a couple of weeks. So we just throw the poll out, and we had to start doing more qualitative gathering and information, as people’s interest shifted from high-level strategic thinking about the future of higher education, down to, you need to make sure our students have devices so they can go to school. It’s completely different conversations.

0:08:09.6 DB: Yep, yep. How do we switch our faculty to online teaching overnight, basically?

0:08:14.2 EV: I think we’re bringing up a lot of bad feelings for the audience, so let’s move on from that. But we’re now returning to the moment where we could think about these big ideas. I’ve had presidents describe to me their job, and provosts as well. What boils down to, “I’m normally supposed to be steering the ship, but I’m spending all my time dealing water these days.” So hopefully we’re getting back a little bit to the steering of the ship as we go forward. And I think the poll is a good indication that we’re seeing some of those things start to pop. I’m very interested to see how the world changed because of the pandemic, within the poll results and what we’re being asked for from our partners in a way that we weren’t before. So I’m very interested in that change. With all that preamble, why don’t we get into some of the things that we picked up as we looked at this. Just so everybody knows, David and I have spent a lot of time looking at these results and debating them back and forth. We’re just gonna kinda give you a window into our conversations. We’ve also talked with a lot of our partners about this in small groups. Maybe you can share a little bit about forums we’re getting this feedback from, and then we’ll share with you a little bit about what we’re finding.

0:09:20.8 DB: Yeah, we’ve brought this up in a couple of different areas. We have one group in particular, our Student Success Innovation Council, which is a group of about 20, 24 partners that we have an annual nomination process internally and select those partners to give us advice on our Student Success research strategy, our product strategy, our services and everything like that. And these are some of our most engaged partners every year that we’d love to get their feedback on everything. And they brought up some really interesting points about how they would have changed their answers if they had answered the poll three weeks later, or even, I think one of them said even a week or two later. They got access to some data that changed their mind on it, so that was fascinating. We’ve shared it with our internal teams to see how it reflects the conversations that they’re having. Especially our Navigate and Starfish strategic leaders. Those folks have been great to engage more in those conversations, and I don’t know if you’ve taken it, I know you’ve probably taken it more one-on-one with some partners as well. I’ve done it in a few of those group settings. I’d be curious to hear who you’ve taken it to.

0:10:33.1 EV: Yeah, I’ve talked to individuals and shown the results to, and gotten a lot of the same feedback that you’ve heard in your groups. Interesting enough, I’ve also talked to some industry associations about this, and shared with them, figuring that they might be curious to see what we’re seeing as well. We’re trying to, of course, advance everybody’s knowledge in this regard. We don’t diminish our light if we light someone else’s candle, in this regard, and their feedback been really interesting as well. Very much in line with what we’re about to share, and echoed a lot of the things that you and I have heard in discussion with each other, about why it is that some of these things might be being preferenced more than any others. So let’s get into some of the results. I wanna describe the poll. It’s hard ’cause it’s a podcast. We can’t show you the data, but I’m gonna have to describe it for you. This is what it looks like. It’s 21 questions that are all Student Success style topics. We might ask about coordinated care networks, we might ask about data analytics, we might ask about, I mentioned transfer students and mental health. But students in careers, adult learners, guided pathways, you name it, we put it all on the list. All the kind of hot topics.

0:11:37.5 EV: Then we ask everybody who takes the poll to grade on an A through F GPA scale, then you calculate the GPA’s reached topic, rank order, and then the things about the top. Generally, anything that’s over a 3.0 is pretty hot. We sub-divide the responses by type of school. Public, private. Two-year, four-year. Different sized schools, different selectivity, different graduation rates. And then we kinda look for differences between the schools to understand. ‘Cause actually, a lot of heterogeneity within higher ed. An ivy league school and a community college have different priorities, and so they might view the world in a very different way. One of the things that struck me about this poll, was actually how homogeneous the responses were.

