First Comes Technology in Identifying Hispanic and Latinx Students in Need: Then Comes Familia for Retention and Persistence Gains
General Description of the Project:
In previous years, Eastern Connecticut State University presented at HETS’ conferences positive statistics involving the use of technology in creating an environment on campus allowing for improved first-year retention rates, availability of academic support, and increased rates of persistence to graduation in four years, with special successes in our minority populations. This technology is squarely based in the Academic Affairs side of the University.
Most of the current minority population at Eastern is Hispanic and Latinx students (including multi-race identifications). Predictive modeling and use of advising technology increased the ability to reach out to students across campus and create positive outcomes. In the fall of 2018, Eastern achieved a FTFT retention rate of 80% for the first time ever, concurrent with a rising Hispanic and Latinx retention number. Hispanic and Latinx GPA averages for all students (except FTFT and non-matriculated students) in the spring of 2019 also demonstrate a very narrow achievement gap.
Fall 2019 Number GPA
All 4,781 3.08*
White 3,125 3.15
Hispanic 272 3.05
+Multi-race 726 3.05
Black 475 2.72
+Multi-race 562 2.75
Asian 184 3.07
+ Multi-race 227 3.05
* GPA does not include FTFT and Non-Matriculated students.
The earlier academic support technology mentioned above is only half of our story. Because Eastern is not considered a Hispanic-Serving Institution (HIS) and given that the University has not yet developed a robust on-line presence because of its on-campus, traditional liberal arts convention, the University must find new and better ways to apply the use of technology in serving our Hispanic and Latinx students. Within the Student Affairs Division, other technological advances and software monitors our students’ behavior and aids Student Affairs staff members in meeting the personal (versus academic) needs of the student body, thus also contributing to increased rates for retention and persistence to graduation. For as much time as students spend in class and working on their homework, most of their time on campus occurs outside-the-classroom, where much student development and learning also occur.
Several major technological systems have been built or purchased to contribute Student Affairs influence over student retention and persistence to graduation. These systems include eLife, Maxient (includes Student Conduct and Tell Somebody efforts), and Not Anymore. These technologies have been used to bolster efforts in the Student Affairs Division that assist staff members quickly assess student issues, address satisfaction of life on campus, and affect persistence to graduation. Additionally, reporting capabilities through Eastern’s WebFocus programs now allow Student Affairs staff the ability to quickly evaluate and address student issues with remaining holds on their student accounts, thus preventing them from registering for the following semester.
What is the real story behind the use of these technologies? While Eastern employs technology in various ways, connecting students to faculty, staff and the campus itself, the real difference in the student experience is one-on-one interactions: It is the “human” factor and the personal touch between staff and students making the real difference in student lives. Technology is the tool used for connections; people make the difference.
For Hispanic and Latinx students, the personal touch may be the real reason students are able to cope with academic and personal pressures and move forward in their journey toward a successful and timely graduation. For Hispanic and Latinx students, their campus familia, and the different personal support structure answers their needs after they leave their immediate families to attend school away from home.
Description of the Technology(ies) Used:
Four major technological systems built or purchased commercially contribute to Student Affairs’ influence over student retention and persistence to graduation. These systems include eLife, Maxient (includes Student Conduct and Tell Somebody efforts), and Not Anymore Title IX training for students. Additionally, Student Affairs implements WebFocus reports to inform actions of the Occupancy Management Group (OMG) focused on assuring students do not lose Housing and register for subsequent semesters on time.
1. “eLife,” a computer-based system specifically built for Housing and Resident Life issues, plus Student Activities monitoring, offers a central location for information shared among staff on student interactions and student engagement with campus sponsored programs. The system specifically allows staff to also identify and engage those students who may not be participating in some (or any) activities. The system is used as a tool to locate the problem, and staff intervene personally afterwards.
2. “Maxient” is a software used for managing behavioral record from Student Conduct issues and tracking students through the administrative and reconciliation process. It also allows for the integration of several campus offices including Student Conduct, Dean of Students, Counseling & Psychological Services, Health Services, and Campus Police. Easy and effective communication results in the ability to address student issues quickly.
3. Eastern’s “Tell Somebody” electronic alert system now allows faculty, staff and students to alert the Student Intervention Team (SIT) of students in distress. The program is also a part of the “Maxient” package. The team includes staff members from the Dean of Students Office, the Police Department, the Counseling & Psychological Services Center, The AccessAbility Office, Residence Life, and the Wellness Promotion Office. Once a report is made, members of the team have necessary information to take immediate steps in assisting a students who may be suffering academic issues, attendance issues, financial troubles, or other items keeping them from being successful students.
4. An online Title IX/Sexual Awareness Misconduct prevention software, “Not Anymore,” yielded a 100% compliance rate for all resident students. This software allows for many students to complete training without having to physically be present in a classroom or attend meetings for which they may not be able to get to.
5. “WebFocus” & “Occupancy Management Group” (OMG) reporting. “WebFocus” programs used on campus now allow staff to sift through troves of Banner tables, giving staff the ability to use technology to quickly reach out to and monitor specific populations on campus in order to engage those students more fully in student life on campus.
The use of technology in producing opportunities for one-on-one student interaction is just the first step in truly serving the college student. What makes the difference in use of the technologies as tools, is the people and the personal touch resulting from the use of technology! For instance, Student Activities may make announcements about events taking place on campus through Instagram and Facebook, but that service is a conduit to in-person activities. We now exist in an age whereby concerned members of the community can speak out and get help for someone they are concerned about, without having to divulge their own personal information. While power in their ability to gain information and make electronic connections with students, the technology is simply a tool for connecting people. When considering Hispanic and Latinx push factors in higher education, it is wise to remember that Hispanic youth make up no less than one-fifth of the U.S. population, yet are worse off in every measure of academic achievement at the primary, secondary and postsecondary levels (Desmond, & Turley, 2009, p. 311). Hispanic and Latinx students gain the most through social connections with family and then the support they receive in school, from other people who create the personal dynamic and caring relationships with students. Desmond and Turley (2009) propose that for all of the pull factors Hispanic and Latinx students experience, familism might be the real way students are conditioned because in the paradigm the network of relatives in many ways outshines the needs of the one. In fact, the family may be the single greatest factor in a student’s life that aids them in “overcoming negative experiences associated with minority status” (Desmond, & Turley, 2009, p. 314).
Eastern has worked hard with its Hispanic and Latinx students to create an environment whereby faculty, staff and friends are able to build a new family on campus, a new support structure of an extended network of persons available to counsel and coach students through their trials and give them supportive pats on the back during their successes. The campus community has assisted these students build special student groups attending to their needs and continues to recognize them in awards ceremonies that celebrate their academic achievements. Technology bridges the gap, but people help students cross the bridge.
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Desmond, M., & Lopez-Turley, R. N. (2009). The role of familism in explaining the Hispanic-White college application gap. Social Problems, 56(2). 331-334.
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