“Georgia State is a perpetual laboratory of new ideas for using ‘big data’ to improve higher education and to keep disadvantaged students on track toward a degree.”
Washington Post, October 1, 2015
“Georgia State has been reimagined, amid a moral awakening and a raft of data-driven experimentation, as one of the South’s most innovative engines of social mobility.”
The New York Times, May 15,2018
“No other institution has accomplished what Georgia State has over the past decade.”
Bill Gates, October 2017
When it comes to higher education, the vision of the United States as a land of equal opportunity is far from a reality. Today, it is eight times more likely that an individual in the top quartile of Americans by annual household income will hold a college degree than an individual in the lowest quartile. Nationally, white students graduate from college at rates more than 10 points higher than Hispanic students and are more than twice as likely to graduate with a 4-year college degree when compared to black students. According to the United States Department of Education, Pell-eligible students nationally have a six-year graduation-rate of 39%, a rate that is 20 points lower than the national average.
In 2003, Georgia State University was the embodiment of these national failings. The institutional graduation rate stood at 32% and underserved populations were foundering. Graduation rates were 22% for Latinos, 29% for African Americans, and 18% for African American males. Pell students were graduating at a rates 10 percentage points lower than non-Pell students.
Today, thanks to a campus-wide commitment to student success and more than a dozen strategic programs implemented over the past several years, Georgia State’s achievement gaps are gone. The graduation rate for bachelor-degree seeking students has improved 23 points—among the largest increases in the nation over this period (Chart 1). Rates are up 35 points for Latinos (to 57%), and 29 points for African Americans (to 58%). Pell-eligible students currently represent 58% of Georgia State University’s undergraduate student population, and this year they graduated at a rate slightly higher than the rate for non-Pell students (Chart 2). In fact, over the past four years, African-American, Hispanic, first-generation and Pell-eligible students have, on average, all graduated from Georgia State at or above the rates of the student body overall—making Georgia State the only national public university to attain this goal.
Georgia State also continues to set new records for degrees conferred. The university awarded a record total of more than 7,000 undergraduate degrees over the 2017-2018 academic year. The university established new records for total bachelor’s degrees awarded (4,990), as well as bachelor’s degrees awarded to Pell-eligible (3,473), African American (2,035), Hispanic (557), and first-generation (1,375) students (Chart 3). Georgia State now awards more bachelor’s degrees annually to Hispanic, Asian, first generation, and Pell students than any other university in Georgia. According to Diverse Issues in Higher Education, for the sixth consecutive year Georgia State conferred more bachelor’s degrees to African Americans than any other non-profit college or university in the United States. Georgia State is also ranked first nationally in the number of bachelor’s degrees conferred to African Americans in a number of specific disciplines: biology, finance, foreign languages, history, marketing, psychology, and the social sciences. A year ago, Georgia State University became the first institution in U.S. history to award more than 2,000 bachelor’s degrees to African American students in a single year, a feat that was repeated in 2017-2018. Since the launch of its current Strategic Plan in 2011, bachelor’s degree conferrals are up 47% for African Americans, 46% for Pell students, and 89% for Hispanics (Chart 4). Just as importantly, students are succeeding in some of the most challenging majors at Georgia State. Over this period, the number of bachelor’s degrees awarded in STEM fields has increased by 113% overall, 116% for black students, 153% for black males, and 275% for Hispanic students (Chart 5).
In just the third year since consolidation, we are also making exceptional progress at Perimeter College, Georgia State’s associate-degree-granting unit that enrolls more than 18,000 students. While there is still a long way to go, Perimeter retention rates have increased from 58% inn 2014 to 70% in 2018 (Chart 6), while 3-year graduation rates have increased by 100%, from 7% to 14% over the same period (Chart 7). Equally encouragingly, achievement gaps at Perimeter College are quickly being closed. This past year, the graduation rate for Hispanic students (15%) was above that of the student body overall, Pell-eligible students graduated at the same rate (14%) as non-Pell students, and African America students graduated at rates (12%) only 2 percentage points behind the overall rate (Chart 7). The elimination of achievement gaps based on race, ethnicity and income level has been a distinctive and much-studied accomplishment of Georgia State’s Atlanta campus, and the rapid progress in this area at Perimeter lends credence to the view that Georgia State’s unique data-based and proactive approach to student success—an approach now being implemented at Perimeter—helps level the playing field for students from diverse backgrounds. Despite steep declines in Perimeter College overall enrollments in the years leading up to consolidation, associate degree conferrals were also up significantly with 2,014 degrees awarded in 2017-2018—an increase of 7% since consolidation (Charts 8-9). Perimeter College is now ranked 15th in the nation for the number of associate degrees awarded to African Americans annually (970).
