Building New Transfer Pathways for Higher Education

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Dr. Amy Smith, Chief Learning Officer at StraighterLine joined the podcast to talk about pathway partnership agreements and new +2 models for higher education students and institutions.

There's something sticky about an academy program where a students starts in academy but they think they're starting at the university. They've already identified their bonded and their chether, do you, and they stick it. 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 number of the connect EEDU podcast network. I'm Eric Olson with Helix Education and we're here today with Dr Amy Smith, chief learning officers trader line. Amy, welcome to the show. Thank you. Really excited to talk with you today about pathway partnership agreements and new models for higher education. But before we dig in, can you give the listeners a little bit of background on both straighter line and your rule there? Yeah, so I'm the chief learning officers rader line and my key function is I run the research and Development Labs Division. So we are the tinkerers behind the scenes. From a student perspective, the student learning experience, in the student voice. So everything we build at straighter line is students centric. You may all know straighter line from our launch about ten years ago. We really offer affordable General Ed courses for all types of students. I think we've started in two thousand and eight and our businesses exist. It's existed for a long time and it's grown amazingly. So we have about a hundred and fifty university and institutional partners and our Jen ed credits are college undergrad credits transfer back to about twozero schools. So we're the place where a student will come when he or she or may need to pick up a course, graduate early, may need to prepare themselves and get ready to enter into school, do some prerex for an admission requirement or for a thousand...

...and one other reasons on any given year. Last year, for example, we were privileged and honored to support the learning of fortyzero students. So that's us. It's Triener, only it's a huge, huge better in your cap and a wonderful partner for some institutions. Let's rapid fire through some of the most common use cases that you kind of teased there to help people understand kind of what these pathway partnership agreements could look like and when you do something. So, let's say a student comes to your institution. They're not quite academically ready for admission. Historically we may have directed them back to their local community college, but in those cases you could now offer a different kind of transper pathway toward your institution. Yep, exactly. So let's take your student not quite ready. That's a great way to start. So your students not quite ready for admission, but and you want to put them on the right pathway. You want them to get ready and you may send them to a community college now, but you want to make sure they come back to you right. The ultimate goal is that a student completes and finishes a degree, whatever degree or credential they're deciding to do. Right their goal. So they may not meet your admissions requirements. Could be test scores, math and writing skills are not quite where they need to be. Prerequisites aren't there. Could be financial also right they're tapping out a financial aid or they're just in a financial place where two loans aren't as readily available. So on your enrollment team at your institution. What do you do with those students? So, instead of turning them away, you can actually bring them into an academy program so they get a time, one or two classes, to actually prove to you that they're ready to come into the university by being successful in one or two straighter line classes. They complete a course and then they come right back into the institution. So it's a really seamless partnership between straighter line in the institution.

Long term it increases the institutions conversion rates, of course. So rather than turning somebody away, you can send we send you students back and then they're ready. They are they have beefed up their skills financially, they're in a better risk, lower risk or better state, and it's really valuable for an institution because you're not sending them away from you. They're not going to a community college, which is which is a great option by the way. This is just an additional pathway. You're sending them into your own program that you've actually built. So they stayed tethered to you, they identify with you and Start Line Academy is always within that school brand. Right it actually looks, walks and talks like the institutions so on, like a community college. In some ways a student, for example of readiness students, stays tethered all the time and they're integrated with you. So you always know, by partnering with us, where that student is, what are they up to, how are they doing? Are they accomplishing and achieving? And so one thing we've noticed with our academy partners is we we have data that proves the students who come back into the institution from going through Academy do better than folks who came straight. We've learned from Multiple Academy partners over the last couple of years that graduation rates are actually higher, they complete more credits, usually a semester faster. Retention rates are higher and particularly for first Gen and minority students, we see about an eight to fourteen point increase in retention. So there's something sticky about an academy program whereas students starts in Academy but they think they're starting at the university. They've already identified, their bonded and their tethered to you and they stick it. So we find readiness is a really great use case. For example. Let me pause with that and breathe. Thank you. No, I love that use case and let's talk about similar Ben if it's from a similar use case, but on the other end of the academic journey. Let's talk stop out students. So for stopouts, could this pathway similarly be that...

