49: Improving Graduation Rates at Georgia State University w/ Timothy Renick

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Dr. Timothy Renick, Sr. Vice President for Student Success at Georgia State University, discusses the tech-enabled high-touch strategies that have helped raise their 6-year graduation rate from 32% to 54%.

If you can get to students asindividuals address, their needs personally, you're much more likely tohave success in education, you're, listening to enrollment growth,university from helics education, the best professional development podcastfor higher education leaders looking to grow in Roman at their college oruniversity, whether you're looking for fresh and Roman growth techniques andstrategies or tools and resources. You've come to the right place. Let'sget into the show, welcome back to anroman growthuniversity, a proud member of the connect Edu podcast network, Imeri,Olson AVP of marketing at helicks education and we're here today withdctor Timothy rennocks senior. Vice President for student success atGeorgia, State University Tim Welcome to the show. Thank you good to be here.Super excited to talk with you today about how you and your team are using aholistic approach to improve the six year. Graduation rate, a Georgia statefrom thrt woad fifty four percent. Before we dig into that Tim, can youget the listeners a little bit better understanding of both Georgea state andyour role there yeah sure Georgea state is a large public. Urban Universitywere right in downtown Atlanta, fifty two thousand students and one of themost diverse institutions in the south, each about sixty percent of ourstudents are pell eligible, meaning low income students and about sixty sevenpercent are nonwhite, so we've got record numbers of students in rollingand record diversity every year and I head up all the student successprograms for the university have done so for the last decade, so I overseeoffices, starting with admissions going through registration scholarships firstyear, programs advising all the way up to career services. Awesome Tim, let's start off by talkingabout your overall philosophy of techinabled high touch strategies andhow those can agen student success. We've already always known that one of the things students respond towell is individualized personalized...

...attention. If you can get to studentsas individuals address their needs personally, you're much more likely tohave success in education. The problem for big universities, like Georgiastate, has been delivering those personalized services in the past oftentimes it was one on one. You know a staff interventions that were requiredand what we've done over the last decade is leverage technology todeliver much more personalized services to students on a day to day basis. So,even though they are at a large public university, in many cases, theyreinteracting with us, as if they're, a ADAMUT, smaller institution, weet Tim.Let's dig into some of these really creative examples to get the minds ofthe listeners running on and how many of these they can emulate or or rethinkor Pivit on at their own institutions. You've moved beyond topical tutoring toprovide very specific corse support by paying undergraduate students who havealready succeeded in that course to b course, tutors talk about exactly howthat works yeah. Well, it starts with the datawe've looked at the courses across Georgia state that are the trippingpoints, the obstacles to student success. Every campus has them thesecourses that fail or have a large numbers of students withdrawing fromthem, and what we've done is look in our data for students who succeed inthose same courses, especially students who are already supported by theuniversity on work, study or other sorts of scholarship programs, and whatwe do now is pull them out of their current assignments. They may be, youknow, answering fron phones at a front desk. If you have a student, who's,aced, organic chemistry in their sophomore year, don't waste them, and Isitting at a front desk, answering phones, we pull them out. We pay themto go through training, we paint them to sit in on the same class. Theysucceeded in in the past and we payd them to do three formal, instructionalse sessions every week. What we found is the students who attend thesesessions are often very different than the students who attend regular officehours for faculty members. There are so social and cultural barriers tostudents showing up and knocking on a...

...door and saying I need you o explain itto me. I in another fashion, they're much more likely to go to a peer whooften looks more like they do and comes from a similar background and we'veseen bumps of about half a letter grade in courses where we embed these peerand near Pur. Tutors students are doing better, the tutors are doing petter.Their graduation rates have gone up by about seven percentage points because,instead of sitting around o answering phones, they're actually being mentoredby a faculty member in the course and helping students understand subjectmatter, it's such a great idea. Now, let's talk about your approach toflipping some of your introductory level courses and the initial resultsof this strategy. Yeah it's another idea of trying to deliverindividualized support for students at scale. You know big math courses atGeorgia state were, quite frankly, a disaster. Six or seven years ago. Fortythree percent of the students who attempted introductory math courseswere getting nonpassing grades. That's a recipe for disaster at a biginstitution where the majority of students are low income because lowincome students can't afford to take a course pay for it and then have tocircle back the next semester and take the same course all over again. Sowe've totally changed the way we deliver introductory math instructionat Georgia's state we're no longer doing any sections of introductory mathas lecture hall classes. All of the courses are flipped hybrid classes,meaning the students meet one hour week in a traditional classroom with theirclassmates and instructor three hours a week, they're meeting in dedicated mathlabs, all the students are there with their their colleagues and with theirinstructor, but working at their own terminals at their own pace on adapt oflearning exercises, so the slower students they don't get left behind inthe first couple weeks, if they don't understand a basic concept, sof they'relost by you know week three of the course the more advanced students don'tget bored and tuned out, because each student is getting questions from theadaptive platform that are geared personalize to their ability level. Ithink the biggest secret is that every hour a student is one, is in one ofthese labs they're. Getting about a...