These accomplishments have been the subject of growing levels of national attention:
Motivated by a desire to make an impact, not only in the lives of its own students but also in the lives of students nation-wide, Georgia State University has made a conscious and significant commitment of time and resources to sharing with others the lessons that we have learned. Over the past three years, Georgia State has hosted teams of administrators and faculty members from more than 200 colleges and universities seeking to learn more about our student-success programs. Visiting campuses have included almost every university in the University System of Georgia (USG), institutions from forty-seven U.S. states, as well as universities and national governing boards from the Netherlands, Great Britain, Australia, Colombia, Hong Kong, China, New Zealand, and South Africa. Major national organizations—including Achieving the Dream, the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU), the Associate of Public and Land Grant Universities (APLU), the American Council on Education (ACE), Complete College America, and the U.S. Department of Education—have also turned to Georgia State for its expertise in the area.
Georgia State University now enrolls more African American, Hispanic, Asian American, first-generation, and Pell students than any college or university in Georgia. In fact, the University set new records for the number of bachelor-degree-seeking students enrolled in every one of these categories in 2017-18. With Georgia State’s 2016 consolidation with Georgia Perimeter College, the study body has become even more remarkable. Georgia State University enrolled 63,418 unique students this past year. This included 51,549 students during the Fall 2017 semester alone, including 18,698 students pursuing associate degrees on its five Perimeter College campuses. This means that approximately one out of every six students in the entire USG this past year was enrolled at Georgia State. This number includes a record 28,900 Pell-eligible students. (As a comparison, the entire Ivy League last year enrolled 9,800 Pell students.) According to The Chronicle of Higher Education (August 2017), Georgia State now ranks first among all national universities for the percent of Pell students that it enrolls. The university enrolls more than 21,000 African Americans per semester (25% of the USG total enrollment of African American students) and 5,200 Hispanic students (21% of the USG total). Georgia State’s diversity is truly exceptional. According to U.S. News and World Report, Georgia State University is one of only two universities to rank in the Top 15 in the nation for both its racial/ethnic diversity and the percent of low-income students enrolled.
The most foundational principle guiding our student-success efforts has been a pledge to improve student outcomes through inclusion rather exclusion. In the 2011 Georgia State University Strategic Plan, we committed ourselves to improving our graduation rates significantly, but not by turning our backs on the low-income, underrepresented and first-generation students who we have traditionally served. On the contrary: we pledged to increase the number of underrepresented, first-generation and Pell students enrolled and to serve them better. We committed to achieving improved outcomes for our students not merely at Georgia State but in their lives and careers after graduation. The consolidation with Perimeter College, with its tens of thousands of students who fall into federal at-risk categories, is the latest example of this deep commitment.
The central goal that we have set for our undergraduate success efforts is highly ambitious, but the words were chosen carefully: Georgia State would “become a national model for undergraduate education by demonstrating that students from all backgrounds can achieve academic and career success at high rates.”
Our goals included a commitment to raise overall institutional graduation rates and degree conferrals by significant margins—graduation rates for bachelor-seeking students would climb 13 points and undergraduate degree completions would increase by 2,500 annually by 2021—and to close all achievement gaps between our student populations. As outlined in this update, we are not only on track to meet these goals, we already have met the latter two—years ahead of schedule. (See Section II for more the details.)
The Strategic Plan also outlined key strategies to achieve these goals. We made a commitment to overhaul our advising system, to track every student daily with the use of predictive analytics and to intervene with students who are at risk in a proactive fashion, to expand existing high-impact programs such as freshman learning communities and Keep Hope Alive, to raise more scholarship dollars, and to pilot and scale innovative new types of financial interventions. These programs and their impacts are outlined in the next section.
In 2011, Georgia State University committed to reach a graduation rate for bachelor-degree-seeking students of 52% by 2016 and 60% by 2021. We also committed to conferring 2,500 more degrees annually than we did in 2010 and to eliminating all significant achievement gaps between student populations. We now have committed to doubling the graduation rate of our new associate-degree seeking students from the 2014 baseline over the next five years.