...more affordable next step for those students who are looking to reengage and restart their original goal with those similar benefits that you described? Yeah, thank you. It's a great question. So everybody listening to your podcast right now knows that stop out populations are super challenging, right, and when you're looking at anywhere, depending on the statistic, thirty six to thirty nine million Americans who have some college right, but no actual degree or formal credential, it's a huge, massive population. So if you were going to build it inside your institution, like really tackle the stop out challenge and the needs of that population, how would you do it? What would it look like? Right? So think about that. You'd probably want something low cost. You totally would want something lower risk, right, but if you failed and it didn't work and you most likely you'd need massive student support, you'd want to help them take the next step, but that is not easy. Like those three things sound so simple but there's so hard to build and and it's the Golden Nuggets. So the thing about straighter line is we're low cost. For a hundred and fifty dollars a month you can complete a college course. We're low risk. There are no loans, no debts. So back to that financial possible need. But you can stop at any time. It's a synchronous, self paced learning so you might need to take a break. You literally can call us, take a break, pick back up in a month or two. There's no risk. The other risk that's I find fascinating is we don't actually penalize you if you don't complete a course, meaning we don't put enough on a transcript. We only transcripts success. So it's okay to try and keep trying. That's the beauty of that population. And then there's back to that massive student supports. That's one of our hallmarks. We have incredible robust student support. We coach. We have seven tutoring do you want to actually get tutored in your Algebra class Saturday at who I am? You can do it.

Yeah, student support seven days a week from advisors, writing centers, live and active and multiple feedback multiple submissions on assignments. There's the right class at the right time, there's the self pacedness that a student may need, but then there's the village who helps you finish, and it takes a village. Right. Nobody finishes a college credential by him or herself. Doesn't work that way. We know that well. We've invested heavily, we believe heavily and student supports that's toff really matters to help complete. So it's not only about getting in, it's also about getting out by completing and graduating. Amy. How often today is in undecided student starting their educational journey with this pathway in mind? And would this work as long as they have their transfer institution decided on? If not yet, they're specific major. Yeah, so it's it is a substantive percent of the population. So people were looking for alternative credit or a pathway into a university. We're finding a really steady enrollment increase year over year over year, month over month over month. Right, and one thing that we've learned at straight away again, we we have about two thousand institutions take our credit and we've built formal relationships, true or to as we would say, articulation agreements right with about a hundred and fifty partners. The very first phone call when you're talking to an advisor, we actually will coach. What's your target school? You know you're a straight line student, but you're not really. Our goal is you get to your goal as a student right, super student centric. So we always ask what's your target school, where do you want to go and what are you looking to get started indertaker feel like you need. It's a really student center conversation and then we help them check with the school. Will the credits be transferred? We never want you to take something that doesn't help you get to your end goal back into that university or restart right or bridge yourself back or make sure your summer credits that you needed to pick up your econ to one transfer back. So that...

...sort of part of the process and our goal is one hundred percent transfer. If your credits don't transfer, then we are all not successful and our job is to help students meet their goal. That's what we do. The use cases that we've primarily talked about so far in this conversation and have been if then use cases. So if you're not academically qualified if you stop out, what can I do next? But if you can prognosticate for me and think about five years, ten years in the future, if you are a student who is entering college and embracing online as your primary modality, can you imagine these transfer pathway options might start making sense from an affordability alone standpoid, not alone the student support as a student's primary option, that this is their intentional first two year experience. We're actually started, think you. I love this question. That's such a good one. It's hard to Eric good question. We're seeing that start. So I don't know that I would ever sit back and reflect and think it's the primary option, but I think it's becoming a parallel option. So if you're looking for a high quality, low risk way that serves a variety of needs and niches, alternative credits such as straighter line are a great place to start. So, to answer your question a short winded way, yeah, it's totally growing. But what I also find is when you when you serve all of the needs of students the whole life cycle. Think about it. We have a whole dual enrollment high school credit population. It's fifteen percent of startlines population. These are people who are like, Hey, I couldn't get into AP geography, so I'll take it as startline and they're successful. And then there's the just starting college or wants to dip their toe while they're working. Yep, we have the post high school grand and we serve them. There's an adult who started college but needed for life reasons to stop. For some reasons we have bridge backs and stop outs,...

