Paul Smith’s College wins award for using student support software

PAUL SMITHS – Paul Smith’s College received a Starfish 360 award last week for using the Starfish Early Alert and Connect software program to help students.

The software is an information hub that helps instructors, advisors and support offices communicate and identify struggling students by flagging things like missed classes and failed assignments.

The first two flags generate automated emails to the student, offering assistance. Three or more flags and the student receives an email from support officers requesting a meeting. Tutoring and supplemental learning are often recommended.

“This helps drive an initiative that we started in 2009 called the Comprehensive Student Support Program,” said Virginia McAleese, Paul Smith’s Academic Success Center director. “We changed from a campus conversation about retaining students to a campus conversation about student success.”

McAleese said the impact of that focal shift is evidenced by the numbers.

Since implementing the Starfish program in spring 2010, the first-time student retention rate at the college has increased from 62 to 72 percent, keeping more than $3 million in net student revenue at the college over the past five semesters. The percentage of associate degree-seeking students graduating in two years has increased by 34 percent from the three-year average.

Although faculty are not required to participate in the program, McAleese said most do.

“Part of the reason, I think, that the faculty has been so engaged in this is we’ve made it a point to report back to them to let them know the impact of the project,” McAleese said. “The more they see that it’s working and that we’re responding to their concerns, the more likely they are to use it.”