Joe Cuseo

Marymount College

One way in which colleges can improve both the academic performance and retention of first-year students is by increasing their utilization of campus support services, because research clearly suggests that there is a positive relationship between utilization of campus-support services and persistence to program or degree completion (Churchill & Iwai, 1981; Pascarella & Terenzini, 1991). In particular, students who seek and receive academic support have been found to improve both their academic performance and their academic self-efficacy—that is, they develop a greater sense of self-perceived control of academic outcomes, and develop higher self-expectations for future academic success (Smith, Walter, & Hoey, 1992). Higher levels of self-efficacy, in turn, have been found to correlate positively with college students’ academic performance and persistence; this is true for Hispanic students in particular (Solberg, O’Brien, Villareal, & Davis, 1993) and underprepared students in general (Lent, Brown, & Larkin, 1987).

Unfortunately, it has also been found that college students under-utilize academic support services (Friedlander, 1980; Walter & Smith, 1990), especially those students who are in most need of support (Knapp & Karabenick, 1988; Abrams & Jernigan, 1984). At-risk students, in particular, have trouble recognizing that they are experiencing academic difficulty and are often reluctant to seek help even if they do recognize their difficulty (Levin & Levin, 1991). These findings are especially disturbing when viewed in light of meta-analysis research, which reveals that academic-support programs designed for underprepared students exert a statistically significant effect on their retention and grades when they are utilized, especially if these services are utilized by students during their freshman year (Kulik, Kulik, & Shwalb, 1983).

Taken together, the foregoing set of findings strongly suggests that institutions should deliver academic support intrusively—by initiating contact with students and aggressively bringing support services to them, rather than offering services passively and hoping that students will come and take advantage of them on their own accord. Academic advisors are in the ideal position to “intrusively” connect students with academic support professionals, who can provide students with timely assistance before their academic performance and persistence are adversely affected by ineffective learning strategies.

Read the article in its entirety “Academic Advisement and Student Retention”


Performance-Based Funding and College Affordability Discussions in Indianapolis, Indiana, on Jan. 20, 2011

Indiana Chamber of Commerce

115 West Washington Street, Suite 850S

Indianapolis, Indiana 46204
11:30 am – 01:00 pm

On January 20, 2011 in collaboration with the National Conference of State Legislatures, the Indiana Chamber of Commerce and the Indiana Commission for Higher Education, members of the state House and Senate education committees were given an overview of the College Completion Agenda State Policy Guide.  Discussions focused on Indiana’s performance-based funding model and financial aid recommendations, including proposed changes to the 21st Century Scholars program, to help increase college completion rates in the state.

Speakers included

  • Teresa Lubbers, Commissioner for Higher Education
  • Claudia Braman, Executive Director of State Student Assistance Commission of Indiana
  • Patricia Renner, Director, State and Legislative Outreach, The College Board

Collaborating Organizations

National Conference of State Legislatures

Indiana Highlights

The Indiana 21st Century Scholars Program provides academic and college-preparation assistance through high school to low-income middle school students who sign a pledge to complete high school and avoid illegal activities. If a student graduates from high school with a “Core 40” (rigorous curriculum) diploma and at least a 2.0 grade point average, and has stayed out of trouble, he or she is guaranteed four years of financial aid covering all tuition and fees at an in-state public college or university or an equivalent amount at an in-state private institution.

Indiana first implemented incentive funding in 2003, rewarding research universities that receive federal grants. In 2007, Indiana expanded performance funding to provide incentives for institutions to increase degree completion and improve on-time graduation rates and transfer rates. These incentives were provided on top of the base funding that institutions receive, which is tied to enrollment. In 2009, Indiana approved a new formula that begins a shift in the way base funding is allocated. Starting in 2010, 10% of the base funding will be allocated according to credit hours completed, and 90% according to credit hours enrolled. By 2014, all base funds will be tied to credit hours completed. In addition, the 2009 legislation created new performance measures to reward degree completion by low-income students and to provide funding for noncredit workforce training courses.

Educating Urban At-Risk College Students on Aspects of Life Skills and Personal Management While Enrolled at Borough of Manhattan Community College

Dr. Rochelle Holland, Assistant Professor
Borough of Manhattan Community College

This research report was written on the premise of devising an intervention module for wellness among at-risk community college students, which can enhance retention within the group. Barriers to retention cannot solely be eradicated by didactic remedial services of a core curriculum; there must be a dichotomy of intervention, which includes building academic competency as well as intervention strategies for enhancing social functioning with an emphasis on life-skills that incorporates the family-life cycle. This report was structured into three sections, entitled the breadth, depth, and application. The breadth discusses how community colleges have historically been on the forefront for educational opportunity for many urban dwellers and how these institutions have awarded degrees to numerous individuals. The depth is a review of some contemporary research that indicates that students have reported that family-life was an impeding factor for retention. Currently, there is a need for social intervention strategies to be devised and implemented among at-risk students who attend these institutions. The application explores a proposed intervention module that can be implemented to assist with restoring wellness among at-risk community college students with an emphasis on family-life, which can enhance retention. This wellness module was devised from a family systems theory perspective, which states that if one family member is experiencing a problem, then all family members are affected by that problem, and the problem is deemed as a family-problem. This intervention module can build resilience among many community college students who have barriers to retention, on the basis of having multi-tasking roles from family-life, employment, and academia. Students will be taught coping skills for multi-tasking as well as how to utilize resources. Last, based on current literature in higher education, counselors and educators will need to devise more intervention strategies for effective communication skills and understanding behavior dynamics among students within a multicultural global community.

