Dec 272015

At Risk Students

How Do You Really Know if a Student is At Risk? How John Carroll University is Looking into This

At Risk Students Date Published: October 28, 2015


The US Department of Education has awarded multi-million dollar “First in the World” grants to 18 colleges and universities that are innovating to solve critical challenges with access, recruitment, retention, and student success. At AI, we have interviewed each of the recipients to learn more about the projects these institutions are pursuing, how their approaches are unique, and what other colleges and universities can learn from these new efforts.

This is the second year of the First in the World grants. You can read our interviews with the 24 institutions that received 2014 grants Lisa Cook, Academic Impressions

John Carroll University has been working to improve student success measures for low-income students: work they’ve already seen pay off among their students who receive Pell Grants. On average, there is a 5.7 percentage point gap in the graduation rates of students who receive Pell Grants and those who do not, but at JCU there is no gap at all. JCU’s Pell Grant students also boast a six-year graduation rate of 75 percent vs. the national average of 51 percent.

This fall, JCU received a $1.3 million First in the World grant to analyze additional factors that could be considered when identifying at-risk students, and to integrate support for those students with linked learning communities. We talked with Terry Mills, assistant provost for diversity and inclusion, and First in the World Project Director to learn more about linked learning communities, student thriving, and their research on at-risk factors.

Their approach is both comprehensive and deeply data-informed, and we think other institutions will want to watch their project closely.

What Really Tells You a Student is At Risk? What Tells You a Student is Thriving?

A key part of JCU’s project seeks to identify other elements that indicate a student could be at risk. These are students who may not fit the typical “at-risk” profile, including students who might appear to be doing well at first glance.

“For me the question is ‘what is an at-risk student?’ We have a general  sense of what an at-risk student might be, such as: a first-generation student, a low-income student, perhaps a student from an underrepresented background. But, also an at-risk student could be a student who has a full-time job, or an at-risk student could be a student who isn’t sufficiently connected with the campus community.”

Terry Mills, John Carroll University

Student thriving — not just persistence — is critical. “Thriving” depends on a student’s level of functioning in three key areas: academic engagement and performance, interpersonal relationships and interpersonal well-being. Mills will measure study habits, skill sets and a student’s level of connection with the campus, such as being involved with extracurricular activities or holding an on-campus part-time job to assess thriving.

They will use a variety of assessment tools, including the Thriving Quotient™ metric to measure academic, social, and psychological aspects of college experience, the EQ-I 2.0 to measure emotional intelligence and the Student Development Task and Lifestyle Inventory to answer these key questions:

  • What are the most critical indicators that a student is at risk?
  • What are the factors related to students not just being successful, but thriving?
  • What about the students who are in the “murky middle” — who may have a 3.0 GPA but who may be going under the radar in terms of academic advising and career counseling?

Helping Students Thrive: Linked Learning Communities

Read the rest of the article


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