0:12:25.8 DB: Which we don’t normally see.

0:12:27.2 EV: We don’t normally see this, so you and I, we’re getting a little chuckle at the end of the day, ’cause I was struggling to call out interesting nuances in the poll result, and they’re just not there. In the terms of the differences between school types, everybody seems to be dialed in on the same stuff, and I think that might reflect the common nature of the challenges we felt in the pandemic. Everybody had a little different experience, but it hit us all pretty hard in a way. And by pandemic, I mean the larger 2020 experience, which includes the murder of George Floyd, and everything that has come after since in the equity conversation across campus. As well as the economic struggles that a lot of our students are feeling. Some words are pandemic experience, not just simply masks, and distancing events along those lines. So yes, it was very homogenous in the poll results, and I thought that was quite surprising. Do you have any other commentary on that? Other than, we all felt the pandemic, it hit us all.

0:13:23.5 DB: Well, I think one of the things that set out to us, and this is previewing what was clustered toward the top of the results, was that the pandemic created so much uncertainty for our leaders and our partners that are trying to support their students. They physically couldn’t find some of their students, they were trying to figure out where they were, how they could get them the support and resources they needed, and who needed them was a major question. And now as we’ve seen the pandemic evolve, more of the questions have been around what happened, how did we do? And how are we doing moving forward? And if I can give a spoiler here, there was a big grouping of topics toward the top around data and analytics, metrics and accountability, disaggregation of the data for finding equity gaps, a lot of those topics scored into the three threes and scores like that, which are quite high for our topic poll. And we’ve been trying to figure out what the nuance is there in terms of are folks more interested in the accountability piece, are they more interested in the disaggregation of the data because they’re trying to figure out where their equity gaps are, that’s been really interesting to try to get people to sort through.

0:14:48.3 DB: So that definitely stood out to me. Another thing, and I think we can talk about this as well, is an oldie, but a goodie was up at the top, which was around the faculty role in student success, which has been one of the most popular topics that we’ve engaged with over the years, whether it’s faculty engagement with student success or with technology. Again, what is their role? So I think that was interesting to see it come up towards the top as well. I don’t know what of that stood out to you, but those were two things that caught my attention at least.

0:15:23.6 EV: The faculty role topic is always a little bit of a chuckle for me, because that’s something that we work on pretty regularly and have done for quite some time, this is something that you’re interested in, audience, go into, look for the Student Success Best Practice Library, you’ll see a whole section on working with your faculty and a variety of different resources there. It is an evergreen topic, but I know you and I have had some chuckles in the past when we run… We just worked on this, we just produced a full stack and then one more. It’s one of those things that is always evergreen that’s in there, and usually at the top of the list, it’s right there again. So that’s another one of those things. I also think that it’s interesting to call out the quick wins topic, we put a little… One of the topics there was kind of meant to be a calibration topic, it’s called quick win retention tactics, because who wouldn’t want that? And if anything…

0:16:12.8 DB: We expected that to score pretty well.

0:16:14.5 EV: Right, we expect it to be at the top. Well, if anything scores above that, then you know it’s really hot and sure enough, student success metrics and accountability was the only topic that’s gone above that, it was the top topic with a 3.27 GPA I might add which is really strong as you all know, so everybody wants this. But nobody wants accountability. This isn’t the sort of thing that higher ed does. In fact, some people listening may have gone into higher ed to avoid that structure where they would have found goals and business metrics and things along those lines in a different kind of environment, yet they’re asking for it now, and that is coupled with looking for disaggregated data support equity and dashboards and data visualization, two other analytic topics that all scored above a 3.0 as you noted, there is a clustering there of data ideas. Let’s come back to that accountability topic, ’cause we’ve gotten some really good feedback about that for folks, ’cause I don’t know, it was a bit of a head scratcher for me when I saw it, and I know for you, but we’ve gotten a little bit of feedback and it’s starting to make a lot more sense to us now, so maybe share a little bit.

