Infusing technology to boost completion: A practical approach

By: Naydeen González-De Jesús, Ph.D., Vice President Student Affairs; Denise Liguori, Dean of Student Services at Phillip J. Ciarco Learning Center — Bergen

Community College, Hackensack Center


Dissatisfied with consistently low graduation rates, a community college in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States formed a cross section of student affairs professionals and created ‘Project Graduation’ to address the problem. Analysis of graduation related practices and procedures resulted in the identification of factors that contributed to the problem. Utilizing technology, student data was extracted at various completion parameters. Inefficient, manually, paper driven and labor intensive procedures, caused eligible graduates to get lost in the system and leave the college without conferred degrees.

Through a business process review and analysis of qualitative and quantitative data, an action plan was implemented to identify, communicate with, and graduate eligible students. Data mining initiatives produced immediate results, noticeably increasing the number of graduates. Via extensive use of technology, a systematic outreach process was created to support and propel students through critical milestones. Technology assisted the implementation of an Opt-out process, replacing the former Opt-in process that required student initiation, resulting in lost graduates. This process shift enables increased vital student contact, thus providing timely interventions that facilitate successful on-time degree completion. In examining factors such as characteristics of the millennial student and the current economy which requires an increase in an educated and skilled workforce, recommendations are provided for greater, more effective use of technology to streamline student affairs operations.