CSU initiatives serve as national model for student success

Colorado State University College of Natural Sciences graduates are celebrated at the Fall 2016 Commencement Ceremony in Moby Arena.

The Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU) is profiling the student success initiatives of CSU and four other universities in an online course for higher education leaders across the country seeking to transform their campuses. APLU says CSU, along with Georgia State, Middle Tennessee State, Austin Community College and Whatcom Community College, will serve as national models for bolstering student retention and graduation rates.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation helped fund development of the course, which provides high-impact strategies and best practices for building innovative advising and student support systems campus-wide. The six-lesson, self-paced course – Strategic Management of Advising Reform and Technology: a SMART Approach to Student Success  – includes interviews with presidents, provosts, vice provosts, technology experts, advising personnel and faculty from the five profiled institutions.

“CSU is proud to work with APLU to help other universities improve success for their students,” said Paul Thayer, special assistant to the provost for retention and associate vice president emeritus. “In 2006 when Dr. Frank was provost, he asked us to look at what we could do to improve student retention and success. We learned early on that no one thing would work and we would need a comprehensive strategy that was data-driven. That approach has paid off and we’ve seen dramatic outcomes in less than a decade.”

State of What’s Next

Thursday, April 27, LSC Plaza, 11 a.m. – 1 p.m.

Sponsored by the Provost’s Office and CSU’s Student Success Initiatives

Celebrating all students as they prepare for what’s next on their journey to success whether it’s graduation, a great summer internship, traveling abroad or looking ahead to their next semester of classes.

Cookies, giveaways, photos with CAM the Ram mascot, and music by KCSU-FM.

A reputation to envy

Those dramatic outcomes have earned CSU a national reputation to envy and something others want to emulate. Since CSU implemented its student success initiatives in 2007, the university has reached historic highs in retention rates among first-year freshmen and transfer students, and historic highs in four, five and six-year graduation rates. Additionally, the university has reduced graduation gaps for first generation, low-income and minority groups.

“Dr. Frank originally gave us a target of 70 percent for a six-year graduation rate,” said Thayer. “As we were nearing that mark in 2011, he raised the bar by setting a new benchmark of 80 percent by 2020 and eliminating all gaps. The national average is just above 64 percent, so hitting 80 percent will put us in a league of our own.”

Colorado State Magazine to showcase Student Success Initiatives

The Spring edition of Colorado State Magazine will feature the university’s student success initiatives with an inside look at the strategies that have driven success and how high tech has been used to keep students on the path to graduation. The most recent online edition of the magazine is titled Design Thinking, and focuses on how CSU faculty and alumni are using innovation, creativity and technology to solve problems in unique and novel ways.

Learning from peers who are pioneers

There is growing recognition in the higher education community about the value of campus-wide proactive advising. However, it often involves changes to institutional structures, culture, policies and practices while integrating the use of technology and data analytics. Meaghan Duff, APLU’s Personalized Learning Consortium executive director, says building the infrastructure can be complicated, expensive and time-consuming.

“Implementing these systems is not a small or straightforward task,” said Duff. “Rather than reinventing the wheel, the in-depth content in the SMART course provides participants with an opportunity to learn directly from peers who are pioneers in the field.  This helps institutions looking to implement proactive advising systems save time and money by avoiding the need for costly and time-consuming activities such as institutional site visits or consultants.”

Duff says CSU and the other profiled universities were selected because they are leading the way in student success initiatives, and they offer a mix of research, community colleges, urban-serving universities, and Hispanic-serving institutions that collectively illustrate a diversity of approaches, challenges and successes across differing institution types.

APLU designates CSU as a 2016 Innovation & Economic Prosperity University

The award recognizes Colorado State for excelling in community, social and cultural development work. Three case studies helped to tell CSU’s story: the School of Global Environmental Sustainability, CSU spinoff and cookstove manufacturer Envirofit, and the Powerhouse Energy Campus – home to CSU’s Energy Institute. Read more

Course features best practices

APLU identified several common best practices across the five institutions: unwavering executive and project level leadership; providing strong mechanisms for cross-campus collaboration and communication across academic and student affairs; tailoring reform efforts to specific campus context; and understanding and communicating to all stakeholders about the return on investment for implementing student success and advising reform.

The interviews and supporting materials in the course cover an array of topics, including the:

  • Intersection of proactive advising, technology and student success objectives
  • Role of technology and data analytics in proactive advising
  • Structural, process and attitudinal changes required to improve advising systems
  • Implementation and communication strategies needed to build cross-campus collaboration
  • Best methods for calculating and communicating about returns on investments in proactive advising systems and student success driven initiatives

APLU is a research, policy and advocacy organization dedicated to strengthening and advancing the work of public universities. CSU is among APLU’s 235 member institutions, a network composed of public research universities, land-grant institutions, state university systems, and affiliated organizations.