Innovation in College & Career Preparation

Indiana Higher Education Innovations Promote Enhanced Student Success, Career Readiness

Lorenzo Esters, USA FundsBy Lorenzo L. Esters, Senior Program Director, USA Funds

Three innovative Indiana higher education initiatives were on display last week at a statewide gathering of college advisers, mentors, student leaders and other advocates for enhanced college completion and student success.

I had the honor of moderating a panel, “Profiles in Indiana Higher Education Innovation: Models for Driving Student Success and Career Preparation,” during the Indiana Commission for Higher Education Student Advocates Conference. The panel discussed three innovative approaches — which USA Funds® is supporting — to enhance the value of college.

Coaching for Student Success

USA Funds’ Lorenzo Esters (standing), Ball State University’s Sam Snideman, Ivy Tech’s Rachel Boon and Purdue Polytechnic Institute’s Brooke Huntington.
USA Funds’ Lorenzo Esters (standing), Ball State University’s Sam Snideman, Ivy Tech’s Rachel Boon and Purdue Polytechnic Institute’s Brooke Huntington.

During the 2014-2015 academic year, more than 2,100 of Indiana’s 21st Century Scholars at three postsecondary institutions in the state received special one-on-one coaching to help them cope with the challenges that prompt many low-income, first-generation students to drop out of college before completion — issues such as time management skills, financial challenges and academic performance.

Rachel Boon, executive director of retention and completion for Ivy Tech Community College, reported on her institution’s participation in the initiative.

“The high value obtained through the 21st Century Scholars Coaching Initiative is in both the one-to-one student-coach relationships and personal development that occurs there, and in the synergistic relationship between the coaches and the college,” Boon said. “Weekly trends about the student experience have informed a number of global changes at Ivy Tech in how we communicate with students, how we work with 21st Century Scholar issues, and ways to target support so important to low-income students. Similarly, Ivy Tech has been able to share information with the coaches that shapes the way they communicate with students to ensure the most important messages can cut through the noise. The partnership aspect of this has made it one of the most effective student support mechanisms we have at Ivy Tech.”

The project produced promising results during its first year:

  • More than 62 percent of coached freshman Scholars at Indiana State University were retained to their second year — a 3.8 percentage point increase over the school’s three-year historical average.
  • At Ivy Tech, the boost in retention was even greater: 45.7 percent of coached freshman Scholars were retained to their second year — an 8.8 percentage point increase above its three-year historical average.
  • At Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, 61 of 100 freshman Scholars were retained to their second year.

We at USA Funds are looking forward to the results of the second year, now underway.

Student-Centered, Industry- and Community-Based Education

Purdue University recently secured approval for establishment of a charter school in Indianapolis. Purdue Polytechnic Indianapolis will feature a STEM-focused curriculum built on an innovative model designed to prepare students with the competencies to succeed in the 21st century workforce.

Gary Bertoline, dean of Purdue Polytechnic Institute, describes the new school this way:

“Industry will be our collaborators, partners and advisers, working with our faculty to develop the academic model, and to define and refine the competencies students must master to succeed in the 21st Century economy. Graduates will have the skills to meet the evolving needs of industry and with dual credits for continued postsecondary education, as well as industry-recognized credentials and mastery in a defined high-tech pathway.”

The first class of ninth-graders is expected to enroll in August 2017.

Measuring the Value of College

Alumni of Ball State University are among those from 13 Indiana postsecondary institutions being surveyed by Gallup to benefit college administrators and prospective students and their families. The survey is designed to answer two fundamental questions:

  • Are postsecondary institutions providing the right kinds of services to help students be successful?
  • Are alumni satisfied with their experiences and education?

Information from the surveys will help the Indiana Commission for Higher Education enhance its groundbreaking College Return on Investment reports by adding to them information about the noneconomic returns from college. The reports help prospective students make better college choices.

The survey results also will help college administrators enhance the services they provide to students. According to Sam Snideman, director of governmental relations for Ball State University, the university’s primary interest in working with Gallup is to have more data to drive decision-making around student services offerings.

To enhance the value students derive from their considerable investment in higher education, they need better information on which to base their college program choices, they need to complete their programs of study, and they need to be equipped with the skills and competencies to pursue rewarding careers. These three innovative programs could serve as models for other colleges and universities, and other states, to help achieve those important goals.

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