Bristol Community College Taps Title III Funding to Accelerate Student Success Programs With Starfish

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Software Enables Institution to Proactively, Efficiently Provide Student Support Resources in Effort to Improve Student Persistence

By incorporating Starfish into our program, we are now able to proactively engage students and drive them to help. We have had the support resources here — we just didn’t always know which students to seek out. With Starfish, we do.

Starfish Retention Solutions, Inc., a leading provider of student success systems, announced today that Bristol Community College has licensed Starfish® as part of its five-year Title III program. The college is using Title III funds to connect first-year students to the support resources to help them fulfill their academic goals.

Located in Fall River, Mass., Bristol Community College enrolls nearly 10,000 students, the majority of whom enter the institution with academic deficits and other readiness concerns that put them at risk for not completing their goals. Over the past decade, the college has consistently seen a yearly average combined (full- and part-time students) attrition rate of 32 percent of first-time, credit-seeking students.

To address the issues that were limiting student persistence, the institution developed a comprehensive plan designed to connect students to the tools, people and learning resources that foster success with the goal of improving student retention by 10 percent. To finance their ideas, they sought funding through Title III, a federally funded program that helps eligible institutions of higher education to become self-sufficient and expand their capacity to serve low-income students. In 2008, the institution received a five-year, $1.5 million dollar grant through the program. The grants are intended to fund innovation that can be sustained by the institution at the conclusion of the grant period.

Now in the third year of the grant, Bristol has licensed Starfish EARLY ALERT™ and Starfish CONNECT™ to further enable students to connect to the institution and the many support resources that are available. In addition, the software systems accelerate the institution’s efforts to know which students need help, and then to track its efforts to provide the support.

Through Starfish, the institution can efficiently solicit feedback from instructors on how their students are performing within the first few weeks of the academic term. The program is targeted at keeping track of gateway courses, those first-year courses with high enrollments that have been identified as presenting significant barriers to student success. Instructors use Starfish to give feedback on class participation and attendance while also reporting tutor referrals and financial aid concerns. Starfish then compiles and routes this feedback in real time to advisors and student success center staff on campus, who are positioned to proactively reach out to students and introduce appropriate support services. To date, more than 70 percent of instructors participating in the initial pilot have used Starfish to identify students who need further support.

“Bristol Community College has leveraged our Title III grant to support our students in new, more effective and efficient ways,” said Ben Baumann, academic advising specialist for Bristol Community College. “Nearly every institution offers student support services. The sad reality across higher education is that those resources are often underutilized because students don’t know where or how to access help. By incorporating Starfish into our program, we are now able to proactively engage students and drive them to help. We have had the support resources here — we just didn’t always know which students to seek out. With Starfish, we do.”

Bristol Community College is one of a number of institutions leveraging federal funds, including Title III, to adopt Starfish as part of their initiatives to improve student success. Other Starfish community members using federal funds include Bowie State University, Cleveland Community College and Iowa Valley Community College District.

Accessible with a single login from an institution’s student information system, portal system and course management system (e.g., Blackboard, WebCT, ANGEL, Moodle), Starfish is a collection of two software systems. Starfish EARLY ALERT™ is an early-warning and student-tracking system that makes it possible for instructors, advisors and academic staff to identify at-risk students in real time. Starfish CONNECT™, an education support networking system, helps students schedule time online to meet with a personalized contact list of instructors, advisors and counselors who are dedicated to helping them succeed. Together, the systems generate valuable performance and resource utilization data for the institution, which helps optimize future service offerings.

“Federal funding programs, including Title III, are terrific opportunities for institutions to expand their student support services in new, more measurable ways,” said David Yaskin, founder and CEO of Starfish Retention Solutions. “The work that Bristol Community College is doing is a great example of putting together an institutional mission, financial resources and innovative technology to improve the process of helping students, to demonstrate outcomes and to impact a student’s life for the better.”

About Starfish Retention Solutions
Starfish Retention Solutions is a leading provider of student success systems. The company offers a collection of software solutions that harness the power of the campus community in order to engage, motivate and graduate more students — securing valuable tuition revenue through student retention. Specifically, the solutions help institutions identify at-risk students in real time, based on their daily course work performance and faculty concerns, and then connect them to the resources designed to help (e.g., advising or tutoring), all while assessing which services and interventions are working. For more information, please call 703.260.1186 or visit


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John Plunkett
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