On the surface, attaining these goals seems implausible. Georgia State’s demographic trends—characterized in recent years by huge increases in the enrollments of students from at-risk populations—typically would project a steep decline in student outcomes. Georgia State University, though, has been able to make dramatic gains towards its success targets even as the student body has become far more diverse and financially distressed.
Since the launch of Georgia State University’s 2011 Strategic Plan and the start of our participation in Complete College Georgia, our institutional graduation rate for bachelor-degree-seeking students has increased by 7 percentage points from 48% to 55% (Charts 1 and 2). It is important to note that, due to changes in jobs and economic circumstances, low-income and first-generation students’ families move more frequently than do middle- and upper-income college students. This phenomenon significantly impacts Georgia State’s institutional graduation rates. Using National Student Clearinghouse data to track Georgia State’s most recent 6-year bachelor-seeking cohort across all universities nationally, the success rates are even more encouraging. For the current year, a record 77.7% of the students who started at Georgia State six years ago have either graduated from Georgia State or some other institution or are still actively enrolled in college (Chart 11).
The news is equally positive for Perimeter College. In the short time since consolidation was announced, graduation rates for associate-degree-seeking students at Perimeter College have increased by 100%, doubling from 7% to 14%. While just a few years ago, Hispanic and Pell-eligible students were graduating from Perimeter at rates 40% to 50% lower than their counterparts, achievement gaps for both Pell-eligible and Hispanic students have now been eliminated at Perimeter (Chart 8). Despite steep enrollment declines in the years leading up to consolidation, associate degrees conferred this year reached a total of 2,014, a 7% increase from the pre-consolidation baseline.
Aided by the consolidation with Perimeter College, the record 7,004 undergraduate degrees conferred by Georgia State University during the 2017-2018 academic year represent a 2,782-degree increase (66%) over the baseline year of 2011 (Chart 3) and exceeds the Strategic Plan’s target to increase degrees awarded by 2,500 annually.
The gains have been greatest for at-risk student populations. In the 2016-2017 academic year, Georgia State University conferred record numbers of bachelor’s degrees to Pell-eligible, first generation, African American, and Hispanic students (Chart 4). Since the 2010-2011 academic year, the number of bachelor’s degrees conferred to Pell students has grown by 46%, conferrals to African American students by 47%, and degrees awarded to Hispanic students by 89% . Time to degree is down markedly—by more than half a semester per student since 2011—saving the graduating class of 2016 approximately $18 million in tuition and fees compared to their colleagues just five years earlier (Chart 10).
Georgia State’s combination of large enrollment increases of students from underserved backgrounds and significantly rising graduation rates confounds the conventional wisdom. How has Georgia State accomplished these exceptional gains?
Georgia State’s student-success strategy has been consistent and unconventional. We do not create programs targeted at students by their race, ethnicity, first-generation status, or income level. Rather, we use data to identity problems impacting large numbers of Georgia State students, and we change the institution for all students. Examples include:
Use predictive analytics and a system of more than 800 data-based alerts to track all undergraduates daily. Create a structure of trained academic advisors to monitor the alerts and respond with timely, proactive advice to students at scale.
System went fully live in August 2012. This past academic year, the system generated more than 55,000 individual meetings between advisors and students to discuss specific alerts—all aimed at getting the student back on path to graduation. Since Georgia State went live with GPS Advising three years ago, freshmen fall-to-spring retention rates have increased by 5 percentage points and graduating seniors are taking fewer excess courses in completing their degrees.
In 2016, Georgia State University consolidated with Georgia Perimeter College. EDUCAUSE, with the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust (the Helmsley Trust) and in partnership with Achieving the Dream (ATD), has awarded Georgia State University a grant to facilitate our efforts to deploy our technology solution and adapt our advising strategy in order to increase graduation rates for the 20,000 students seeking associate degrees at Perimeter. In addition to providing much needed support to students seeking associate degrees, the extension of our GPS to encompass the entirety of the new consolidated university provides us with the opportunity to better understand and support transfer pathways between two- and four- year institutions. The GPS platform launched at Perimeter in 2016-17 and the university hired an additional 30 Perimeter academic advisors in support. Early data show that GPS is equally effective in improving outcomes for associate and bachelors’ students. In each context, 90% of the upfront costs have been directed to personnel, not technology.
The numbers we are achieving via the programs are exceptionally strong.
