A History of Student Services at Sinclair College
- Original legacy services
- Limited services
- Non-cohesive support
- Less complex student issues
- Specialized, dispersed silos
- Expansion of services
- Greater diversity of students
- Greater need for academic and non-academic support
- Specialized training
- One stop centers
- Centralized location
- Grouping of services
- Basic cross-training for registration
- Integrated student services
- Generation 4 is the next stage in the evolution of student services. G4 will more intentionally address the academic, financial, personal, and career needs of students. This comprehensive approach will lead to increased student success and completion.
Building on A History of Success
At Sinclair College, student success rates are climbing – a 75 percent increase (24 points) over the past ten years. In addition to success, Sinclair has increased access, currently serving 37,000 unique students annually, while offering the lowest tuition in the state of Ohio. Their impressive faculty members include 74 professors that have been recognized nationally for excellence in the last decade. Among the nation’s leaders in student success work, Sinclair is relentlessly pushing forward and currently rolling out a compelling plan to fully integrate their student services work into the G4 Integrated Student Services Initiative.
“In the past, the American higher education system watched as students made choices that caused them to fail,” said Sinclair President Steve Johnson. “This is something that our students and our nation cannot afford any longer. We have to be more prescriptive and actively help our students make better choices, and that’s what G4 does. Civitas Learning is helping us be more efficient in using our data to help students succeed. Together, we are trying to revolutionize education. There are thousands of people in just Dayton, Ohio who need us to improve our educational systems, and the problems aren’t just in Dayton…this is America’s problem.”
Sinclair is leveraging four main components in integrating and implementing G4: strategic partners, facilities, mentors and advisors, and technology.
The Partners on the plan include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, Civitas Learning, The League for Innovation in the Community College, Mathile Family Foundation, National Science Foundation, U.S. Department of Education, and the U.S. Department of Labor.
The Facilities component will create a clear starting point for students with fewer offices to visit and a clear line of sight to essential services, improving efficiencies and integration of services.
Mentors and Advisors receive comprehensive cross training with a holistic approach. The wrap-around philosophy includes a deep focus on careers and career counseling.
Technology components include LIFT – Sinclair’s data analytics initiative. Others include advising and student academic plans, SSP – Case Management Tool, Accelerate IT – competency-based education, D2L Learning Management System, and Hobson’s Radius.
The G4 initiative is designed to integrate services, bust silos and help ensure students get the information they need, when they need it, so their path through college to successful careers is clear and productive.
Changing Workflows, Processes & Engagement
Laura Mercer, Director of Research, Analytics and Reporting at Sinclair elaborated on the college’s emphasis on analytics. “It’s not a matter of just putting software in. It’s a matter of changing the workflow, the process, the way people engage with the information to directly support students.”
“Sinclair College has been involved in analytics and student success for many years,” she said. “We’ve had a data warehouse and SAS for more than 10 years. We’ve federated over a terabyte of info in the warehouse which allows us to look at complex relationships. Historical data alone is useful, but it doesn’t always give us enough information unless we link it to see patterns and relationships. There are some challenges – It’s hard to get actionable information into the hands of the people who most directly reach out to students. We have a lot of initiatives, but knowing which student is benefitting from which initiative is tricky. We don’t have a lot of time to poke around in the data and learn things that might help us improve – we anticipate solving these issues with the Civitas apps.”
“One example of analytics bringing up the common level of knowledge beyond standard cross –training will be our work with Inspire for Faculty,” said Mercer. “It will be beneficial to have experienced faculty share insights and log outreach so part-time adjunct faculty can leverage their experience to better support with the students with whom they interact.”
Moving from Generalized to Specialized Services
“Looking back at past generations of students, we’ve been providing student services for decades, but it was generalized – utilitarian and generic – not specialized,” said Vice President for Enrollment Management and Student Affairs Tony Cruz. “Over the last few decades, some services got more specialized, but simultaneously became siloed.”
Watch this video from Summit where Laura Mercer helped attendees understand how to focus the energy in student success initiatives.
Co-Location and Cross-Training
A first step toward improving student services was to co-locate the various departments into two side-by-side buildings. Now the move is more toward complete cross-training. “One of the goals of G4 is to repurpose positions to refine the way we help students. One of the biggest things is to cross train individuals so one staff member can assist with multiple aspects of a student’s life, ” said Cruz. “For example, mentors and advisors are cross-trained in financial aid so that conversation isn’t fractured for students. Advisors are offering academic advice in tandem with career counseling.”
Scaling the Work with LIFT Data Analytics
“But it’s not just about co-locating and cross-training,” said Mercer. “Many institutions are now doing that. It’s about what we’re doing with the data we collect. One of the key things data and analytics allow us to do is scale this work. Before, we’d be serving a smaller percentage with the services and resources they need. With G4 implementation, we are able to serve a larger population that we have better assessed, holistically understanding what each individual student needs. Many institutions throughout the country have co-located services; what makes G4 unique is the way we get data to front lines to best assist and intervene with students in real-time.”
Better Defining Student Pathways
“When you look at Sinclair’s work moving through G1 to G4, there’s been a vast increase in access,” said Mercer. “But as the world worked to increase access, we are seeing students with more intense needs than we did in G1. We are continuing our work within the region’s high schools to offer preparatory programs and early college programs.”
The goal is to create a better, clearer pathway into college for students, and to have them better prepared when they arrive.
Once in college, Sinclair’s career emphasis in G4 provides a clear pathway through college into meaningful jobs. “We’ve structured all of our programs into five career communities.” Expert faculty within those programs work in tandem with workforce representation to gives students knowledge and exposure to the career possibilities within each career community. The program, Connect for Completion, is part of a Title III grant from the Department of Education. All new students are assigned to an advising pathway that includes academic and career advising from the same advisor. Sinclair Talks – a series of more than 100 presentations per semester from expert faculty, staff and community members offer students insights and advice into various career choices.
Specificity in Student Segments
The work with G4’s LIFT program in data analytics will allow Sinclair to offer more student-specific outreach. Students deemed to be at-risk have historically been placed in the college’s Student Success Plan. “It wasn’t haphazard – we weren’t blindly choosing students. But it wasn’t perfect,” said Mercer. “Our data showed us that the two most important risk factors were Pell eligibility and being placed in two or more Developmental Education classes. It was a start for knowing where to focus interventions, but that cut a pretty broad swath. This students in this group are not all alike, and in addition there may be students who are Pell Eligible but not placed in Dev Ed, or vice versa, who are still at-risk and get overlooked in this formula.”
“The beauty of LIFT and our work with Civitas Learning, as well as our other data toolsets, is as we bring this data together we can use more robust, more precise analytics to identify risk,” said Mercer. “We can stratify and segment these populations. And, as we treat these populations, we can be more effective, faster. We can get much better at our interventions, in real time,“ said Mercer.