34: First-Year Retention Data at Flagler College w/ Joseph Provenza

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Joseph Provenza, Vice President for Technology Services and Chief Information Officer at Flagler College, discusses some incredibly interesting and even counter-intuitive findings from digging into their first-year retention data.

You're listening to enrollment growth university fromHelix Education, the best professional development podcast for higher education leaders looking to growenrollment at their college or university. Whether you're looking for fresh enrollment growth techniquesand strategies or tools and resources, you've come to the right place. Let'sget into the show. Welcome back to enrollment growth university. A proud memberof the connect e Tou podcast network. Him Eric Olson, AVP of marketingat Helix Education, and we're here today with Joseph Prevenza, vice president fortechnology services and Chief Information Officer at Flagloo College. Joe, welcome to theshow. Thanks, sir. I appreciate you having me on. Really excitedto talk with you today about some incredibly interesting, in even counterintuitive findings fromyou digging into your first year retention data. But before we dig into that joke, can you get the listeners a little bit better understanding of both flagglerand your role there? Flak, our...

...college is a small private college inNortheast Florida. We have majors in the liberal, arts and pre professional programs. We're about twenty five hundred students in the in the traditional program we alsohave some degree completion programs as well. Awesome, Joe, your freshman retentionmodel uncovered a bunch of correlative factors for predicting student persistence. Many were intuitive, a couple worrants. Let's start by talking about the persistence level for thosestudents who come from between fifty and a hundred and twenty miles from campus andhow they persisted compared to those who actually came from further from campus. Surethere was a little bit of a surprise there. We undertook modeling our freshmanclass with some historical data from our system, just to see what sort of painof the picture of the successful versus the unsuccessful student, and we hadour service provider, Jim's of Bar, do a bunch of modeling for us. And you know, as you might expect, a lot of things werejust right down the line how you would expect them to be. But dataoften has a way of surprising us and...

US, being emotional creatures, thingsthat we wouldn't ordinarily think about, and so one of those, probably thebiggest surprise, was that if you looked at the rings, the concentric rings, of how far our students were coming from home to our campus, youwould have expected the closer the better, but in our case we found thatlocal students seem to do very well, but the students in the very nexthero over, roughly from fifty to one hundred miles away from home, wereour poorest retainers geographically, and nobody expected that. And then after that therings went out, just as you would expect. Once they get a littletoo far from home, you you see a little retention problem there, buteverybody else is doing fine. And we did not expect that second tier tobe what it was and that immediately got US thinking. Will what could bethe cause of that, and the first thing you think of is, all, here's kids who are away from home but not too far away from home, so they can always go back home. They don't get a chance to getover the homesickness. They get to hang out with their friends any oldtime they will want, because it's a...

...day trip, it's a weekend trip, and you could kind of see where, in the absence of some things wemight do in our student life programs to really weave them into the collegeand encourage them not to go home, they might go home a little toomuch and maybe just not persist. It's super interesting Joe. Are there anycorrective actions that you're taking to focus on this group, to get them moreinvolved, get them more engaged on campus? We absolutely are. That's one ofthose those findings that we took as actionable on our campus and so alot of focus and energy has been put into our student life programs in amyriad of ways. But yeah, suffice to say that the campus took action, you know, financially and and staff and otherwise. Just say, whatcan we do? What? How can we put together programs and events andactivities and how can we pump up, you know, school spirit and athleticevents to keep these kids here and, you know, make this their homeaway from home? It's really good. I'm also curious how your enrollment teamhas reacted to these findings. Do they...

...plan to, you know, shifthow they target geographically in the future based on this data? Do you know? I've not heard that, because we've got some very fertile recruiting grounds overin those areas. I think right now the idea is, you know,let's recruit there, but but fix anything on this campus that might be makingthis a weaker group. And you know, I know the logical next question aswell, you know, how's that working for it? And it's tooearly to tell, we haven't got the data yet. But if we pourall this into student life programs and just come to find that that's to thosejust aren't good areas for us. The people who do this for a living, they'll tell you, you know, if you really give them enough timeand money, they will bill tell you where to recruit from. And I'venot quite I'm not quite seen it to that level, but they swear upand down that that's what you can do. So I think right now we needto bolster up our student life programs and get to that clean baseline ofyou know that in our student life group...

...does a great job, but there'sjust those things that you you know, you can always do a better jobin any area of it. Joe, let's talk about the other somewhat surprisingresult from your findings, the extraordinarily large twenty six percent lift. That oneparticular factor played to your first year student retention. Yes, campus employment.You would have thought, we would have thought, I would have thought thatthat campus employment. Yeah, and they probably retain a little better owner.They retained way better, and that was another area that sort of caught usoff guard and we were confirmed in this when, about a year, yearand a half later, where it was sitting in a conference hearing another schooltalk about going through the same exact thing that we did, and the gentlemanwho was speaking kind of saved it for his big last point. And whoknew that campus employment was such a huge indicator of attention? If it crowdsowing, and I like not been. They're done that. We know this, but it makes sense when you think about it, because again, anythingthat we've a person into the fabric of the institution is good and they getto work with people and they get to...