0:17:20.0 EV: And I encourage the listeners to also think about their own lives and you’re feeling some of the same stuff too, and if you are, give us a call, we’d love to hear your stories. Anyway, tell us a little bit about that feedback that we’re hearing about why people might be interested in the topic that normally we’re allergic to in higher ed. You know what I mean?

0:17:37.2 DB: Right. No. We were surprised, as you said, and we were trying to figure out… There’s been obviously a lot of attention on, let’s look at our retention rates, let’s look at our graduation rates, let’s look at time to degree and student debt and all of those things over the past couple of years, so it was surprising to see that so far at the top, and then especially when it was paired with the other word, accountability. And so when we were talking to partners about it, I thought one of the most interesting things was, back to something you and I were talking about before was the point around uncertainty and a bit of blindness, frankly, around what is going on with our efforts to reach students, what’s going on in our courses and how are our students doing in them. Again, within the context of the pandemic, the return to campus that many folks have experienced, and I think that was at least in some of the early conversations that I’ve had about the results.

0:18:35.0 DB: It was the focus on, we just need to know more about what is happening and who our interventions, our attempts to contact our different courses again, who are they affecting in different ways by race and ethnicity, by income, by location, all those sorts of things, folks are trying to figure out what their world looks like now in its current state, and then a retrospective, I think on how things went during the pandemic, I don’t know if you’ve heard differently, but that really struck me as just a cry for visibility into what’s happening.

0:19:09.0 EV: Yeah, it’s a really interesting topic because the vibe I’m getting is, we don’t know what’s going on anymore, because all of our heuristics and rules of thumb and such throw out the window because everything’s changed, and I think it’s actually a commentary on how remarkably stable higher ed was before the pandemic, this was before your time, but back when I was just a baby researcher at EAB when we were just getting going. We did a little kind of fun analysis where we looked at the US News Top 25 from the year 2007, which was the year we were then, compared to its very first year, which is in the mid-80s, and what we found was of the top 25 schools, 23 of them were the same. They were just in different orders.

0:19:50.0 DB: Still the same. Things don’t move too much there.

0:19:52.5 EV: Right. And then the two that had swapped out were like now 26th and 27th, still not much movement, and then we compared it to the top 25 fortune 500 companies, and only two of those were the same over that same period of time, it’s just like it shows you just how stable this industry normally is, relative to say, other sectors of our economy, but that also breeds some culture that is based around some long-held assumptions. And we find comfort in those things, that’s how we run our shows, except what if those things are all gone now and now suddenly we need to count things like maybe we didn’t have to do before. So I’m with you on that. I think there’s another angle on this too, and we heard this when we talked to our innovation council, and the idea was, look I’m a AVP, I’m a Dean, I’m a Director sort of mid-level middle manager type, all my folks have been at home for the last two years in some way, shape or form, what are they even up to? And can we go and describe some of the good things that’s happened here, we’re meeting with more students because we’re meeting with them virtually, you’ve got better employee engagement because they can have work hours that are shaped around their family, instead of the other way around.

0:21:04.5 EV: Some of the kind of good stuff, if I daresay, that has come out of the pandemic, that flexible lifestyle, and it’s not so much in holding people accountable in the sense that this person isn’t doing their job. It’s actually the other way around. Actually, you’re doing great, no need to come in to the office.

0:21:19.5 DB: We didn’t. And we didn’t know how great you were doing within this uncertain time. Yeah.