Dr. Timothy Renick (Vice President for Enrollment Management and Student Success),
Dr. Allison Calhoun-Brown (Associate Vice President for Student Success)
Carol Cohen (Assistant Vice President of the University Advisement Center)
Use predictive analytics to identify admitted students for the fall freshman class who are academically at-risk and require that these students attend a seven-week summer session before fall classes and pursue 7 credit hours of college credit while be immersed in learning communities, near-peer mentoring, and a suite of mindset-building activities.
Program was initiated for bachelor’s students in 2012 as an alternate to deferring weaker freshman admits to the Spring semester. Students enroll in 7 credits of college-level (non-remedial) courses and have the support of all of GSU’s tutoring, advising, financial literacy, and academic skills programs at their disposal. All students are in freshmen learning committees, participate in community and campus projects, and worked with near-peer tutors—all designed to increase “mindset,” the students sense of belonging and confidence. This year’s cohort at the Atlanta campus was the second largest ever, with 332 students enrolled. The most recent cohort was retained at a rate of 94%. This compares to an 83% retention rate for reminder of the freshmen class who were, on paper, better academically prepared for college. It is important to note that these same students, when Georgia State was deferring their enrollment until the spring semester (as is the common practice nationally), were being retained at only a 50% clip. This equates to more than 100 additional freshmen being retained via the Summer Success Academy annually than was the case under the old model. We launched the first application of the program to Perimeter College, the Perimeter Academy, in the Summer of 2017. Amid the first cohort of 60 students, 92% persisted to the spring semester (compared with 70% for students overall).
Dr. Allison Calhoun-Brown (Associate Vice President for Student Success)
Dr. Eric Cuevas (Director of Student Success Programs)
Provide micro-grants to students at the fee drop each semester to help cover modest financial shortfalls impacting the students’ ability to pay tuition and fees, thus preventing students from stopping/dropping out. This past fall, more than 18,000 of Georgia State’s 25,000+ bachelor-seeking students (72%) had some level of unmet need, meaning that even after grants, loans, scholarships, family contributions and the income generated from the student working 20 hours a week, the students lack sufficient funds to attend college. Each semester, hundreds of fully qualified students are dropped from their classes for lack of payment. For as little as $300, Panther Retention Grants provide the emergency funding to allow students who want to get their degrees the opportunity to stay enrolled. Last year, more than 2,000 Georgia State students were brought back to the classroom—and kept on the path to attaining a college degree—through the program. As of spring semester 2018, 11,027 grants have been awarded to Atlanta campus and Perimeter College students since the program’s inception in 2011. Of these, 86.5% have gone on to graduate. The program has prevented literally thousands of students from dropping out of Georgia State.
Staff examine the drop lists for students with unmet need, who are on track for graduation using our academic analytics, and who have modest balances for tuition and fees. Students are offered micro-grants on the condition that they agree to certain activities, including participating in financial literacy modules and meeting with a financial counselor to map out plans to finance the rest of their education. Last academic year, 2,285 grants were awarded. This included grants awarded to Perimeter College students. The timeliness of the intervention and access to good data are the keys to success.
Dr. Timothy Renick (Vice President for Enrollment Management & Student Success)
Mr. James Blackburn (Associate Vice President for Student Financial Services)
With 58% of Georgia State students coming from Pell-eligible households (where the annual household income last year was less than $30,000), the Hope scholarship can be a mixed blessing. The $6,000+ scholarship provides access to college for thousands of Georgia State students, but for the students who do not maintain a 3.0 college GPA, the loss of Hope often means they drop out for financial reasons. In 2008, the graduation rates for students who lose the Hope scholarship were only 20%, 40-points lower than the rates for those who hold on to it. Before Keep Hope Alive, gaining the Hope Scholarship back after losing it is a statistical longshot: only about 9% of Georgia State students pull this off. Keep Hope Alive provides a $500 stipend for two semesters to students who have lost Hope as an incentive for them to follow a rigorous academic restoration plan that includes meeting with advisors, attending workshops, and participating in financial literacy training—all designed to help students improve their GPAs and to regain the scholarship. Since 2008, the program has helped to almost double the graduation rates of Georgia State students who lose the Hope scholarship.
By signing a contract to receive $500 for each of the first two semesters after losing Hope, students agree to participate in a series of programs and interventions designed to get them back on track academically and to make wise financial choices in the aftermath of losing the scholarship.
