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Can student coaching help higher ed improve retention rates?

Retention rates are rising at Loyola University New Orleans, thanks to student coaching

Many higher-ed student success initiatives focus on at-risk students. Loyola University New Orleans, however, has flipped this script by giving every first-year student personalized coaching—and it’s working: The percentage of students who return for their second year is now at an all-time high.

“We believe deeply that any student can enhance their experience through these kinds of conversations,” says Director of Student Success Elizabeth Rainey.

The university had been coaching students on how to be successful through its own home-grown effort, but this program was by referral only. As Rainey says, “We needed some formal training on a model with a proven track record so that students received a consistently high-quality experience.”

Improving the student coaching process

For the 2017-18 academic year, the university partnered with a company called InsideTrack to help with its student coaching, and it expanded the program to include all first-year students.

Related: Courageous coaching: How one HBC turned around an enrollment shortfall

InsideTrack coached about 300 of the university’s 800 first-year students by phone, email, and text messaging last year, and the company also trained university staff how to be student coaches for the other 500 first-year students. This year, two full-time university staff members and several volunteers do all of the student coaching, while InsideTrack conducts monthly training with staff to ensure success.

The university’s goal is to meet with students in person for 20 minutes at a time, although this can vary—and sometimes the coaching takes place via text-messaging instead. “Some students are more engaged than others,” Rainey says. “Ideally, we touch base with them every two weeks.”

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