...hundred bits of immediate personalizedfeedback under the old model. A student could sit in the back row and go thewhole semester without ever getting called upon. Now the students are doingmath and getting immediate feedback all through the semester. It's made a hugedifference with the same material that the students were attempting beforehandwere now getting over thirty five percent, more of the students withpassing grades and the students are succeeding at higher levels at the next,a math or science course they take as well. So we've increased the number ofstem majors graduating from Georgia state. At the same time, we'veincreased the the through put for some of these really tough introductory mathcourses. It's such a Tryvic success story. I think I think some examples offailures and flipped learning that I've, seen or heard from our our peers andcolliges and Hirad is the inability for students to have done the work ahead oftime. But is your hope that Youre ssisive platform solves for that? That,even if they come in, maybe not having done the work ahead of time that thatthe platform helps them catch up. Absolutely. In fact, we found that forour Philip sections, it was important to keep the class meeting as a groupand keep the instructor in the room for just the reasons you're talking aboutthat. If a student or a group of students didn't come in prepared tothat session, the instructor could note that there was some basic concept thatthe students were missing over and over again, as they were working on theadapt of exercises and pulled a group aside and say: Okay. Well, let's startet stop for a moment and talk for five minutes about this basic concept thatstudents are missing, so it is definitely a hybrid in every sense ofthe word. We are leveraging technology but in some ways we're using apersonalized touch in a more intensive fashion than would have been the casein some big lecture hall, where the The instructor is just you know, teachingthe material as they did the previous semester. I really love it. Anotheridea of yours that I found really inspiring. Can you talk about whatyou've done to decrease major switching and how that's taken a full halfsemester of your ADU average graduation...

...time? Yeah? It's a design flaw. I think atbig institutions. Light lie like Georgia stayed at least historically,you know we enrolled this increasingly divers student body, lots of firstgeneration low income students. We would bring thim into this campus,where we brag about the fact that we have over a hundred majors and then wewould just expect them to choose and choose wisely they would choose. Theywould pick some major and pick. You know four or five courses that firstsemester and then they would get into them and decide. Well, that's notreally what I wanted. I thought I wanted to be an accountant, but nowmaybe I want to go into marketing and they try a couple, semesters, NMarketing and say that's not what I want either. Maybe I want to go intofinance and you know for low income students. This is many cases, was theirticket out of higher education because they're unlimited eligibility limitedaid programs. They can't afford to bounce between majors, creating addedtime to degree. Six, seven years ago, at Georgie state, the average graduatewas going through two point: six majors before they graduated the averagestudent, and these were a r successfuls. These are the ones who lacteet it outand actually got to the point of getting a degree. So we've totallychanged the way we on board students. Now before they even set foot on campus,we have a new portal. It will show them for whatever area they're interested in,for example, nursing the number of nursing jobs in the Metro Atlanta areafor that morning, starting salary, if you have a bachelor's degree, startingsalary, if you have an associates degree but like Netflix or Amazon, thatsay, will you like these books or movies? You might like these otherthings we say well, if you're interested in nursing, you may beinterested in the fact that we have a degree in health management and healthin frormatics and radiologic technology, and here are the starting salaries andthe job offerings this morning in those fields as well. So students are alreadyprime to begin to think about the connection between their academicchoices and their career trajectory before they rrove on campus. But thebiggest change is now we enroll all students in the first semester inlearning communities arranged around meadow majors, so we get groups oftwenty five students who share a large area of interest, we're not trying toget them to pick an actual major. But...

...do you want to go into stem? Do youwant to go into the arts? You want to go into business. If we can identifythat big academic bucket, then we put them in a a learning community withtwenty four other students who share that interest and we push programmingat them all through the first year. So the business learning communities willgo to open houses in the business department. Sat they they can. Thestudents can learn about marketing and finance, and so forth. They'll be analumni panel. The orientation course in learning community will be taught by abusiness faculty, a member. So by the end of the first year, the students areable to make a much more informed choice about what field they want to gointo. This has been a low cost program, really no cost program, we've justleveraged resources and registered the students in a slightly different way,but it's resulted in a thirty two percent drop in the number of studentsat Georgias state who are changing their majors after the first year, sostudents are finding the right fit earlier on. They are more likely topersist because tthey're happy with what they're, what they're, studyingand they're not creating the same number of wasted credit hours over thelast five years since we introduced this change, we've reduced the averagetime to degree of getting a bachelor's degree at Georgea state by more thanhalf a semester, por student that savings of about fifteen milliondollars, intuition and fees alone for this year's graduating class comparedto the graduating class. The year before, we launched the initiative,allso uch, really creative strategies Tim. When you speak about this conceptof high touch tech, there's. Obviously some automation involved, but a lot ofthese touches are coming from professional advisors. To whatinvestments have you made in academic advisers and success coaches to improvethese graduation rates? Yea E, our biggest data change and automatedsystem is probably are tracking of every student for eight hundred wristfactors every night. So a big predict of analytics pot project that involvedhistorical data to track every student for the kind of mistakes, errors,decisions that in the past, correlated to students dropping or flunking out ofthe university we've tracked for six...