During the coming academic year, we are exploring models for the use of KHA for our associate-degree seeking students. It is critical to identify students at risk of losing Hope as early as possible, when the interventions are far more likely to change outcomes. Good tracking data are essential.
Dr. Eric Cuevas (Director of Student Success Programs)
Dr. Allison Calhoun-Brown (Associate Vice President for Student Success)
At a large public university such as Georgia State, freshmen can feel overwhelmed by the size and scope of the campus and choices that they face. This fall, Georgia State is offering 96 majors and more than 3,400 courses. Freshmen Learning Communities are now required of all non-Honors freshmen at Georgia State. They organize the freshmen class into cohorts of 25 students arranged by common academic interests, otherwise known as “meta majors” or “career pathways” (STEM, business, arts and humanities, policy, health, education and social sciences). Students in each cohort travel through their classes together, building friendships, study partners and support along the way. Block schedules—FLCs in which all courses might be between, for example, 8:30 AM and 1:30 PM three days a week— accommodate students’ work schedules and help to improve class attendance. FLC students have one-year retention rates that are 5 percentage points higher than freshmen not enrolled in FLCs. 70% of this fall’s freshmen class are in FLCs. In the first year of rolling out “career pathways” at Perimeter College, 92% of incoming freshmen were enrolled in the thematically-based block schedules. Requiring all students to choose a meta-major/career pathway puts students on a path to degree that allows for flexibility in future specialization in a particular program of study, while also ensuring the applicability of early course credits to their final majors. Implemented in conjunction with major maps and a suite of faculty-led programming that exposes students to the differences between specific academic majors during their first semester, meta-majors provide clarity and direction in what previously had been a confusing and unstructured registration process.
Upon registration, all students are required to enroll in one of seven meta-majors/career pathways: STEM, Arts, Humanities, Health, Education, Policy & Social Science, and Exploratory. Once students have selected their meta-major, they are given a choice of several block schedules, which are pre-populated course timetables including courses relevant to their first year of study. On the basis of their timetable, students are assigned to Freshman Learning Communities consisting of 25 students who are in the same meta-major and take classes according to the same block schedules of 5 – 6 courses in addition to a one-credit-hour orientation course grounded in the meta major and providing students with essential information and survival skills to help them navigate the logistical, academic, and social demands of the university. Academic departments deliver programming to students—alumni panels, departmental open houses—that help students to understand the practical differences between majors within each meta major. A new career-related portal allows students in meta majors and beyond to explore live job data including number of jobs available in the Atlanta region, starting salaries, and their connection to majors and degree programs. The portal also suggests cognate careers that students may be unaware of and shared live job data about them. It is critical to make career preparation part of the curriculum, from first semester on. Doing so also promotes voluntary students visits to Career Services, which have increased by 70% since the introduction of meta majors.
Dr. Allison Calhoun-Brown (Associate Vice President for Student Success)
Dr. Eric Cuevas (Director of Student Success Programs)
In the Fall 2015, 19% of Georgia State’s incoming freshman class were victims of “summer melt.” Having been accepted to GSU and having confirmed their plans to attend, these students never showed up for fall classes. We tracked these students using National Student Clearinghouse data and found that, one year later, 274 of these students (74% of whom were low-income) never attended a single day of college classes at any institution. We knew we needed to be far more proactive and personal with interacting with students between high-school graduation and the first day of college classes. Towards this end, we launched a new portal to track students through the fourteen steps they needed to complete during the summer (e.g., completing their FAFSA, supplying proof of immunizations, taking placement exams) to be ready for the first day of college classes. We also become one of the first universities nationally to deploy a chat-bot in support of student success. Current grants from the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation and ECMC will allow for the expansion of the chatbot to all continuing Georgia State students.
In the summer of 2016, we piloted a new student portal with partner EAB to track where incoming freshmen are in the steps they need to complete during the summer before fall classes. With the help of Admit Hub, we deployed an artificial-intelligence-enhanced texting system—a chatbot—that allowed students to text 24/7 from their smart devices any questions that they had about financial aid, registration, housing, admissions, and academic advising. We built a knowledge-base of 2,000 answers to commonly asked questions that served as the responses. We secured the services of Dr. Lindsay Page of the University of Pittsburgh as an independent evaluator of the project. From these efforts, we lowered “summer melt” by 22% in one year. This translates into 324 more students, mostly low-income and first-generation, enrolling for freshman fall who, one year earlier, were sitting out the college experience. Critical to success is building an adequate knowledge base of answers so students can rely on the system. Many students reported that they preferred the impersonal nature of the chat-bot.