0:21:25.4 EV: Yeah, so it’s almost like a positive thing in the sense of, Yeah, we wanna be able to celebrate what we’re doing here, and on top of that, the third thing, which you and I know very well, in a tough budget environment, if you find yourself in that way, as a school, having some numbers to bring to the conversation makes it a lot easier to start arguing for additional investment. I had a little bit of a chuckle a couple of years ago when I was talking to one of our partners, and he was trying to go advocate for more advisors on year, some of our… The analysis that you and I did a couple of years ago, a ROI of hiring an advisor in terms of the recaptured tuition revenue that you would get from retention, and he was going and using that argument to go ask for more advisors, and it was a budget meeting and he says, I got the money, but that’s ’cause I was the only one that showed up with any data. Everyone else showed up trying to say, “Please give me the money”, but couldn’t prove why or where it would go. Metrics like this help you make that case, so in a road where everything’s changing and where the manager might also be dealing with the great resignation, we’re trying to keep this person in place, let me show you these numbers and why we should give them a raise.

0:22:31.8 EV: Then I think that it becomes a lot of interesting for a middle manager to have a little bit more, well, I don’t know, sway in what they’re doing and how they’re operating their business and they’re interacting with the larger part of the institution.

0:22:46.1 DB: Yeah, the other thing when you brought up resources, it made me think of was, even if you’re not advocating for new resources, you may be advocating for shifting around where you have staff, where you have service hours, where you’re allocating appointments and the effort of staff. I think one of the things that we’ve heard, I don’t think we have benchmarks on this yet, but anecdotally from several partners is they’re shifting around service times of advising and tutoring, one partner, I can’t remember which partner I was talking to was saying, We serviced a need for weekend advising and tutoring that we never would have realized, but students were clearly emailing us, they were talking to us on Zoom much more regularly, and this idea of more flexible hours became at least slightly more quantifiable for them, so to your point, Ed, it wasn’t about is somebody doing their job well or not, it was much more of what’s happening and what’s working well and what are the needs, and I think that’s been such a strong desire throughout the pandemic, another topic that was close to the top of that, I think this is all connected to was the…

0:24:01.1 DB: I can’t remember the exact wording, but it was around alerts and interventions and cases, and finding data on whether those worked is obviously something that a lot of our partners spend a lot of time on. We spend a lot of time on, but there’s always that kind of holy grail of who didn’t respond to our outreach, who didn’t respond to our intervention and why? And that’s, I think that also part of this data and analytics and metrics conversation.

0:24:27.5 EV: And that was a very expert pivot to the second thing that we wanted to say here, which is that another kind of cluster of responses that rose to the top all had contained equity. And the specific topic you were referencing before I have been pulled up right here is alerts, interventions, and support for different kinds of students, so can we differentiate what we’re doing depending on the population of students that we’re working with, because we’ve got a great white paper that’s coming out right now, and it was a connected presentation before about called Missed Connections. It was all about how can we write emails to draw students in, especially along equity lines, if they’ve ever experienced, they’ve gotten an early alert or something along those lines, how are we making them understand this is a welcoming thing that we’re trying to help you with, and not calling you to the principal’s officer? You’re not in trouble, this is not a negative thing, it has a lot to do with… You build a rapport with the student before they get that alert, what kind of words are you using in your outreach and your email? And it makes a big difference.

0:25:25.2 EV: So pretty basic stuff, but there’s an extreme interest, in fact, that was the third type preferred on the list along with this aggregated data support equity. So, these are really, really hot topics right in here, and then I’ll let you know that fourth on the list, or sorry, eigth on the list was student community and belonging, which I think bleeds into these issues as well.

0:25:46.2 DB: Yeah, just a note on that white paper, a big shout out to Timmy C Fairfax, who’s the lead author on it, and one of the things that I loved about the framing of that was around the element of trust, and do students trust the communication that is coming to them, as part of an intervention, do they trust the person that it’s coming from, or if it’s not coming from a person, they may not trust it as much as you would hope they would, I think that was a great framing of the work.

