How three institutions are reinventing themselves through technology and revolutionizing student success in higher education
By Eileen Smith, M.Ed.,
Vice President, Marketing and Communications
Brigham Young University – Idaho, Grove City College, and Drexel University vary in scale, focus, and geography. Yet, despite their differences, these three institutions are on a singular mission—increasing student access and success through innovative technology and practices.
“An engaged student is an empowered student, and empowered students persist,” says Amy LaBaugh, Vice President of Student Life, Brigham Young University-Idaho (BYU-I).
Personal Attention on a Grand Scale
Today, BYU-I is a traditional, four-year institution with almost 50,000 students. But it wasn’t always this way. Founded in 1923, it began as a small, junior college. For the next seventy-plus years, the college’s small size was an asset, enabling it to care for students through an informed and personal approach. However, as the needs of students evolved, the college knew it needed to evolve, too.
In 2001, they made the leap from the small, junior college to the traditional, four-year institution we know today. The transition wasn’t easy. BYU-I didn’t just want to expand, they wanted to sustain their informed and personal approach. With up to 50,000 students, this was no small task. They needed an innovative solution that would personally support students throughout their higher education lifecycle and beyond. They turned to Guided Pathways to Success, an end-to-end, student-facing solution that streamlines:
- Academic preparation
- Educational strategy
- Graduation planning
- Road mapping
- Student performance
- Career and internship planning
BYU-I is able to meet students where they are and give them the tools they need to succeed. Today, they’ve more than doubled the number of students who have graduation plans. “Students who have grad plans are more likely to succeed. And, advisors are now able to have holistic conversations and spend more time with students most at risk,” said LaBaugh.
Making the Perfect Match
Unlike BYU-I, Grove City College operates on a much smaller scale. Serving just over 2,400 students, they strive to offer an outstanding faith-based, liberal arts education. However, what sets them apart is their de facto free market approach. Grounded in their independent philosophy, Grove City refuses to accept federal aid or offer discounted tuition.
While this economic approach enables them to remain virtually debt-free, it works best when coupled with an airtight, targeted recruitment and retention strategy. In other words, they must identify the right student before he or she even steps foot on campus. According to Dr. John Inman, Vice President for Enrollment Services, they’re not just looking for students that will enroll, but for students that will persist.
To find these students, they use a unique Student Success Survey. The survey looks beyond traditional metrics like standardized test scores, GPA, and academic performance. Instead, in an effort to gauge the student as a whole, it asks noncognitive, qualitative questions that measure:
- Motivation to learn
- Campus engagement
- Institutional fit
- Educational commitments
- Life goals
Unlike traditional metrics, these questions offer a qualitative portrait of the student, hypothesizing their likelihood to invest in both their academics and their school. That means Grove City can easily identify the best candidates who will succeed at their unique institution. “These efforts are paying off as we’re pleased our freshman-to-sophomore retention has risen to 94%,” said Inman.
The New Traditional Student Opportunity
Drexel University falls between BYU-I and Grove City in both size and age. Founded in 1889, Drexel boasts roughly 25,000 full-time students, 5,000 of whom are enrolled online.
One of the features that sets Drexel apart is its industry-leading Goodwin College of Professional Studies. While the school has been a pioneer in professional studies since 1950, Goodwin College wasn’t established until 2001.
In recent years, the college noticed an increase in “new traditional” students enrolling at Drexel. This growth inspired them to rethink their professional studies program and ultimately redesign it to best meet the needs of modern students.
Until two years ago, incoming students had to declare a major, which was difficult for students who weren’t sure what they wanted to do or study—a trademark of nontraditional learners. Recognizing this as an ideal entry point, Drexel created a “first year exploratory program,” enabling students to enter higher education without the pressure of declaring a major.
This is but one of many innovative practices Goodwin is using to attract lifelong learners, which also include:
- Running cooperative education programs
- Engaging new traditional learners through targeted marketing campaigns
- Creating an online campus experience for online-based students
21st Century Higher Education
Armed with innovative ideas, technologies, and solutions, these three schools are revolutionizing modern higher education. By challenging outdated, status quo methodologies, and implementing new, industry-leading programs, they’re paving the way to an amazing future for higher education.