System designed to lower student drop outs to launch near midterm

UK has begun setting up a new system designed to boost retention rates by improving how faculty and staff communicate about advising students.

A new online system the university plans to launch this semester will update students’ advisers as soon as they become at risk of dropping out.

“When we see that students are at risk, instead of finding out about it later and screaming about the numbers, we can become more personal and much more appropriate,” said Randolph Hollingsworth, assistant provost for integrated academic services.

The system will work to improve UK’s Early Alert System, which is used to notify advisers if students are in danger of dropping out of school. Currently, to submit an early alert, instructors must fill out an online form. The form is then delivered to the student’s adviser, who requests a meeting with the student.

Since its launch last semester, Hollingsworth said the Early Alert System was used to file 3,000 referrals, which she hopes increases with more coordination.

The new program will be compatible with myUK and will require no training for employees when it is launched around the middle of the semester, Hollingsworth said.

UK currently has about 27,000 students. Last year, the university had a 59 percent six-year undergraduate graduation rate.

To raise the number of students who stay at UK, the president and provost announced a “War on Student Attrition” in June, a $35 million effort. Hollingsworth said she believes the new software will aid the effort by keeping students from dropping out.

“Our information shows that if we get a student right when they need it, it helps with the attrition rates,” she said.

UK bought a four-year contract with Hobsons Student Retention Solutions for the system, costing about $28,650 per year including maintenance and with an installation fee of about $24,000, according to the company.

Although UK recently learned of a $10 million state budget cut for the fiscal year ending in June, the proposal for the attrition program was approved in December and will go through as planned, Hollingsworth said.

The new program will make communication more efficient, said Sara Snyder, marketing communications director with Hobsons Student Retention Solutions.

“Before, retention efforts were pretty scattered,” Snyder said. “If a student might try to register with the bursar’s office, admissions might not know that.”

Hobsons is “just now forming,” Snyder said, and UK is one of the first large, state schools the company has had as a client. The student retention program that UK purchased is modeled after the program used at smaller schools, but Snyder said her company does not anticipate many problems.

“It’s not that UK is going in with an untested solution,” Snyder said. “You’re just one of the bigger schools.”