Harper College Reports Improvements in Student Persistence as a Result of Campus-wide Initiative

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Starfish 360 Award-winning Institution Recognized for Commitment to Research-based Student Success Program Development

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Project Success, supported by the Starfish platform, is now a part of what we do at Harper College to help more students reach their academic goals each semester.

Starfish Retention Solutions, Inc., a leading student success company, announced that Harper College’s Project Success program, of which the Starfish platform is a component, has been proven to make a difference in the number of students who persist from semester to semester. The results come at the conclusion of a two-year pilot study to test the effectiveness of the institution’s comprehensive effort to help students, particularly those taking developmental courses, achieve academic success.    

For its work, Harper College was granted a 2013 Starfish 360 Award™ by a panel of independent judges. The Starfish 360 Awards Program is designed to highlight client institutions that are using technology to help students in innovative and impactful ways. The institution used the monetary award to offer tuition credit to 20 students who completed the fall 2014 semester with the highest grade point average after being identified by the Starfish platform for needing help and subsequently meeting with their counselors.

Harper College is a two-year community college in Illinois serving nearly 35,000 students annually. The College is executing a five-year strategic plan designed to increase the number of students who graduate with a degree or workforce certificate. In preparation, an analysis of College data showed that students who needed two or more developmental courses were much less likely to successfully complete 15 credit hours of college and, therefore, less likely to earn any college credential. As a result, the College launched the Project Success program as a two-year pilot beginning in the fall 2011. A primary component of the program was the use of the Starfish® platform to identify at-risk students as early as possible and connect them with support resources on campus.

“While Harper College supports pilot projects in many areas to determine effective ways of achieving strategic goals, some of the piloted initiatives prove helpful and many do not,” said Judith Marwick, Ed.D., provost for the College. “The Starfish pilot was implemented as a statistically designed experimental model to determine if the intervention using the Starfish software made a significant difference in student retention and success. After a two-year pilot implementation period we found that the answer was a resounding yes.”

The institution reports that students identified through the Starfish platform who subsequently met with a counselor during the semester were significantly more likely to complete their courses and register in the subsequent semester. In addition, during the pilot period:

  •     Faculty participation was strong. On average, 68 percent of faculty used the Starfish platform to communicate a concern about a student or to acknowledge a student’s good work.
  •     Students took action based on communication from the Starfish platform. In the first year of the pilot, 56 percent of students were identified for needing extra attention, and of those, 77 percent met with their counselor. In the second year of the pilot, 63 percent of students were identified, and of those, 74 percent met with their counselor before the end of the semester.
  •     Student persistence has improved. In the first year of the pilot, 80 percent of the students in the program persisted fall to spring, compared with 70 percent of students who were not in the program. In year two, the fall-to-spring persistence rate for students in the program was nearly 83 percent, while the College average was 76 percent.

“The Starfish software was easy to use and so our team was able to engage a high percentage of faculty members in the initiative,” said Sheryl Otto, assistant provost and dean of student development at the College. “After faculty saw the results of their efforts, their engagement continued at a high level. The results led the Strategy Planning Team to recommend to the College president that Project Success move from pilot to institutionalization. Project Success, supported by the Starfish platform, is now a part of what we do at Harper College to help more students reach their academic goals each semester.”

The Starfish Enterprise Success Platform™ builds on the company’s mission to help students finish what they start. Comprising four distinct but connected modules, the platform enables institutions to view all their campus data and activities through the lens of student success. Starfish EARLY ALERT™ enables institutions to learn more about their students as early as possible. Starfish CONNECT™ makes it easy for students to engage with those on campus dedicated to their success. Starfish ADVISING™ gives students an academic path to follow in order to achieve success. And Starfish INSIGHT™, which will be available in 2014, will enable institutions to measure the effectiveness of their student success initiatives.

“The Starfish 360 Awards Program judges were impressed by Harper College’s dedication to making data-driven decisions about how technology can be used to improve student success,” said David Yaskin, CEO of Starfish Retention Solutions. “Two years’ worth of data is a powerful endorsement for what technology can do to help more students finish what they start. Starfish is proud to be partnered with Harper College to help make a difference in the lives of its students.”

Webinar Invitation: The team leading the Project Success program at Harper College will be hosting a complimentary Webinar presentation on Thursday, April 3, at 2 p.m. ET. Register at https://www3.gotomeeting.com/register/792236534.

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John Plunkett
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