At Georgia State University, we have successfully raised graduation rates, lowered time to degree, and decreased debt for our students by utilizing data and predictive analytics to pilot, evaluate, revise, and scale initiatives that eliminate barriers to student success. These accomplishments were made possible through strong executive and project level leadership and by rethinking how we deliver advising and student support services and changing campus structures to facilitate collaboration around student success.
Georgia State recently consolidated with Perimeter College, a two-year access institution comprised of five campuses serving the Atlanta metro area. Nearly 1,500 Georgia Perimeter students annually transfer to Georgia State. The recent consolidation has presented a unique and exciting opportunity to build on the hard-earned insights learned while developing student-success programs on the main Georgia State University campus and accelerate positive gains for the more than 21,000 Associate’s-degree and transfer seeking students that currently enroll at Perimeter College.
The process of consolidation has afforded us the opportunity to improve and combine student data systems, to evaluate HR structures and staffing for student-success initiatives, and to restructure advising, registration and payment processes to better meet the needs of our students. This work involved analyzing institutional data and using predictive analytics to identify risk factors for attrition among Perimeter students; developing degree maps that align the major requirement for degrees at the two-year campus with requirements for the four-year campus; and hiring 30 new academic advisors to increase the capacity for advisors to provide personalized, proactive support to students. While these changes have not been easy, they are essential to ensuring that the university supports students’ progress and success across the two-and four-year campuses.
The first major initiative Georgia State scaled at Perimeter College was the university’s GPS Advising system. Through the consolidation of student information systems and degree mapping programs, Georgia State launched its GPS Advising system at Perimeter during the 2016-17 academic year and will continue to revise and scale this initiative moving forward. The initial implementation of increased advising, predictive analytics, and several other programs led to a marked increase in graduation rates at Perimeter College from 7% to almost 12% in one year.
During the summer of 2017, Georgia State will implement another major initiative, the Perimeter Academy. Georgia State has gained notoriety for its Success Academy program, which gives underprepared first-year students the opportunity to complete 7 hours of college-level work during the summer, adjust to life on campus, and gain access to student success services before the fall term begins. The program has increased retention rates by more than 30-precentage points for participating students on the main Georgia State campus. Georgia State is working to determine the appropriate metrics for identifying which underprepared students will benefit the most from the program at Perimeter College. We will pilot selection standards for the Perimeter Academy during the coming summer that will be honed and scaled across all five campuses of Perimeter College in subsequent years.
The consolidation of Georgia State University and Georgia Perimeter College into one institution has been a complicated process, but the consolidated Georgia State University has a unique opportunity to serve a new population of at-risk students with innovative approaches such as aligned two-and four-year academic pathways, analytics-based advising, and fully integrated reverse-transfer options. Moving forward, Georgia State will continue to use data to scale new programs and to revise a range of processes at Perimeter College. With significantly improved prospects for graduating, Perimeter students will have every opportunity to fulfill their educational goals and to better themselves, their family, and their community.
Ben Walizer is a Client Services Manager with Courseleaf by Leepfrog Technologies. Previously he worked as a Project Director and the UIA Fellow at Georgia State University, providing project management support for grants and projects in the Office of the Vice President for Enrollment Management and Student Success. He has experience using data to identify at-risk students and improve campus academic support services. He has worked in undergraduate academic support and retention programs, campus student housing, and has served as an instructor of student leadership courses. Ben earned a B.A. in Sociology from the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh and a M.Ed. in Counselor Education and Student Affairs from Clemson University.