South Texas College: Uncovering The True GPA Tipping Point and Designing Outreach

Civitas Learning Change Management Civitas Learning Space Nudging

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I mentioned in a previous post that South Texas College used Illume Students to discover that our GPA tipping point (where the likelihood of persistence starts to switch to being more likely to persist from being less likely) is 2.4. Our processes don’t intervene until students go below a 2.0. This information was presented to Student Services leadership to design and implement a communication campaign to students between 2.0-2.4 GPA. Before sending out the nudge we met with our Dean of Enrollment Services, VP of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management and VP of Information Services, Performance Planning & Strategic Initiatives, to talk about:
  • How many students were on each list and how we’d manage student responses
  • How we could tailor messages within each list based on students’ persistence predictions
  • How we would compose the message — the tone, content and call to action
For our first campaign we reached out to 2,207 students between 2.0 and 2.4 GPA. This campaign also spurred another nudge to 5,346 students with GPAs above 3.0 that were identified as at risk for not persisting. Our assumption was those students were going to be OK, but their persistence prediction told a different story. The emails to both groups were designed to let students know that we understand their challenges and we have resources to help, and to provide specific contacts the students could call for help. Below is a summary example of those email messages. More best practices are available in a free ebook: Driving Student Success One Precise Nudge at a Time.

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Hello [STUDENT NAME] At South Texas College we understand your classes can be very challenging and extremely demanding, especially as finals week  approaches. When the stress becomes overbearing, remember that STC has the resources you need to finish strong. Including the Centers for Learning Excellence. Summer Classes are available to help you move ahead. Develop your educational goals by speaking with an academic advisor.
We also engaged in a follow-up phone call campaign to these groups of students to engage them more directly. Almost 200 students were reached by phone in this campaign. Below is an example of the script used by staff to engage students in the phone conversation:
“I wanted to call to see how your semester is going. College can be challenging this time of year and even the most successful students can struggle. Common challenges for students include job commitments, family responsibilities, financial pressures, transportation issues, or combination of these and other issues. Do any of these sound familiar? If you are experiencing any of these issues, or other things, here is a list of advisors on each campus who are available to support you.”
Our newly restructured Student Services area on our largest campus now houses all services in one place and our staff are cross-trained to be able to do more things and have more capacity to handle student inquiries. This campaign was not only a success for us in terms of our ability to reach out to students, but in our ability to leverage institutional change in order to maximize the support we provide to those students. Related Read: South Texas College – Data Signals that Change Conversations and Drive Action 

Dr. Laura Boyer Sanchez

Dr. Laura Sanchez serves as the Dean of Institutional Research, Effectiveness and Strategic Planning for South Texas College and has 20 years of experience in Higher Education. She provides leadership for the Research and Analytical Services and the Institutional Effectiveness departments, which drive the student success research agenda, Key Performance Indicators and continuous quality improvement processes for the College. Her primary areas of interest/expertise are accreditation, institutional planning, assessment, program evaluation, compliance policy analysis and reporting. In addition, she has in depth experience with higher education curriculum development and compliance, course schedule management, learning outcomes assessment, and evaluation of teaching and learning.