0:26:15.8 EV: Yeah, it’s one of those interesting topics, I got to work really closely with Missy on that paper, and it’s always one of those things that I get excited about, where it’s like, this is a small change, this is just slightly different text in this email and you’ll get a better response rate, it’s easy stuff that you don’t really have to change what you’re doing that much, it’s just up-scaling a little bit, and in general, people want this. I recall a few years ago, our colleague, Lindsey Myers, who used to be a seventh grade language arts teacher in Baltimore, actually was going around with the presentation where she had someone’s email marked up like as if she was graded, you know, which person has it. Go up the top. [laughter] You got it. People loved it because it’s her, but it’s also the notion of what they were getting at. But maybe we had got a little bit off topic on that. Let’s come on back to this. The interesting part about the equity work for me is that it is so high up on the list and it remains there.

0:27:11.5 EV: You and I have had infinitive number of equity conversations over the past really a year and a half, almost two years now, as this has been something that higher Ed’s been processing, metabolizing, trying to figure out it stands on. And one of the unique things that we know is, this has gone from being where there might be one or two really, really passionate, engaged people that are trying to convince their whole campus, to at a lot of places. Now, the whole cabinet’s on board. Even the Board of Directors is even on board. Now, the President is now gonna make this his or her big thing, it’s a legacy building thing for them. It seems like there’s great momentum here, and I find that to be very, very encouraging ’cause we know that things pop up and then they wane over time. This seems to have some sustained energy. Now, there’s gonna be plenty of folks, and I think you and I would agree, that we aren’t making progress fast enough.

0:28:00.6 DB: Right.

0:28:00.7 EV: Do you think encouraging that progress is still being made or is there a desire thereof? It does not feel like a lip service, so to speak. It feels like real desire for change here, and I find that very encouraging. Do you agree?

0:28:10.5 DB: I agree.

0:28:11.8 EV: Yeah, okay, you agree with this?

0:28:12.9 DB: Yeah, no, no, I definitely agree. I think we have to avoid the idea that equity could ever be a, you can’t see my air quotes, but air quotes “a hot topic”. We’re talking about the lived experiences of students and their families and their communities, and this one particularly hurts when attention on it wanes, because when the attention on it wanes, you’re losing attention on some of those students who have been historically underserved, and that you have designed your institutions in ways that may not be serving those students as well as you would want. And so the sustained focus here, I think, is quite heartening, even though I also agree that we’re not making the progress that we would like to see and at the speed, and the pandemic made that even harder. When we think about unfinished learning from K-12 and trying to make sure that our students have the support that they need, especially as they transition from high school to college or from the workforce into college or back and forth. We need to make sure we understand kind of what their situation is with their readiness to succeed in their courses, and again, what supports do they need. I don’t know if you’re hearing other nuances to the equity conversation now coming out of the pandemic, but some of those are around unfinished learning, even some of the most interesting I’ve had so far.

0:29:47.1 EV: It is very interesting, and as you well know, we have a big report that I wrote, which you put out a month ago, called The Pandemic Ripple Effect, where we cover four such topics: Student engagement, mental health, transfer students, and as you mentioned, unfinished K-12 learning. That’s a big one because they’re coming our way. These high school seniors will be college students next year, high school juniors in two years, and already we’re starting to hear anecdotal evidence from the ground that, hey, this crop of first year students is different than we’ve experienced before, and the admissions are looking like… We’re also seeing some weakness there relative to where our numbers would have been in the past. Weakness is a little bit of a pejorative term to use, but I think that’s maybe how a lot of enrolling managers would describe it. And we’re starting to see this stuff happening because, well, frankly, as disruptive as higher ed was, K-12 in a lot of ways is much more so. In any event, if you’d like to check out that report, go on the, look for Pandemic Ripple Effects. I feel like I’m plugging a lot of our reports here, David, and not in this podcast, but obviously…

0:30:51.4 DB: I mean, when you put both of us on, we’re going to end up talking about various reports that we’ve contributed to or that our colleagues have. It’s a hazard of putting us on.

0:31:00.9 EV: If the readers haven’t figured it out, we’re both big nerds.

