New LeeU system monitors students with dropout risk

New LeeU system monitors students with dropout risk

Students seeking academic help can now find it at the HUB, Lee's brand-new student success center.

Photography by Emma Ayers

Seventy percent of Americans study at a four-year college, but over a third of that percentage will drop out before obtaining their degree.

That’s why, starting this year, Lee kickstarted a program called Early Interventions for Success.  It’s specifically designed to find students on campus who have displayed drop-out “risk factors,” so administrators can assist them in whichever area they’re struggling.

Erin Looney, director of student success and retention, said the technologically advanced software is designed to look at every aspect of a student’s academic history.

“It pulls information from our student information system. So...everything that you see in Moodle and WebAdvisor — all of that kind of stuff, as well as some external data pieces. Chapel attendance: we’ll be able to look at and kind of line up with all the rest of the student information,” Looney said.

At-risk factors include low high school and college GPA, low ACT scores, first-generation college attendance or financial instability.

“So we have all of these factors that we’ve known are pretty consistent with Lee students, but we’ve never had an easy way to get at them — to know up front that these students have these issues coming in so they may be less likely to stay at Lee,” said Looney.

“The software lets us see that, and then allows us to offer support and resources to students who might be in those categories — to try to intervene early before the student starts to leave.”

Bill Estes, Dean of the Helen DeVos College of Education, joked that the system is  “Big Brother-esque,” but noted that investing in the students who are already enrolled is of great import to the school.

“It’s cheaper to keep students and get them the skills that’ll make them successful than it is to go out and recruit new students-- because they’re here,” said Estes. “Let’s say we’re only graduating 700 a year, but we want to graduate 800. So, we go out and recruit a bunch of new students.  But it might be a better return on your money to invest in the kids you already have so they don’t leave than going and trying to get more kids.”

A study reported by the Washington Post says students who take remedial courses are 75 percent more likely to drop out due to boredom and frustration with their coursework. And data compiled by USNews depicted roughly thirty percent of college freshmen leaving college before their sophomore year.

“If a kid can get through sophomore year, they’re going to stick it out and graduate, for the most part,” said Estes.

Erin Nicely, a former information systems major who transferred out of Lee last year, said she felt the Early Intervention program would have “definitely helped” had it been implemented during her tenure.

“However...I felt I wasn’t getting the program I fully needed to help further my college degree,” she said. “If I had felt like I needed to be there...then I would have stayed for sure.”

The new EI program is just one facet of the HUB — the brand-new student success center located on the third floor of the PCSU. Thanks to funding from the federal Title III grant awarded in October, previously spread-out programs are now all under one roof and functioning as a whole.

This includes the Center for Calling and Career, developmental advising, First-Year Programs and learning support, among others.

“Everybody on campus has been doing their own thing to help, but there’s not been one office that can manage that kind of thing. So when a student misses consecutive classes, and the professor just hasn’t heard from them, who do they tell about that? Now it’s us,” said Looney.

She noted that students can go to the HUB for any issues they feel are inhibiting academic growth.

“It’s something the school has wanted for some time,” Looney said. “We now have one place where people know they can reach out for help.”

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