...see results just like an employee.They get to kind of be part of the thing. And it was,it was it showed as a huge indicator of retention and again, very somethingwe could be very actionable about. So, you know, I some of UShad always questioned, you know, why don't we put more into ourwork study programs? Will now we are and looking to employ more students?Well, that's a ripple effect because, you know, the more student Laborwe can use, the students obviously do better because they're making money, they'reenjoying being part of the success and in addition, that helps us, youknow, some of our offices that are a little bit more thinly staff tohave a little bit more leeway to employ some student help and find more creativeways to use them. So that's worked out, I think, very wellfor us. And what kind of conversations does that kind of modeling feedback bringon campus in terms of, okay, if we figure out ten to fifteenhour a week employment for this percentage of students, we can expect them to, you know, for six twenty six percent, you know, logger oncampus. Is that the kind of math...

...that you're doing? From from basedon these modeling results? No, no, we're looking at this more in kindof a higher level and we have a couple of things that we canjust immediately take action on and see what that does to our attention. Right. But you know, retention is not just a couple of factors. Retentionis incredibly complex and when you when you really think about it, you knowthere's certain things that you'll lose students to that you just have no control over. They might miss, you know, a boyfriend or a girlfriend or oryou know, I do first year advising here and I saw ive gotten toknow some of our first year students quite well and sometimes you just cannot accountfor how they're going to react from being away from home, you know.And to that end, we do have some other things that were that we'reworking on and we have used and seeing where we do some noncognitive student assessmentwith our incoming students to find out things that, you know, where thestudent is literally commenting on themselves about how they feel, about how academically confidentthey are, how tied they feel to...

...the institution, like where we theirfirst choice, you know, with their time management skills and all those sortsof things. And so you take all this data together and you really feellike you get to know the student just that much more. And you cansay that about any relationship in life, you know, the more you knowabout a person that you care about, and obviously we should be caring aboutour students because, you know, we're being entrusted with a, you know, a pretty sacred thing, and but the more you get to know abouta person, the better you can serve them, relate to them, etc. Etc. And and so with all of this stuff together, and Iwill say we're, you know, we're still taking our baby steps. Withthis. You get to know the students just that much more, and sothat translates into a lot of things. When they come to you with acertain thing that just doesn't totally catch you off guard. You're better able tohelp them through it and it's you know, it's been an interesting adventure and I'mlooking forward to more of it. It's such good stuff, Joe,and I think you are encouraging a lot of our listeners to really dig intotheir data and see what hidden stories are...

...there that they might not be awareof. Any next step recommendations for institutions who are looking to dig into theirdata and see what potential surprises lie underneath? The first thing I can tell you, and and I know this is a this is a struggle for alot of a lot of not just higher education but everywhere, the best qualitydata you can provide. I mean, if you're not already paying very,very close attention to the data that you collect and how you use it andhow you categorize it and how consistent you are with it, that is thefirst step, is making sure that you got good, clean data off ofwhich to get this kind of information. And then after that, you knowunless you're a school that's got, you know, a lot of you know, quantoids on staff who love doing this sort of thing. You you know, you find a good partner and then you logic out how you want tomodel your day to what do you think your trigger points are and all thatyou know, so that you can actually have a model that makes sense toyou that you can look at when you get those surprising results. You alreadyhave a step in the right direction of...

...trying to figure out why you're seeingwhat you're seeing and and what the next best thing to do is. Joe, thanks so much for sharing your thoughts today. What is the best placefor listeners to connect with you they have any foulied questions? Well, youcan reach me on Linkedin. Just search for Joseph prementz a a flag orcollege, and I would say that that's probably the best way to reach out. Message me on Linkedin and I will happily respond. Awesome. Thanks againstso much for joining us today, Joe. Great, Eric, thanks so muchfor having me. Attracting today's new post traditional learners means adopting new enrollmentstrategies, helix educations, data driven enterprise wide approach to enrollment growth is uniquelyhelping colleges and universities thrive in this new education landscape, and Helix has justpublished the second edition of their enrollment growth playbook with fifty percent brand new contenton how institutions can solve today's most pressing enrollment growth challenges. Downloaded today forfree at Helix Educationcom. Playbook. You've...

...been listening to enrollment growth university fromHelix Education. To ensure that you never miss an episode, subscribe to theshow on Itunes or your favorite podcast player. Thank you so much for listening.Until next time,.

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