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 programwhere 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 professionaldevelopment 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. Welcomeback 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 newmodels for higher education. But before we dig in, can you give thelisteners 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 isI run the research and Development Labs Division. So we are the tinkerers behind thescenes. From a student perspective, the student learning experience, in thestudent voice. So everything we build at straighter line is students centric. Youmay all know straighter line from our launch about ten years ago. We reallyoffer affordable General Ed courses for all types of students. I think we've startedin two thousand and eight and our businesses exist. It's existed for a longtime and it's grown amazingly. So we have about a hundred and fifty universityand institutional partners and our Jen ed credits are college undergrad credits transfer back toabout twozero schools. So we're the place where a student will come when heor she or may need to pick up a course, graduate early, mayneed to prepare themselves and get ready to enter into school, do some prerexfor an admission requirement or for a thousand...

...and one other reasons on any givenyear. Last year, for example, we were privileged and honored to supportthe learning of fortyzero students. So that's us. It's Triener, only it'sa 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 kindof teased there to help people understand kind of what these pathway partnership agreements couldlook like and when you do something. So, let's say a student comesto your institution. They're not quite academically ready for admission. Historically we mayhave directed them back to their local community college, but in those cases youcould 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 wayto start. So your students not quite ready for admission, but and youwant to put them on the right pathway. You want them to get ready andyou may send them to a community college now, but you want tomake sure they come back to you right. The ultimate goal is that a studentcompletes and finishes a degree, whatever degree or credential they're deciding to do. Right their goal. So they may not meet your admissions requirements. Couldbe test scores, math and writing skills are not quite where they need tobe. Prerequisites aren't there. Could be financial also right they're tapping out afinancial aid or they're just in a financial place where two loans aren't as readilyavailable. So on your enrollment team at your institution. What do you dowith those students? So, instead of turning them away, you can actuallybring them into an academy program so they get a time, one or twoclasses, to actually prove to you that they're ready to come into the universityby being successful in one or two straighter line classes. They complete a courseand then they come right back into the institution. So it's a really seamlesspartnership between straighter line in the institution.

Long term it increases the institutions conversionrates, of course. So rather than turning somebody away, you can sendwe send you students back and then they're ready. They are they have beefedup their skills financially, they're in a better risk, lower risk or betterstate, and it's really valuable for an institution because you're not sending them awayfrom you. They're not going to a community college, which is which isa great option by the way. This is just an additional pathway. You'resending them into your own program that you've actually built. So they stayed tetheredto you, they identify with you and Start Line Academy is always within thatschool brand. Right it actually looks, walks and talks like the institutions soon, like a community college. In some ways a student, for exampleof 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 andachieving? And so one thing we've noticed with our academy partners is we wehave data that proves the students who come back into the institution from going throughAcademy do better than folks who came straight. We've learned from Multiple Academy partners overthe last couple of years that graduation rates are actually higher, they completemore credits, usually a semester faster. Retention rates are higher and particularly forfirst Gen and minority students, we see about an eight to fourteen point increasein retention. So there's something sticky about an academy program whereas students starts inAcademy but they think they're starting at the university. They've already identified, theirbonded and their tethered to you and they stick it. So we find readinessis a really great use case. For example. Let me pause with thatand breathe. Thank you. No, I love that use case and let'stalk about similar Ben if it's from a similar use case, but on theother end of the academic journey. Let's talk stop out students. So forstopouts, could this pathway similarly be that...

...more affordable next step for those studentswho are looking to reengage and restart their original goal with those similar benefits thatyou described? Yeah, thank you. It's a great question. So everybodylistening 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 sixto thirty nine million Americans who have some college right, but no actualdegree or formal credential, it's a huge, massive population. So if you weregoing to build it inside your institution, like really tackle the stop out challengeand the needs of that population, how would you do it? Whatwould it look like? Right? So think about that. You'd probably wantsomething low cost. You totally would want something lower risk, right, butif you failed and it didn't work and you most likely you'd need massive studentsupport, you'd want to help them take the next step, but that isnot easy. Like those three things sound so simple but there's so hard tobuild and and it's the Golden Nuggets. So the thing about straighter line iswe're low cost. For a hundred and fifty dollars a month you can completea 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 takea break. You literally can call us, take a break, pick back upin a month or two. There's no risk. The other risk that'sI 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 ourhallmarks. We have incredible robust student support. We coach. We have seven tutoringdo you want to actually get tutored in your Algebra class Saturday at whoI am? You can do it.

Yeah, student support seven days aweek from advisors, writing centers, live and active and multiple feedback multiple submissionson assignments. There's the right class at the right time, there's the selfpacedness that a student may need, but then there's the village who helps youfinish, and it takes a village. Right. Nobody finishes a college credentialby 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 tohelp complete. So it's not only about getting in, it's also about gettingout by completing and graduating. Amy. How often today is in undecided studentstarting their educational journey with this pathway in mind? And would this work aslong as they have their transfer institution decided on? If not yet, they'respecific 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 overmonth over month. Right, and one thing that we've learned at straight awayagain, we we have about two thousand institutions take our credit and we've builtformal relationships, true or to as we would say, articulation agreements right withabout a hundred and fifty partners. The very first phone call when you're talkingto an advisor, we actually will coach. What's your target school? You knowyou're a straight line student, but you're not really. Our goal isyou get to your goal as a student right, super student centric. Sowe always ask what's your target school, where do you want to go andwhat are you looking to get started indertaker feel like you need. It's areally student center conversation and then we help them check with the school. Willthe credits be transferred? We never want you to take something that doesn't helpyou get to your end goal back into that university or restart right or bridgeyourself back or make sure your summer credits that you needed to pick up yourecon to one transfer back. So that...