...years now, every Georgia state studentevery single day for those eight hundred different risks factors withimmediate intervention, starting the next day when we detect somethings offoot simple things like students signing up for the wrong class orunderperforming in a prerequisite. But, as you anticipate in your question, youknow the well. The attention is on the tech. By far the biggest lift was thestaffing to support a new initiative like that one. So you know we'respending a couple hundred thousand dollars a year on the technology, butwe've invested over two million dollars in additional advisers, academicadvisers who are tracking students on a day to day basis and who can intervenein a timely fashion. You know the magic of the system when it's working well isif a student struggling two or three weeks into a math math course we canget them interventions. We detect the problem and we can get sit down withthem and talk about the resources, the tutoring, the other sorts of resourcesavailable, so that by the midterm that student, who was struggling at week,three might be able to pull out a bee or B plus and where, in the past theymight have gotten ad or an f. that's the beauty of it. When it's working,but in order to work, you have to have staff ready and trained to intervene in a very short period of time, becauseit does no good. If you get back to that student struggling and week too inweek, six after the midterm has occurred and the student has alreadyfailed it. So that's where the investment has come, but you know thelisteners should realize that these are really not only good investments from amoral perspective, doing right by our students, but they really helpe theuniversity fiscally as well. So every one percent we increase our retentionrate at Georgeas state. That's about three million dollars in annualrevenues, intuition and fees that were bringing in that in the past were justwalking away from the from the institution by the fact that thestudent was dropping out and when we launchd this advising initiative usingthe predictof analytics, we increase the retention rate by between four andfive points in the first year. It's...

...gone up more since then, but in oneyear the results were about a four to five percentage point increase, sowe're talking about. You know two million dollars, investment, that'spretty painful, but we're talking about bringing in revenues over a twelvemonthperiod of over ten million dollars based upon the Games made in thesetough demographic times, where many many states are are facing declines inthe number of high school graduates. You know, I think one of the mostprudent things a campus can do is find innovative, an aggressive ways to holdon to the students you have the days of just watching. One group of studentswalk away and the next fall a whole nother group coming in you know thoseare largely gone and what we need to do is, you know, actually serve thestudents we have and hold on to them, not just because it's the right thingto do, but because it's the thing that's going to keep our campusesfiscally solvent tim such great stuff, any next steps adviced for otherstudents, success, divisions, hoping to make similar impact of theirinstitutions. Yeah. My advice is, you know you don'thave to spend a lot of money. You know what you need to do is think aboutbeing smarter Ind. The way you deploy the resources that you have this wholeinitiative. We talked about of learning communities and registering students bytheir areas of interest and so forth. It's cost us nothing. It's just been amore efficient way of organizing the students as they come into theuniversity and its provide a platform for faculty who already wanted t engagethese students to have the ability to engage them by their areas of interest,but it's made a huge difference in our outcomes. It's resulted in higherretention rates, higher performance as far as academics and then, as we heard,quicker graduation rates, a more efficient throughput through all ouracademic programs and so forth. So you know it's nice to have the resources toyou know, invest in analytics and hire more advisers and so forth, and I thinkit's a prudent thing to do, but that needn't be the starting point. Thestarting point can just be: How can we look at what we're currently doing?That is tripping up students, things...

...like bringing mostly low income firstgeneration students, onter campus and expecting them to choose wisely? Amongyou know, a myriad of decisions who put in front of them. How can we take thatsystem and turn it into one? That makes a lot more sense from the studentperspective, many of those changes can be done for next to no cost at alltohim. Thank you. So much for your time today. What's the best place forlisteners to connect with you if they have any followup questions, yeah we'vegot a lot of resources out there. The best thing to do is go to our website.Initially, we have a website set up to talk about all these programs with dataand videos and third party assessments. It's simply success. Dot G Su Dot, edyou success, dot, GSU, dot e, do you and then, if you want to contact mepersonally, you can find through that website all kinds of ways to reach outto me as well, and I'm happy to answer additional questions. Awesome thanksagain. So much for doing a today Tohim my pleasure, Eric attracting today'snew post, traditional learners means adopting new enrolment strategies. Heloocks educations data driven enterprise, wide approach to enrollmentgrowth is uniquely helping colleges and universities thrive in this neweducation, landscape and Helex has just published the second edition of theirenrollment growth playbook, with fifty percent brand new content on howinstitutions can solve today's most pressing anromant growth challengesdownload it today for free at Helocs, Educationcom playbook you've been listening to enromentgrowth university from helics education to ensure that you never miss anepisode subscribe to the show in Itunes or your favorite podcast player. Thankyou so much for listening until next time.

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