Dr. Timothy Renick (Sr. Vice President for Student Success)
Mr. Scott Burke (Associate Vice President for Admissions)
Supported by a gift from the SunTrust Foundation, Georgia State opened the SunTrust Student Financial Management Center (SFMC) in late fall 2016. Predicated on the premise that more students will persist if their financial problems are identified early and proactively addressed, the center deploys predictive analytics parallel to those critical to Georgia State’s ground-breaking GPS academic advising system. In the case of SFMC, ten years of financial data were analyzed to identify early warning signs of student financial problems. We discovered that some financial decisions made before the students first set foot on campus may determine whether a student ever graduates, such as a student choosing a single dorm rather than living at home or with roommate in the summer before the freshman year. Through the SFMC, certified financial counselors now track students daily and reach out to offer support and advice when problems are identified. In the first 18 months of operation, 56,833 Georgia State students visited the SFMC.
A central objective of the SFMC is to deliver to our students the help they need before financial problems become severe enough to cause them to drop out. Building on a similar system that Georgia State has already deployed for academic advising, the initiative extends our predictive analytics to financial advisement. In the first six months of 2017, the SunTrust SFMC conducted 72,121 in-person, online and phone interactions. 62% of the interactions focused on loans, FAFSA verification, status of aid, and HOPE Scholarship questions. We found that missing or incomplete documents, FAFSA problems, and parent loans were among the leading issues faced by students. An additional 6% of interactions focused on Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) appeals. Combining information currently in Banner, our student information and records system, with experiences observed during the past year, the SunTrust SFMC has identified 16 risk triggers that are aligned with the data. A new financial alert system, created in part through our engagement with the Educational Advisory Board (EAB), is accessible by campus advisors, college academic assistance staff, and student retention staff.
This project represents new territory, not only for Georgia State but nationally. We have more than 1,000 students being dropped for non-payment each semester, and historically 50% of our students miss the deadline for completing the FAFSA.
In the first year of SunTrust SFMC operation, 56,833 unique students visited the center. Of the 13,428 student who visited the center over its initial semester, 12,326 completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), and 1,104 did not complete the FAFSA. In addition, more than 2,500 first-year students received financial literacy training through their GSU 1010 new student orientation course, primarily offered through the Freshman Learning Community program. This hour-long session provides information on maintaining financial-aid eligibility, FAFSA completion, Satisfactory Academic Progress, HOPE Scholarship eligibility, and student loan responsibilities. Students were also given information on managing credit and budgeting. These efforts had a significant positive impact on our students, as we found a more than 94% FAFSA completion rate for students re-enrolled in the spring semester compared to a general Georgia State student population FAFSA completion rate of 74%.
With 93% of Georgia State undergraduates receiving federal aid, a major challenge for the university is getting students to take the steps to address outstanding financial-aid obligations and to resolve their balances. For the Fall 2017 semester, students who visited the SFMC were 6 percentage points more likely to complete all financial-aid requirements and bring their balances down to zero than the rest of the student body. With a campus of 52,000 students, this translates into more than 3,000 students being financially able ready to start the semester than would have been true without the assistance of the SFMC. We believe these kinds of positive impacts will only increase in the coming year, as the programs and capabilities of the SFMC reach full capacity.
Dr. Timothy Renick (Sr. Vice President for Student Success)
Mr. James Blackburn (AVP for Student Financial Services)
Ms. Atia Lindley (Director of the SFMC)
Supplemental Instruction (SI) builds upon Georgia State’s extensive use of near-peer tutoring and mentoring by taking undergraduates who succeed in lower-division courses one semester and deploying them as tutors in the same courses the next semester(s). Student are paid to go through training, to sit in on the same class again so they get to know the new students, and to offer three formal instructional sessions each week.
During the past academic year, Georgia State had more than 1,000 course sections with near-peer tutors embedded in the courses. We have found that we can leverage our data to identify federal work-study and Panther Works students who have succeeded in courses with high non-pass rates and redeploy these students from their current campus jobs, thus reducing the costs of the program. We have also found that SI becomes more important with the use of early alerts to identify academic risks (as with our GPS Advising). The reason is simple: if one identifies a student struggling during week three of an Accounting course (to use one example), there needs to be support specific to that Accounting course. SI provides it. Finally, we have found that SI creates a natural and strong mentoring relationship between the faculty members teaching the course and the SI instructors (who faculty often nominate to the position), thus improving graduation rates for the tutors.