0:31:04.8 DB: One thing you mentioned, it’s again in your report on the Pandemic Ripple Effects, but you mentioned it even at the beginning of this conversation that as we’re coming toward the end that I didn’t wanna lose was transfer students. You had mentioned before that it was at one end, mental health that has two topics that they didn’t do as well as maybe we had thought they would on the topic poll. To skip to transfer students, I think mental health was one where the audience who completed our topic poll would all tell you it’s critically important to them, but they don’t necessarily control the interventions, they’re not counselors themselves, they’re not leading counseling centers, much more in the Associate Vice President for Student Success, provost presidents. They don’t control that as directly. But I’d be curious for your thoughts on transfer students and transfer students support, and why it kind of fell in a… It wasn’t low, but it was certainly middling.

0:32:05.8 EV: It is the same thing in my mind. I was expecting mental health to be at the top, if not the very top topic, based on conversations you and I have every single day. And it is our top concern. People are dialed in on it, but to your point, if I’m not actually seeing myself as able to do anything about that, then what can I really do about that, so please do research for me. Of course, the irony here being that our mental health research that we have done, again, on the, points to how to expand the mental health infrastructure approach availability outside of the counseling office. It really is everybody’s responsibility, which is why I make it a point to model that. Have you seen in my presentations recently talking about my own mental health journey, because one of the big things is you gotta make it normal.

0:32:55.1 DB: Right.

0:32:55.7 EV: Make it about the people are okay and comfortable talking about this stuff and not holding it in. But anyway, let’s talk about transfer students ’cause I know I’m coming to the end here. Transfer is so interesting. It was relatively low on the list, but this is the ultimate, “What can I do about a problem?” because it takes two to tango. When you’re talking about transfer, you gotta have a donator school and a receiver school. And what happens there is that since we work with individual institutions, there’s a gap in the middle where no one’s really focused on that problem unless it’s an overarching structure of which both institutions are a part of, like a really powerful state system, for instance, or a dedicated partnership like we see in the DC area between George Mason and Northern Virginia Community College called Mason ADVANCE where they’re producing a lot of computer engineering-type talent for our new Amazon….Well, those are special partnerships, but they’re the rarity out there.

0:33:48.4 EV: For the most part, students are left to bridge that gap themselves. And you and I both know all the ills of transfer quite well. Students who initially start off to do a two plus two rarely complete the bachelor’s degree at the end of it. We know the credit articulation is horrendous in a lot of cases. You might lose 40% or more of your credits in the move. You pay for those credits long-term, but you don’t get to apply them to your bachelor’s degree because that’s the way it is. And you might recall, we talked about this a few years ago, having it come up quite a bit. But we’re seeing some analyses that say, from a state perspective, two plus two is supposed to be the economical way to do this, but if we’re spending taxpayer dollars on producing degree of orders, that actually maybe is a less efficient way to go about it because we’re not getting that completion moment as the students are moving to different schools.

0:34:35.6 DB: Right.

0:34:36.1 EV: And the last thing I’ll say about transfer, which is really key and important, and you and I both know this. It is an under-reported equity issue. The students who are not making the leap are more likely to be Black, more likely to be Latinx, less likely to be White, and less likely to be Asian. Those two groups right there, White and Asian, are much more likely to complete their bachelor’s degree as a result of that transfer than the other two groups I mentioned. So if we are looking at closing equity gaps from a societal level, not at the institution level, but at a social level, this is a big area of focus which we’re completely blind to, except for the people that have been talking about transfer for years and years and years now. It’s just not something that larger higher ed is even really aware of, in my opinion. I just said a lot right there. Feel free to jump in on any time.

