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KU part of $8.9 million advising initiative grant to help low-income and first-generation students

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas, as a member of the University Innovation Alliance (UIA), was selected as one of the winners in the U.S. Department of Education’s First In The World grant competition. The program encourages innovation that supports student success at colleges and universities.

The UIA will conduct a four-year study at KU and the 10 other member campuses to evaluate the effectiveness of analytics-based advising to increase retention, progression and graduation rates for low-income and first-generation students. Georgia State University is UIA’s lead institution for the $8.9 million grant, the largest of this year’s FITW grants.

“This is encouraging news for KU and for a class of students who, nationwide, traditionally struggle to complete a degree,” said Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little. “This grant will expedite our efforts to identify students who may face challenges and help them with the guidance and support they need to achieve their goals. Predictive tools and insight through UIA are among many innovative efforts KU is employing to help our undergraduate students reach a 90 percent first-year retention rate and a 70 percent six-year graduation rate.”

The UIA project will study 10,000 students who are provided an intensive mix of proactive, analytics-based advising interventions. Those interventions — meetings and communications with students — can be prompted by simple data, such as attendance records, or predictive tools, such as historical grades in courses viewed as necessary to succeed in any given major. Data systems will prompt advisers to proactively reach out to a student to keep him or her on track, or arrange additional support. At KU, the study will monitor advising interaction with about 900 students. All students will receive analytics-driven advising interventions, although the intervention approach may vary among specific populations.

The study will examine the benefits, especially for at-risk students, of introducing systematic, proactive advising.

“Today, more institutions are turning to data and analytics to help personalize advising and identify struggling students before they get too far off track,” said Bridget Burns, UIA executive director. “Our mission is to test new ideas, understand what works and scale effective innovations across the country to ensure that more students have the supports they need to complete college. The First In The World grant will enable us to study the work already taking place at our 11 institutions and test best practices using data analytics that we can share with and beyond the alliance.”

KU will use several analytics-based tools and tactics with students, said Randall Brumfield, director of the Undergraduate Advising Center. The EAB Student Success Collaborative offers predictive analytics tools, which use 10 years of KU student data, to establish success markers to help predict on-time graduation for any given major. It also helps advisers identify students approaching decision points in their degree program or those most in need of help. The EAB tool, which was unveiled across campus this spring, lets advisers identify risks, streamline their activities, spend more one-on-one time with students and target the conversation during those meetings. In addition, the MySuccess Early Warning tool tracks subtleties in student performance and provides early warnings to faculty and advisers who can then contact individual students with additional resources.

“Overall, this initiative affords a great opportunity to all UIA institutions to closely collaborate on unique research that is squarely focused on improving student success through innovative advising and outreach methods,” Brumfeld said. “In doing so, this endeavor will lend significant contributions to the efforts KU is undertaking to achieve the retention and graduation goals outlined in Bold Aspirations.”

UIA project leaders believe the study’s results will have implications for students across the nation.

“This grant illustrates why the alliance is so important. Over the next four years, our 11 institutions will produce groundbreaking evidence illustrating the impact of predictive analytics on student success that will have national significance,” said Tim Renick, vice president for enrollment and project lead at Georgia State University.

As part of the study, students at each of the 11 universities will be selected by random assignment and, in addition to advising services typically offered, will receive:

  • intensive, proactive advisement to help them establish individualized academic maps;
  • real-time alerts prompted by a system of analytics-based tracking when they may be struggling, and
  • timely, targeted advising interventions to get them back on the appropriate academic path.

Launched just one year ago, the UIA is a consortium of public research universities established to help more students from all socioeconomic backgrounds graduate from college. This year, all institutions are implementing or scaling the use of data analytics and advising to improve student retention and college completion.

The alliance spans the geographic, economic and social diversity of the United States. In addition to KU, the UIA includes Arizona State University, Georgia State University, Iowa State University, Michigan State University, Oregon State University, Purdue University, Ohio State University, University of California - Riverside, University of Central Florida and University of Texas at Austin. Together, the UIA is working to regain America’s economic competitive edge by helping more students graduate with a high-quality and affordable education. It is broadening participation in higher education and implementing proven programs that significantly improve graduation rates for all students regardless of socioeconomic background.

The members’ commitment:

  • Increase the number of graduates
  • Increase the diversity of graduates (particularly economic)
  • Innovate and collaborate together
  • Lower costs by enhancing effectiveness at scale.
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