Tribal Group Blog

Tribal Group Blog

Building Student Success by Keith Hawkes

Posted by Tribal Group on November 9, 2015

As colleges and universities in the USA face scathing criticism over retention and completion rates, government bodies have evolved their funding in response. Thirty-two states have already put funding formula, or policy, in place to allocate a portion of funding based on performance indicators such as course completion, time to degree, transfer rates, the number of degrees awarded, or the number of low-income and minority graduates. While another five states are currently transitioning to some type of performance funding, whereby legislature or governing board has approved a performance funding program with the aim of delivering a similar strategy.

As a result student success and retention has become center stage in many institutions strategic planning initiatives in recent months. But how do institutions meet the needs and aspirations of today’s diverse student populations?

A number of presentations at this year’s SEM ACCRAO conference, held in Florida, focused on addressing this question. The following outlines some of the key themes from these presentations and discuss how colleges and universities are supporting new retention and success initiatives.

Early models of student attrition identified numerous student factors and characteristics that increase the likelihood a student will not complete college (i.e., at-risk characteristics).  ACCROA define these characteristic as follows:


Institutions have used this information to develop programs and implement technology to target these specific factors and to mitigate risks. The functional units that provide the services and manage the data typically operate within organisational silos, however, with all the complications this separation of efforts can introduce.

Guiding Principles for Building Student Success

Taking the above factors into account it is possible to build a set of guiding principles for student success. These can be described as follows:

  1. Identify and build comprehensive profiles of students at risk of  dropping  out through assessment and  monitoring  systems  based on  assessment scores, course placement tests, first  semester college GPA, VLE activity, socioeconomic information, attendance  records, and non-academic information derived from formal college  surveys and college student inventories.
  1. Determine the economic impact of Student Success programs and student time to degree completion rates through a cost-benefit analysis of student dropout, persistence, assessment procedures, and intervention strategies to enable informed decision-making with respect to types of interventions required.
  1. Determine student characteristics and needs, set priorities among these areas of need, identify available resources, evaluate a variety of successful programs, and implement a formal comprehensive student success program that best meets institutional needs.
  1. Take an integrated approach in student success efforts that incorporates both academic and non-academic factors, into the design and development of programs to create a socially inclusive and supportive academic environment that addresses the social, emotional, and academic needs of students.

Student Success Strategies: Foundations

  • Know why your students stay, leave and where they go if they leave.
  • Identify institutional areas (programs, services, policies, processes) that impact student learning and success.
  • Identify academic transition services that meet the needs of your students.
  • Identify social/personal development services that meet the needs of your students.
  • Create formal and informal partnerships across campus focused on improving student learning and success.
  • Intentional: Based on specific, measurable data (not anecdote).
  • Integration of effort.
  • Collaborations and partnerships.
  • Positive interventions with students.
  • Using data to inform decision-making.
  • Quality assessment: Measureable, specific objectives.

Recent trends in the USA, Canada and the UK demonstrate that universities and colleges are now using technology more proactively to track and monitor student engagement and the utilisation of services. In addition there is a more prolific use of data to identify risk characteristics and apply predictive modeling to deliver early alerts for students at risk.

Working with the University of Wolverhampton in the UK, Tribal has undertaken extensive research to qualify the factors that drive student success and using pre-configured measures has developed an early warning intervention and predictive analytics model that is proving high levels of accuracy.

This solution uses two products, Student Insight to predict student engagement and success, and the Student Information Desk to deliver student support, automated correspondence and automated mechanisms that drive intervention.  See overview below.

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Topics: Higher Education