0:35:21.3 DB: No, I agree. And you said a lot because it’s a complex issue. And when you’re answering one topical question about it, it can feel, I think, in some ways like a bit of a choose your own adventure because there are so many elements to it. There’s an academic component to transfer, there’s a social component to transfer, there’s the financial component to transfer. And connecting this back to our data and analytics and visibility into the performance of a school or the how a student is doing across their journey, there’s a lot of blindness about it. We’ve seen this in our work with the schools in the Milwaukee-Kenosha Moon Shot Region where the flow of students across institutions is somewhat of a mystery. There’s not a ton of shared data. There’s not a ton of shared knowledge of the support students are getting at various points across that journey and even the steps that students have to go through. So I think transfer is such a challenge and it’s so hard to wrap your arms around in a study, as a professional working in student success because it’s so multifaceted. So we’re always challenged to figure out exactly what angle we need to focus on there.

0:36:37.4 DB: And again, as you’ve said throughout this, if folks wanna give us more direction and attention on that, let us know. We’d love to hear more about it ’cause it’s such a critical social challenge when we talk about social mobility and we talk about the role of educational institutions in regions, but it’s a complex one. It’s very complicated.

0:37:02.5 EV: Yeah. So you know I’ll talk to you about transfer all day long.

0:37:05.1 DB: Yeah. No, we could go for hours on that one.

0:37:08.0 EV: We should wrap up here. Where do we go from here? I suppose is the next question. And I was thinking a little bit about, “Where do all these things come together?” And immediately, it occurs to me that we’ve got a couple of projects we’re working on. One, a little bit an experiment. One, a little bit less so, more developed than Moon Shot that we were alluding to before. But we’re working with schools right now building out dashboards that they can actually monitor and look at and drill down into a lot of their equity data because it was in disparate systems all over campus, and we’re pulling that together for them. So they’re working on that analytics angle and the equity angle, at the same time recognizing that, “We don’t really even have visibility into where our problems are.” And you know from your work in Milwaukee that once you start turning over rocks and [chuckle] opening up the drawers and looking inside everything, you start finding all kinds of weird stuff that has been getting in the way of students for a long time that may not have been super visible.

0:38:06.1 EV: So where we go from here? I think, as an industry, offer your thoughts on whether you agree or disagree on that, is we as EAB need to better serve you with better analytic capabilities, bring in a lot of those on the campus, hoping you become data leaders. If this is something you’re interested in, of course, reach out to us and we’ll bring you along. It’s where I wanna spend a lot of my time over the next year and I know that you will as well. So what do you think about that?

0:38:32.9 DB: Yeah. No, I agree. I think the real challenge is in the marriage between the visibility into what’s happening that the data and analytics focus and then the fact that the data and analytics don’t give you the answer in and of themselves. You’ve gotta pair that with asking the right, especially equity-minded questions about, “Why are those gaps emerging? What are the leading indicators of those gaps in our graduation and retention rates that led to this? What are the policies and procedures on our campus that might be contributing to that?” I think that’s where the real progress happens, is when you’ve got that equity-minded questioning of your own data, a self-reflective, introspective look at the way the institutions are constructed. And that’s more of what we’re seeing our partners push toward, and I think the pandemic pushed them farther in that direction to challenge their own assumptions, challenge the standard way of doing things. And hopefully, that leads to some positive changes in student success, moving forward. But we’re here, we’re along for the ride as well, and we’d love to help out as folks are learning.

0:39:50.3 EV: Well, that seems like a great place to put a bell on this for today. David, thank you so much for coming on the pod. I thought you did great for your first time here. Hopefully, it won’t be your last.

0:39:57.7 DB: Thanks. Yeah, it was great to join.

0:40:02.3 EV: I’d love to have you back. Yeah. Hopefully, we can bring you back to talk about the Moon Shot a little bit more in the future.

0:40:04.6 DB: Would love to. Thanks.

0:40:06.3 EV: Alright. Well, thanks everyone for your listen today. And we’ll talk to you again soon.


0:40:17.8 EV: Thank you for listening. Please join us next week when our guests talk about how to create a culture of accountability within your admissions’ team. Until then, thank you for your time.


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