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Indiana public universities boost persistence of low-income students through success coaching

December 6, 2016

Several leading public colleges and universities recently announced positive results from a major initiative to improve success rates among first-generation, low-income and minority students through student success coaching. The 21st Century Scholars Coaching Initiative is part of Indiana's 21st Century Scholars Program, which offers income-eligible Hoosier students up to four years of paid tuition at an eligible Indiana college or university, along with support preparing for the transition to college and to their career after graduation.

Two of the institutions -- Ivy Tech and IUPUI -- reported double-digit increases in first-year persistence rates for 21st Century Scholars compared to historical averages. The three other participating institutions -- Indiana University East, Indiana University Kokomo and Indiana State University -- also reported positive results. The coaching program is operated through a partnership with InsideTrack, the nation's leading provider of student success coaching.

Nationally, only 11 percent of low-income students who are the first in their family to attend college will graduate within six years, compared to 55 percent of more-advantaged peers. Additionally, these students are four times more likely to leave after their first year. To address this gap, the Indiana Commission for Higher Education launched the 21st Century Scholarship program in 1990 and in 2014 worked with USA Funds, InsideTrack and five public institutions to add coaching to the program in order to address the nonfinancial barriers to student success.

At Ivy Tech, the nation's largest singly accredited statewide community college system, the coaching program has enabled the institution to increase first-year persistence of 21st Century Scholars from a historic average of 36.9 percent to 49 percent in two years. Over the same time period, IUPUI was able to increase first-year 21st Century Scholar persistence from a historic average of 50 percent to 60 percent.

"Succeeding in college is often more challenging for low-income students, especially those who are the first in their family to pursue higher education," said Jeff Fanter, senior vice president of student experience at Ivy Tech. "Ivy Tech is committed to expanding opportunity for all individuals, irrespective of their socio-economic background. Through scholarships and coaching, we've been able to level the playing field and effectively eliminate persistence gaps."

"Paying for college isn't the only challenge low-income students face," said Cathy Buyarski, executive director of student success initiatives at IUPUI. "The ability to balance work, family, academic and social obligations is critical, and coaching helps students develop the skills required to be self-sufficient and successful."

"By helping students develop their noncognitive abilities, innovative institutions are moving the needle -- not just in short-term persistence, but also for long-term success," said Pete Wheelan, CEO of InsideTrack. "It's exciting to see state higher-education leaders and individual campuses coming together to implement programs like this at scale."

Since 2001, InsideTrack has provided high-quality coaching to more than 1.3 million students/alumni in more than 1,600 academic programs nationwide, with a strong track record of improving outcomes and performance. Using an adaptive coaching methodology, InsideTrack coaches provide 1:1 personalized coaching for students through in-person meetings, text messages, emails, phone calls, and access to an online platform that provides college and career coaching resources.

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