Small campuses focus on retaining students with the help of technology

“The fact that Starfish automatically delivers that feedback to the service providers on campus makes timely intervention possible,” said Joyce Jackson, dean of academic affairs. “Faculty confidence in the system is increasing as service providers close the loop to inform faculty that their student referrals are being addressed.”

The University of Kansas launched its retention program after a 2010 report showed that almost three in 10 students who came to the school in 2007 had left three years later.

Kansas’s 28.7 percent dropout rate among fall 2007 freshmen was significantly higher than peer institutions, officials said. The university’s average retention rate after one year is 80 percent, compared with 85 to 90 percent at peer schools.

Purdue University is another large school using software programs to spot failing students before it’s too late.

Purdue launched its own university-developed retention program called Signals to warn students whose grades are dropping, offer study-habit advice, and encourage students excelling in their classes.

The Signals system doesn’t wait until midterms to alert students about dangerously low grades, like similar academic warning programs, said Nancy Wilson Head, executive director for information technology in Purdue’s Teaching and Learning Technologies Unit.

Students will get their first stoplight updates in the first few weeks of each semester, Wilson Head said, meaning they have a better chance to recover academically before crucial mid-semester tests.