High-touch entry advising: Impact on conversion

April 24, 2019
  • AACRAO Annual Meeting
  • Admissions and Recruitment
  • Communication
  • Competencies
  • Holistic and Systemic Thinking
  • Meetings, Workshops, and Trainings
  • Orientation
  • Staffing and Operations
  • Student Recruitment
female and male of color high five and smile as they work over coffee

In the session “Measuring the Impact of High-Touch Entry Advising on Enrollment” at AACRAO 2019, Scott Latiolais, Cindy Mowry, and Micalah Pieper discussed how Clover Park Technical College implemented a mandatory, intrusive, entry advising model.

Prior to this effort, faculty advisors at Clover Park were responsible for entry advising as well as current advising. At the time, there was also a nine-step process to enrollment.

“It was pretty painful to students,” Latiolais said. “Students had to come to campus seven to eight times to complete the enrollment process. And students were kinda left on their own.” In addition, he said, “We didn’t have any kind of entry mandate in place prior to enrollment so we thought we needed to do something to improve that.”

“In designing the entry approach, we committed to taking a high-touch approach,” Latiolais said.

He added that around the same time, Clover Park obtained the state of Washington’s Guided Pathways Grant. Guided Pathways are principles put out by the Community College Research Center (CCRC) at Columbia University. Twelve of the 34 colleges in Washington are actively working on Guided Pathways, which outline essential practices, such as ensuring students meet with someone prior to enrolling in classes.

Clover Park’s solution included:  

  • Welcome Center: The college designed a new welcome center and hired four new entry specialists. Pre-registration, entry advising is now mandated, and there’s a student call center, campus tours, and a CRM system.

  • Intake and referral process: Prospective students are asked, through an intake tool, around 60 questions on finances, previous education, and potential needs. When students submit this data, entry specialists and every campus office receive the information. Offices responsible for services such as financial aid, childcare, disability services, food resources, housing, transportation, and veterans services are flagged and are required to respond to students within 24 hours with services that they can offer. Most offices do this in person. Questions on the intake tool are updated as needed, and data is sent to campus offices weekly. “It’s fluid; it’s not something that’s just stagnant,” Mowry said.  

  • Initial student appointment: Prospective students meet with staff about outcomes. Together, they review programs and degree/certification options, articulate entry requirements, prequalify for student aid and scholarships, learn the CPTC website, complete a career assessment, and receive a checklist and follow-up appointment.

  • Follow-up appointment: Prospective students discuss placement options, receive info on career training and general education classes, apply to the college, identify a program of study, complete an academic plan, plan their schedule for two quarters, and are referred as needed to additional resources. “Really, they are ready to go at their second appointment,” said Pieper.

The presenters noted the importance of communication and collaboration. “We talk daily Mowry said. “We have to for this type of model to work.”

“No one fully owns a process, so everyone has to collaborate,” said Latiolais.

The presenters noted other efforts that have improved their entry process. They now use other forms of information to place students in math and English (as they phase out Accuplacer), including ACT/SAT scores, CASAS post-test, college transcripts, directed self-placement, high school equivalency exam, high school transcripts, and a smarter balanced assessment.  In addition, they have worked to realign enrollment and student aid and fixed financial aid inefficiencies.

According to SENSE Survey data, student engagement has improved, the presenters said. New student conversion rates have increased from 58 percent to 73 percent.

“Obviously that has an impact on our bottom line and our overall enrollment,” Latiolais said.

In addition, career training programs are filling despite the steady economy. “Right now we’re one of the few [technical] colleges that aren’t feeling a lot of hurt; we’re performing well,” Latiolais said.

One of the next steps for Clover Park will be eliminating a remedial pathway. Instead, students this fall will register into a college level English and math class and take a support class with it. This effort will remove an assessment piece out of entry process and will instead put a mandated career exploration piece in the entry process, which intends to get students in a right-fit program from beginning.

“We’re really excited about what’s on the horizon for us," Latiolais said. “We think it’s going to ultimately benefit students."