climbing a ladder

Here’s how Wayne State nearly doubled its graduation rate in six years


From redesigning academic advising to aligning business processes, Wayne State made all the right moves

2. Technology innovations
Wayne State has developed tools to support student self-service. For instance, “students are able to declare their major online and get connected with an advisor more easily,” Brockmeyer says. The university also implemented Ellucian Degree Works, an academic planning program.

“It has been fantastic for us,” she says. “It helps our students have absolute clarity about what their degree requirements are. That kind of transparency is a key principle for student success.”

In addition, the university joined the EAB Student Success Collaborative. Members of the collaborative use EAB’s student success management system, Navigate, which is a comprehensive technology platform that links administrators, faculty, staff, and advisors in what EAB calls “a coordinated care network to support students from enrollment to graduation and beyond.”

A few years ago, Wayne State formed a Student Success Steering Committee, which monitors students’ progress biweekly from the time they begin until graduation, identifying barriers and addressing them. Toward that end, EAB’s technology helps advisors reach out to struggling students and connect them with additional services as needed.

3. Student services
Wayne State has redesigned many aspects of its student services to offer more effective support. Now, academic supports such as peer mentoring, tutoring, and financial literacy education are available to all students.

“At our academic success center, we were offering really good services around study skills tutoring—but they weren’t scalable,” Brockmeyer says. “If students wanted study skills support, they would make an appointment. They would get an assessment of their skills, and they would receive individualized support over the course of six or eight visits. But one study skills counselor could support only a few dozen students per semester.”

Now, she says, that same counselor “has developed what we think is the nation’s first and best neuroscience-based study skills course, and we can deliver that course to more than 900 students per year.”

4. Business process alignment
Over the last few years, the university has aligned many of its business processes by convening action teams with representatives from various departments. For instance, “we brought together our bursar, registrar, and financial aid offices and had them map out their processes, and we found opportunities to make improvements there.”

Before this action team met, the bursar didn’t know when financial aid was going to be disbursed, so the college was delivering services in isolation. “Now,” says Brockmeyer, “these departments have a shared calendar. As a result, there is much more natural interaction. We have broken down a lot of silos and built much more coordination throughout our campus, resulting in a better experience for students.

“While we are pleased with our progress, we are not nearly done. Over time, we expect to far exceed our 50-percent graduation rate goal—while closing educational disparities and maintaining our mission of access.”

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