...people who may be graduated from high school or and or non geed people but they're not ready right. So we get them ready. So I think the part of the answer to your question is because alternative credit, like strider line, we serve so many populations. I think it's growing and we're watching it grow. So as more students go online and the education market, I think, gets more diverse, with more providers, credentials degrees, it's going to continue to grow for sure. So let's stay in predictive guest mode. Okay, in this future state, but let's shift from the student perspective to the Institutional Perspective and think about your academic friends, of which you were formally a dean of. So can you envision a future in which certain institutions really lean into this model and say we think our best way forward, especially in a market with decline in college age demographics, with increased competition, our best way forward might be to be that plus two part of our students degree. That Jen eds may not be where we particularly shine. And if our students can get their first two years paid off elsewhere for less than five grand and it's part of be built in transfer pathway to our institution, boy, that feels like a pretty good win win. Yeah, and it is right when you think about it. So we're actually seeing that future in part. So are we? May We may never completely arrive at that. You know, will do the first two years and then a two plus two, write a post two years. I think that may futuristically be able lot to seed, although everybody who has, you know, everybody's a parent of kids about to go to college. Of course we would love that. But if you're thinking about a semester, a year, an all fall, a summer, dual credit or ways to get to arrive ahead, one hundred percent, absolutely so.

I think universities are all about graduation. They're definitely also about less risk and they're absolutely about much less debt. I mean these are all problems we're all trying to solve and everybody's thinking about. But I so I do envision what you're saying and we're seeing it right now. We actually have partners where we are. The our academy, that front end is is a solid part and parcel of what their students are going through in their genets. They're taking substantive classes and then transferring in. So it's good to remember that. The Gen eds is a place where universities and institutions shine. You're all have fabulous faculty right, you're going to have great course experiences and that's never going to go away. So I think it's about another opportunity or a different pathway or an additional pathway. Again, back to that parallel. So we sort of think straighterline delivers this awesome Jen ed course experience. We're well suited to do it and the nature of our work in our experiences we're never going to replace an upper division, for example, back to your plus two. We're never going to replace a seminar. We do this one good, asynchronous, self paced. You know, one hundred and two hundred level courses really well. This is what we do. And Yeah, there's a place for that. They're definitely is and it's growing for sure. Yeah, and I'm one of those parents who likes thinking about nine years into the future because that's when my nine year old is gonna Start Having to make decisions and we have already started talking about her options and it is nice and relieving to think through. Okay, you can go work at starbucks and take classes at Asu at night for free with their current employer partnership and learning more about you and your partnerships, but you can get your first two years at an institution like Colorado State for five grand and then finish your last two two and a half years there. It's been exciting talking to you, just seeing how many more and more accessible pathways...

...that hire as a whole is starting to create for students. It's super, super exciting. It's fun to watch, isn't it? It's a really time to be in hire A. it's really cool or truly amy, super grateful for your time. Can you leave us with any next steps advice for institutions they're thinking about? They're trying to improve their transfer pathways, specifically for increased student affordability. How should they think about that challenge? How that seems to be the question right. It is. Actually it's totally about student affordability overall. Higher it needs needs to worry about that, but it also really needs to worry about consistent college transfer, more openness and acceptance of just transfer credits from other sources, be at a community college or provider like straighter line, credit by exam, prior learning, assessment, workforce portfolio, all of those kinds of things. If, if higher an institutions could just think about when a student walks in the door and wants to come, take all of the student and take all of those credit experiences, because they really did learn. If we could just get transparent and smoother with how we transfer, that would totally benefit a student, completely benefit the institution and it's financially more affordable and sustainable. So I think the the lens of consistency and transferability in credit, that's the next kind of nuggets to really watch for and work on. Just my two cents. I'll pay a dollar for them maybe. Amy. Thank you so much for your brain, your heart and your time today. What's the best place for listeners to connect with you and your team if they have any follow up questions? And I would love to continue the conversation right chieve learning officers lab division, as we can geege out on all kinds of stuff. So easiest places to get ahold of me. I am a Smith, Amy Smith, but a Smith at straighterlinecom. You can always also go through our website and try to reach out. Either one of those channels will land with me and with our team or anybody else I can connect with inside of...

...straightorline. Always open and happy to talk. Would love it awesome. Thanks so much for joining us today. Amy. Thank you so much, Ark. was such a good time. I really appreciate talking about the big stuff. It was great the thanks so much. Likewise. 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 educationcoms playbook. You've been listening to enrollment growth university from Helix Education. To ensure that you never miss an episode, subscribe to the show in Itunes or your favorite podcast player. Thank you so much for listening. Until next time,.

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