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 from Helix Education, the best professional development podcast for higher education leaders looking to grow enrollment at their college or university. Whether you're looking for fresh enrollment growth techniques and strategies or tools and resources, you've come to the right place. Let's get into the show. Welcome back to enrollment growth university. A proud member of the connect e Tou podcast network. Him Eric Olson, AVP of marketing at Helix Education, and we're here today with Joseph Prevenza, vice president for technology services and Chief Information Officer at Flagloo College. Joe, welcome to the show. Thanks, sir. I appreciate you having me on. Really excited to talk with you today about some incredibly interesting, in even counterintuitive findings from you 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 flaggler and your role there? Flak, our...

...college is a small private college in Northeast 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 also have some degree completion programs as well. Awesome, Joe, your freshman retention model 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 those students who come from between fifty and a hundred and twenty miles from campus and how they persisted compared to those who actually came from further from campus. Sure there was a little bit of a surprise there. We undertook modeling our freshman class with some historical data from our system, just to see what sort of pain of the picture of the successful versus the unsuccessful student, and we had our service provider, Jim's of Bar, do a bunch of modeling for us. And you know, as you might expect, a lot of things were just right down the line how you would expect them to be. But data often has a way of surprising us and...

US, being emotional creatures, things that we wouldn't ordinarily think about, and so one of those, probably the biggest surprise, was that if you looked at the rings, the concentric rings, of how far our students were coming from home to our campus, you would have expected the closer the better, but in our case we found that local students seem to do very well, but the students in the very next hero over, roughly from fifty to one hundred miles away from home, were our poorest retainers geographically, and nobody expected that. And then after that the rings went out, just as you would expect. Once they get a little too far from home, you you see a little retention problem there, but everybody else is doing fine. And we did not expect that second tier to be what it was and that immediately got US thinking. Will what could be the 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 get over the homesickness. They get to hang out with their friends any old time 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 we might do in our student life programs to really weave them into the college and encourage them not to go home, they might go home a little too much and maybe just not persist. It's super interesting Joe. Are there any corrective actions that you're taking to focus on this group, to get them more involved, get them more engaged on campus? We absolutely are. That's one of those those findings that we took as actionable on our campus and so a lot of focus and energy has been put into our student life programs in a myriad of ways. But yeah, suffice to say that the campus took action, you know, financially and and staff and otherwise. Just say, what can we do? What? How can we put together programs and events and activities and how can we pump up, you know, school spirit and athletic events to keep these kids here and, you know, make this their home away from home? It's really good. I'm also curious how your enrollment team has reacted to these findings. Do they...

...plan to, you know, shift how 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 over in 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 making this a weaker group. And you know, I know the logical next question as well, you know, how's that working for it? And it's too early to tell, we haven't got the data yet. But if we pour all this into student life programs and just come to find that that's to those just 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 time and money, they will bill tell you where to recruit from. And I've not quite I'm not quite seen it to that level, but they swear up and down that that's what you can do. So I think right now we need to bolster up our student life programs and get to that clean baseline of you know that in our student life group...

...does a great job, but there's just those things that you you know, you can always do a better job in any area of it. Joe, let's talk about the other somewhat surprising result from your findings, the extraordinarily large twenty six percent lift. That one particular factor played to your first year student retention. Yes, campus employment. You would have thought, we would have thought, I would have thought that that campus employment. Yeah, and they probably retain a little better owner. They retained way better, and that was another area that sort of caught us off guard and we were confirmed in this when, about a year, year and a half later, where it was sitting in a conference hearing another school talk about going through the same exact thing that we did, and the gentleman who was speaking kind of saved it for his big last point. And who knew that campus employment was such a huge indicator of attention? If it crowds owing, and I like not been. They're done that. We know this, but it makes sense when you think about it, because again, anything that we've a person into the fabric of the institution is good and they get to 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 something we could be very actionable about. So, you know, I some of US had always questioned, you know, why don't we put more into our work study programs? Will now we are and looking to employ more students? Well, that's a ripple effect because, you know, the more student Labor we can use, the students obviously do better because they're making money, they're enjoying being part of the success and in addition, that helps us, you know, some of our offices that are a little bit more thinly staff to have a little bit more leeway to employ some student help and find more creative ways to use them. So that's worked out, I think, very well for us. And what kind of conversations does that kind of modeling feedback bring on campus in terms of, okay, if we figure out ten to fifteen hour a week employment for this percentage of students, we can expect them to, you know, for six twenty six percent, you know, logger on campus. Is that the kind of math...

...that you're doing? From from based on these modeling results? No, no, we're looking at this more in kind of a higher level and we have a couple of things that we can just immediately take action on and see what that does to our attention. Right. But you know, retention is not just a couple of factors. Retention is incredibly complex and when you when you really think about it, you know there'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 or you know, I do first year advising here and I saw ive gotten to know some of our first year students quite well and sometimes you just cannot account for 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're working on and we have used and seeing where we do some noncognitive student assessment with our incoming students to find out things that, you know, where the student is literally commenting on themselves about how they feel, about how academically confident they are, how tied they feel to...

...the institution, like where we their first choice, you know, with their time management skills and all those sorts of things. And so you take all this data together and you really feel like you get to know the student just that much more. And you can say that about any relationship in life, you know, the more you know about a person that you care about, and obviously we should be caring about our students because, you know, we're being entrusted with a, you know, a pretty sacred thing, and but the more you get to know about a person, the better you can serve them, relate to them, etc. Etc. And and so with all of this stuff together, and I will say we're, you know, we're still taking our baby steps. With this. You get to know the students just that much more, and so that translates into a lot of things. When they come to you with a certain thing that just doesn't totally catch you off guard. You're better able to help them through it and it's you know, it's been an interesting adventure and I'm looking 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 into their data and see what hidden stories are...

...there that they might not be aware of. Any next step recommendations for institutions who are looking to dig into their data 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 a lot of a lot of not just higher education but everywhere, the best quality data 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 and how you categorize it and how consistent you are with it, that is the first step, is making sure that you got good, clean data off of which to get this kind of information. And then after that, you know unless 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 to model your day to what do you think your trigger points are and all that you know, so that you can actually have a model that makes sense to you that you can look at when you get those surprising results. You already have a step in the right direction of...

...trying to figure out why you're seeing what 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 place for listeners to connect with you they have any foulied questions? Well, you can reach me on Linkedin. Just search for Joseph prementz a a flag or college, 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 against so much for joining us today, Joe. Great, Eric, thanks so much for having me. Attracting today's new post traditional learners means adopting new enrollment strategies, helix educations, data driven enterprise wide approach to enrollment growth is uniquely helping colleges and universities thrive in this new education landscape, and Helix has just published the second edition of their enrollment growth playbook with fifty percent brand new content on how institutions can solve today's most pressing enrollment growth challenges. Downloaded today for free at Helix Educationcom. Playbook. You've...

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

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