Members Offer Advice on Branching into College Success Work

April 10, 2018

By Kim Szarmach, Communications Intern

To help our 12 Dell Success Replication Grant-winners get started with their college success programming work, NCAN hosted a webinar where members offered best practices, advice on forming partnerships with post-secondary institutions, and using data to inform success work.

Antoinette Haygood, program specialist at ACCESS College Foundation, shared the story of ACCESS's transition into success work that started in 2006. Fifty-six percent of the first success program cohort graduated after six years, compared to 51 percent of other ACCESS students. Ten years later, after perfecting aspects of the program like staffing and advising services, ACCESS has seen consistent graduation rates between 85 and 95 percent year after year, compared to the national rate of 59 percent.

Next, George Covino of Student Connections talked about tips for increasing retention rates that can help other organizations experience the growth and success that ACCESS did. Covino said an important part of ensuring success is addressing students' basic needs, such as food and housing security. Hiring a case manager, working with community partners and establishing a food pantry on campus are all ways to alleviate stress for students who are struggling financially so they can focus on their studies.

It's also important to address co-requisite remediation, Covino said. Instead of putting students in remedial courses, which often sets them back, success organizations should offer alternative support such as summer bridge programs. Other tactics for boosting retention include offering money management education for students, encouraging them to take 15 credit hours per semester, and leveraging the power of peers.

Another key aspect of college success work is identifying and forging partnerships with institutions of higher education. College Possible Chief Program Officer Traci Kirtley said her organization's students attend more than 300 institutions, 93 of which are formal partners with College Possible.

When working to build partnerships, Kirtley said it's important to adequately staff the effort, and understand that partnerships take time. She also suggested using current relationships to build new ones. For example, because access organizations often have strong relationships with admissions counselors, those counselors can connect an organization with academic advisors who will be more helpful in college success work. Lastly, Kirtley told listeners not to be afraid to ask for support from partners when needed.

Another important aspect of planning and implementing success programing is using data, explained Dave Borgal, founder and chief program officer of Bottom Line. At his organization, students' success is measured by the DEAL Model (Degree, Employability, Affordability, and Life Skills). Bottom Line established milestones for each area that students aim to reach throughout their post-secondary career. Borgal also recommended hiring a data analyst early on in success work and using data to measure staff performance.

As the 12 grantees supported by the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation continue developing and implementing success programming, NCAN will offer more educational resources to help all our members boost college completion and retention rates in their areas.

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