Success coaches improved minority male students academic progress with outreach throughout the term, support tech, and predictive analytics.

How 11 community colleges boosted minority male success and retention

Success coaches helped buoy male minority academic progress with proactive outreach throughout the term, support technology, and predictive analytics

Results from a project targeting academic progression and completion of minority male students in North Carolina community colleges show that overall retention rates for those students increased by more than 22 percent when actively engaged with a success coach.

Findings from the Minority Male Success Initiative (MMSI), a three-year project designed to increase the progression and completion rate of minority male students, were announced by Watermark, a provider of solutions for higher education institutions.

The study began by assigning a success coach to cohorts of new, minority-male students across 11 community colleges in the North Carolina Community College System. These success coaches conducted proactive outreach throughout the term by utilizing support technology and predictive analytics. 

“Our goal is to try to find practices, and hopefully this is one, where I think at the end we can say this is an effective way to catch students before problems arise, assist students to overcome those challenges, and then ultimately as a result of doing so, more students are successful,” said Dr. John J. Evans, Associate Director-Student Life at the North Carolina Community College System. “Retention goes up, graduation rates go up, all those negative academic metrics decrease and we make improvements to students moving forward.”

Over the course of four terms, Watermark found that for new, minority-male, full-time students in pursuit of an associate’s degree, overall retention increased by 22.4 percent when success coaching was implemented. This illustrates the impact on student success and retention when institutions strategically align people, processes, and technology with the goal of improving outcomes for vulnerable student populations. 

“The results of MMSI demonstrate the importance of investing in the future of students by assessing the whole person,” said Erin Shy, CEO of Watermark. “MMSI showed us that regardless of external stressors, the right support structure can bolster the persistence and graduation rate of minority-male students.” 

The MMSI study found that minority males who were assigned a success coach who consistently followed up with them through the term were 2.7 percent more likely to complete an in-person course, and 8.8 percent more likely to complete an online course. Persistence rates also increased by 19.2 percent from the spring to fall semester for minority-male students with success coaches, a significant improvement to a problem that plagues higher education institutions across demographics.   

“A recent study from the Community College Review found that the two-year college completion rate for students of color is only 24 percent,” said Alex Leader, Chief Impact Officer at Watermark. “With the MMSI study, we aim to dismantle this racial equity gap across higher education by identifying actionable measures colleges and universities can take to best serve their minority students. I would be lying if I said I was surprised by these results; I have long felt confident that promoting student success requires proactive support to help students tackle barriers before they become obstacles.”  

Engagement is the common denominator across the MMSI study. Institutions that were highly engaged with both the software and their students saw a much higher persistence rate compared to institutions that were less engaged. The persistence across all four terms increased by a rate of 23.9 percent for students with a higher level of engagement with success coaches while students with a lower level of engagement with success coaches were 14 percent less likely to persist through the fourth term. 

“I have seen what it looks like when students don’t have the help they need to persist and succeed,” said Jamal Pitt, Success Coach at Nash Community College. “It falls on the shoulders of educators to ensure student success is within reach. Once they walk through the door, I tell them that my job is to help them cross the stage through whatever means necessary.” 

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This press release originally appeared online.

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Laura Ascione