...sort of part of the process andour goal is one hundred percent transfer. If your credits don't transfer, thenwe 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 sofar in this conversation and have been if then use cases. So if you'renot academically qualified if you stop out, what can I do next? Butif you can prognosticate for me and think about five years, ten years inthe future, if you are a student who is entering college and embracing onlineas your primary modality, can you imagine these transfer pathway options might start makingsense from an affordability alone standpoid, not alone the student support as a student'sprimary option, that this is their intentional first two year experience. We're actuallystarted, 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 Idon't know that I would ever sit back and reflect and think it's the primaryoption, but I think it's becoming a parallel option. So if you're lookingfor a high quality, low risk way that serves a variety of needs andniches, alternative credits such as straighter line are a great place to start.So, to answer your question a short winded way, yeah, it's totallygrowing. But what I also find is when you when you serve all ofthe needs of students the whole life cycle. Think about it. We have awhole 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 APgeography, so I'll take it as startline and they're successful. And then there'sthe 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 anadult who started college but needed for life reasons to stop. For some reasonswe have bridge backs and stop outs,...

...people who may be graduated from highschool or and or non geed people but they're not ready right. So weget them ready. So I think the part of the answer to your questionis because alternative credit, like strider line, we serve so many populations. Ithink it's growing and we're watching it grow. So as more students goonline and the education market, I think, gets more diverse, with more providers, credentials degrees, it's going to continue to grow for sure. Solet's stay in predictive guest mode. Okay, in this future state, but let'sshift from the student perspective to the Institutional Perspective and think about your academicfriends, of which you were formally a dean of. So can you envisiona future in which certain institutions really lean into this model and say we thinkour 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 plustwo part of our students degree. That Jen eds may not be where weparticularly shine. And if our students can get their first two years paid offelsewhere for less than five grand and it's part of be built in transfer pathwayto our institution, boy, that feels like a pretty good win win.Yeah, and it is right when you think about it. So we're actuallyseeing that future in part. So are we? May We may never completelyarrive at that. You know, will do the first two years and thena two plus two, write a post two years. I think that mayfuturistically 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 wouldlove that. But if you're thinking about a semester, a year, anall 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 rightnow. We actually have partners where we are. The our academy, thatfront end is is a solid part and parcel of what their students are goingthrough in their genets. They're taking substantive classes and then transferring in. Soit's good to remember that. The Gen eds is a place where universities andinstitutions shine. You're all have fabulous faculty right, you're going to have greatcourse experiences and that's never going to go away. So I think it's aboutanother opportunity or a different pathway or an additional pathway. Again, back tothat parallel. So we sort of think straighterline delivers this awesome Jen ed courseexperience. We're well suited to do it and the nature of our work inour experiences we're never going to replace an upper division, for example, backto your plus two. We're never going to replace a seminar. We dothis one good, asynchronous, self paced. You know, one hundred and twohundred 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 yearsinto the future because that's when my nine year old is gonna Start Having tomake decisions and we have already started talking about her options and it is niceand relieving to think through. Okay, you can go work at starbucks andtake classes at Asu at night for free with their current employer partnership and learningmore about you and your partnerships, but you can get your first two yearsat an institution like Colorado State for five grand and then finish your last twotwo and a half years there. It's been exciting talking to you, justseeing how many more and more accessible pathways...

...that hire as a whole is startingto 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'sreally cool or truly amy, super grateful for your time. Can you leaveus with any next steps advice for institutions they're thinking about? They're trying toimprove their transfer pathways, specifically for increased student affordability. How should they thinkabout 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 aboutthat, but it also really needs to worry about consistent college transfer,more openness and acceptance of just transfer credits from other sources, be at acommunity college or provider like straighter line, credit by exam, prior learning,assessment, workforce portfolio, all of those kinds of things. If, ifhigher an institutions could just think about when a student walks in the door andwants to come, take all of the student and take all of those creditexperiences, because they really did learn. If we could just get transparent andsmoother with how we transfer, that would totally benefit a student, completely benefitthe institution and it's financially more affordable and sustainable. So I think the thelens of consistency and transferability in credit, that's the next kind of nuggets toreally watch for and work on. Just my two cents. I'll pay adollar 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 connectwith you and your team if they have any follow up questions? And Iwould love to continue the conversation right chieve learning officers lab division, as wecan geege out on all kinds of stuff. So easiest places to get ahold ofme. I am a Smith, Amy Smith, but a Smith atstraighterlinecom. 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 oranybody else I can connect with inside of...

...straightorline. Always open and happy totalk. Would love it awesome. Thanks so much for joining us today.Amy. Thank you so much, Ark. was such a good time. Ireally 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 helpingcolleges and universities thrive in this new education landscape, and Helix has just publishedthe second edition of their enrollment growth playbook with fifty percent brand new content onhow institutions can solve today's most pressing enrollment growth challenges. Downloaded today for freeat 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 inItunes or your favorite podcast player. Thank you so much for listening. Untilnext time,.

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