Read the article in its entirety

Advising at-risk students in college and university settings

by Dana L. Heisserer, Phil Parette

The importance of intrusive advising at-risk college and university students (i.e., students who: are ethnic minorities, are academically disadvantaged, have disabilities, are of low socioeconomic status, and are probationary students) has been repeatedly emphasized in the professional literature. Intrusive advising strategies are typically used with at-risk students, and are special techniques based on prescriptive, developmental, and integrated advising models. Numerous benefits to using intrusive advising are noted, along with examples of strategies used with five at-risk groups. Recommendations for college and university advisors include the need for a comprehensive plan that addresses intrusive advising, adequate faculty and advisor training, web supports for targeted students, development of comprehensive databases for managing student data, and ongoing research to evaluate intervention effectiveness.

Read the article in its entirety

College 101: Introducing At-Risk Students to Higher Education

By Paul Hernandez

Before graduate school, before my undergraduate degree, before community college, all throughout K-12, I was an “at-risk” student—at risk of dropping out of school. Administrators and teachers often spoke of me as a thing rather than a person. They struggled to connect with me and my homeboys or to help us see a world beyond the Los Angeles ghettos we called home. Rather than trying alternative methods to connect with students like us, our schools funneled most resources toward college-track students. They went on visits to universities, museums, and corporate headquarters, while we were sentenced to meaningless repetitive tasks. Eventually, I dropped out.

But during those early years, I took note of the things that seemed unjust and now I direct my academic work toward engaging students like us and providing them with the opportunities and experiences that support educational success. What would have helped us? What if funding had been directed toward at-risk students?  How would we have benefitted by a customized trip to a university?  Would this have inspired, enlightened, and empowered me to continue with high school? Through my collaborative work with other educators of at-risk students, I am just now seeing the answers to these questions.

Read the article in its entirety at

Paul Hernandez is an assistant professor at Central Michigan University whose research focuses on sociology of education and social inequality. Dr. Hernandez works with schools to implement a unique pedagogical approach of his own design, which helps teachers and administrators improve passing rates and build meaningful relationships with students at risk of dropping out. He encourages schools around the country to correspond with him at regarding any questions about College 101 or his alternative pedagogy.

Inside Higher Education: “Performance Anxiety” by Kevin Kiley

The higher education equivalent of the proverb “A journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step,” might look something like this: To increase the proportion of Americans with degrees and credentials to 60 percent by 2025, you have to start by turning freshmen into sophomores.

Indiana’s Commission on Higher Education lent credence to that idea last week when it adopted the newest iteration of its performance-funding formula. In addition to rewarding overall degree completion as previous versions had, the new formula will reward colleges and universities for shepherding students to certain credit-level thresholds: 15, 30, and 45 credit hours at two-year institutions, and 30 and 60 credit hours at four-year, non-research institutions.

As numerous states look to adopt or refine performance-funding systems in the wake of budget cuts and a push to increase college completion rates, Indiana’s new metrics could indicate a shift in such policies, where states reward not just certificate and degree attainment, but particular steps on the road to those outcomes.

Kathleen Gabriel Workshop Scheduled for Jan. 5 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

On Thursday, January 5, 2012, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. VU will host a workshop for faculty professional development in the Green Activities Center on the Vincennes Campus.  

All faculty are strongly encouraged to attend Dr. Kathleen Gabriel’s presentation of her workshop on teaching unprepared students.  The interactive workshop will cover classroom engagement, assessment, and advising techniques that help students persist and graduate.

The following is an excerpt from Scott Jaschik’s interview with K. Gabriel in Inside Higher Ed:

Q: Many fear that too much emphasis on the poorly prepared will detract from the experience of those who are prepared. How would you respond?

A: The teaching strategies presented in my book are ones that support the Seven Principles of Good Practice in Undergraduate Education, by Chickering and Gamson, which are positive and beneficial for all students whether they are highly prepared for college or unprepared. In addition, several research studies have found that when we engage all students in “educationally purposeful activities” then all students can benefit. In one study, “Connecting the Dots,” by Kuh et. al. (2005), they report that the traditionally underserved students made greater gains but did not do so at the expense of other more prepared students. Using learner-centered teaching practices and other techniques that I discuss in my book does not required faculty to lower their expectations or do anything that would detract from more prepared students.