Dr. Allison Calhoun-Brown (AVP for Student Success)
Mr. Eric Cuevas (Director of Student Success)
Deliver introductory courses in mathematics using a pedagogy that requires students actively to do math rather than merely to hear an instructor talk about math. Leveraging adaptive technologies, students receive dozens of bits of immediate, personalized feedback every hour that they are in class, and they spend class times with instructors and classmates in a math lab environment.
Georgia State has adopted and scaled a model for introductory math instruction on the Atlanta campus in which students meet for one hour per week in a traditional classroom and three hours per week in a math lab with classmates and instructors. In the lab, dubbed the MILE (Mathematics Interactive Learning Environment) students sit at their own computer terminals and learn the subject matter at their own pace. As they answer questions, students receive personalized feedback from the adaptive program that allows slower students time to build up foundational competencies and more advanced students to be challenged—all at the same time. Results show improvement in GPA and pass rates for all demographics, but the largest gains are for students from underserved backgrounds. Students taking adaptive classes not only pass math courses at significantly higher rates, they perform at higher levels in next-level courses reliant on math skills. We are working on a pilot with Stanford University to test open-source adaptive math courseware, as well as a project funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to expand adaptive pedagogies to first-year courses in the social sciences (Psychology, Economics, and Political Science).
Before the launch of the model, 43% of all Georgia State bachelor’s students attempting introductory math courses were receiving non-passing grades. These numbers are often in excess of 60% at Perimeter College, where the adaptive model is set to be piloted.
Last year, all 8,500 seats of Introduction to Statistics, College Algebra and Pre Calculus offered at the Atlanta campus were taught using adaptive, hybrid pedagogies. Since the launch of the program, non-pass rates for these courses have been reduced by 35%. We deployed random control trials in initial semesters, having students in the lecture and hybrid sections of a given math courses come together to take the same mid-term and final, thus verifying the effectiveness of the new approach.
1,300 more bachelor’s students annually are passing math courses in their first attempt than was the case before the launch of the initiative. STEM completion rates at Georgia State have more than doubled over the last six years, with the greatest gains being seen by underserved populations (Chart 5).
Dr. Guantao Gu (Chair of Mathematics)
Dr. Tim Renick (VP for Student Success)
10. College to Career
Integrate career preparation and awareness throughout the college curriculum and experience, starting with the first semester. Onboard students through learning communities structured around career pathways/meta majors, with competencies documented by students in real time by providing all students with career-based e-portfolios.
Georgia State’s new Quality Enhancement Plan, College to Career, is a campus-wide effort to get students to recognize the career competencies that they are acquiring through their curricular and co-curricular activities; to document these competencies in a robust fashion thorough archiving textual, video and audio evidence in faculty- and peer-reviewed e-portfolios; and to articulate the competencies through resumes, cover letters, and oral discourse. All students are now provided with e-portfolios upon matriculation at Georgia State. Faculty and departmental grants are awarded to encourage instructors to integrate assignments highlighting career competencies into both lower-level and capstone courses. New technologies have been implemented to share real-time job data for metro Atlanta with students, starting before they arrive on campus. All undergraduates are now onboarded on career-pathway-based learning communities in their first semester. In 2018, Georgia State became the first university nationally to partner with Road Trip Nation to create a searchable video archive of the careers of Georgia State alumni.
In 2015, the average Georgia State undergraduate was first visiting University Career Services in their final semester before graduation.
Last year, Georgia State students posted more than 700,000 artifacts (evidence of their career competencies) to their e-portfolios. All students complete a first resume as part of their first-semester orientation courses. Visits by first- and second-year students to University Career Services have increased by more than 100% since 2015.
The Brookings Institution 2017 Rankings of Social Mobility ranked Georgia State first in Georgia and 25th in the nation for social mobility (defined as moving students from the bottom quintile of Americans by annual household income at matriculation to the top half of Americans by annual household income fifteen year later).
Ms. Catherine Neiner (Director of University Career Services)
Dr. Tim Renick (Sr. Vice President for Student Success)
The high-impact practices (HIPS) outlined in the previous section are strong evidence of Georgia State’s deep commitment to the principles of the Momentum Year, a program to ensure that newly enrolled students meet a series of metric-based milestones that have been shown to correlate to college completion. These HIPS are already having a positive impact on key Momentum-Year indicators.
Georgia State University is testimony to the fact that students from all backgrounds can succeed at high rates. Moreover, our efforts over the past few years show that dramatic gains are indeed possible not through changing the nature of the students served but through changing the nature of the institution that serves them. How has Georgia State University made the gains outlined above? How do we propose to reach our ambitious future targets? In one sense, the answer is simple. We employ a consistent, evidenced-based strategy. Our general approach can be summarized as follows:
Our work to promote student success at Georgia State has steadily increased graduation rates among our traditionally high-risk student populations, but it has also served to foster a culture of student success among faculty, staff, and administration. As the story of Georgia State University demonstrates, institutional transformation in the service of student success does not come about from a single program but grows from a series of changes that undergo continual evaluation and refinement. It also shows how a series of initially small initiatives, when scaled over time, can significantly transform an institution’s culture. Student-success planning must be flexible since the removal of each impediment to student progress reveals a new challenge that was previously invisible. When retention rates improved and thousands of additional students began progressing through their academic programs, for instance, we faced a growing problem of students running out of financial aid just short of the finish line, promoting the creation of the Panther Retention Grant program. It also led to a new analytics-based initiative to better predict and address student demand in upper-level courses. For a timeline of where we have been and where we are going next, please see Chart 12.
Georgia State still has much work to do, but our progress in recent years demonstrates that significant improvements in student success outcomes can come through embracing inclusion rather than exclusion, and that such gains can be made even amid a context of constrained resources. It shows that, even at very large public universities, we can provide students with personalized supports that have transformative impacts. Perhaps most importantly, the example of Georgia State shows that, despite the conventional wisdom, demographics are not destiny and achievement gaps are not inevitable. Low-income and underrepresented students can succeed at the same levels as their peers.
 The Pell Institute (2015) Indicators of Higher Education Equity in the United States: 45 Year Trend Report (2015 Revised Edition). Retrieved from http://www.pellinstitute.org/downloads/publications-Indicators_of_Higher_Education_Equity_in_the_US_45_Year_Trend_Report.pdf
 U.S. Department of Education. Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics (2014) Table 326.10: Graduation rate from first institution attended for first-time, full-time bachelor's degree- seeking students at 4-year postsecondary institutions, by race/ethnicity, time to completion, sex, control of institution, and acceptance rate: Selected cohort entry years, 1996 through 2007. Retrieved from https://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d14/tables/dt14_326.10.asp.
 Horwich, Lloyd (25 November 2015) Report on the Federal Pell Grant Program. Retrieved from http://www.nasfaa.org/uploads/documents/Pell0212.pdf.
 U.S. Department of Education. Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics (2014) Table 326.10.
 All charts can be found in the Appendix.
 Diverse Issues in Higher Education, August 2018. http://diverseeducation.com/top100/pages/BachelorsDegreeProducers2017.ph... State University&dtstate=&dtpage=0
 Diverse Issues in Higher Education, August 2018. diverseeducation.com/top100/pages/AssociatesDegreeProducers2017.php?dtsearch=&dtrace=&dtmajor=&dtschool=Georgia State University\-Perimeter College&dtsta te=&dtpage=0
 President Barack Obama (4 December 2014) Remarks by the President at College Opportunity Summit. Retrieved from https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/12/04/remarks-president-college-opportunity-summit.
 U.S. News & World Report (n.d.) Campus Ethnic Diversity: National Universities. Retrieved from http://colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-colleges/rankings/national-universities/campus-ethnic-diversity.
 U.S. News & World Report (n.d.) Economic Diversity: National Universities. Retrieved http://colleges.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-colleges/rankings/national-universities/economic-diversity.
 Georgia State University (2012). Strategic Plan 2011-2016/21. Retrieved from http://strategic.gsu.edu/files/2012/09/GSU_Strategic_Plan_2016-2.pdf
 Georgia State University (2012) College Completion Plan 2012: A University-wide Plan for Student Success (The Implementation of Goal 1 of the GSU Strategic Plan). Retrieved from http://enrollment.gsu.edu/wp-content/blogs.dir/57/files/2013/09/GSU_College_Completion_Plan_09-06-12.pdf
 Actual percent increases were much higher in these two categories, but we have controlled for the effects of the University implementing more rigorous processes encouraging students to self-report their race and ethnicity.