Story by Audrey Scherer and Ashley Shickler
Photo by Hailey Tolleson
CNM set 24 strategic initiatives in 2016, and one of them was to increase CNM’s graduation rate, said Director of Connect Services, Ann Lyn Hall.
The 24 initiatives were part of CNM’s strategic planning process to figure the best ways to improve the school, she said.
CNM felt that focusing on the graduation rate would help in a broad way as the students were more able to get good jobs and the community gained a more educated workforce, she said.
Graduation rates are going up nationally and CNM wanted to make sure its did too, she said.
“Our goal was to get to 24% and we reached that fall of last year,” she said.
This spring semester it went up again to 26.1%, and CNM’s goal is to increase it and maintain it, she said.
CNM has 150% of time toward a degree from a student’s first fall semester to help them get a degree, and that’s why the cohorts are monitored for three years, she said.
The same additional time is allotted for certificate programs, in which cases CNM would have two terms to help a student get their degree, she said.
CNM has done a few things to help with the graduation rate, she said.
CNM provides early registration, assigns academic coaches to work with and check on students, and monitors that students’ classes match their majors and communicating when they don’t, she said.
CNM is working on developing online tools that will help sift through the large amounts of data in more automated ways so that coaches are not looking at each case individually, she said.
“We don’t want students to take classes that they don’t need, and we want them to get the degree as fast as they want to,” she said.
Coaches also reach out to students when they drop to see if there’s something they can do to help, she said.
CNM has also been piloting two-way texting so that students may text with questions and “we’ll answer,” she said. It also allows the school to send alerts about helpful resources.
CNM is careful about what it sends because it doesn’t want students to get too many texts, she said.
“We found that, overall, students really appreciate texting and that it’s a quick and easy way to get the information that you need,” she said.
CNM offers two scholarships connected to raising the graduation rate, she said.
The first one alerts students that they are in the eligible cohort and presents milestones that they must hit to earn the scholarship at the end of the term, she said.
The second scholarship reaches out to students who have dropped out but are close to getting their degrees, saying that CNM is willing to help them graduate, she said.
CNM has a similar scholarship for students who are not first-time or full-time called the Graduation Incentive Scholarship, she said.
“We really want the graduation rate to go up higher,” she said.
CNM tracks graduation data from its first-time full-time degree-seeking students using IPEDS, the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, which tracks data from all colleges nationwide, she said.
IPEDS graduation data is recognized on FAFSA forms that include students’ schools and corresponding graduation rates. These rates are also viewed when students research colleges, she said.
There’s a narrow definition of how data gets tracked, but it’s consistent nationally, she said.
After that first fall term, regardless of if students in a cohort change their major, drop below 12 credit hours, or drop out completely, they remain in the cohort that CNM tracks for three years, she said.
CNM is not specifically monitoring students outside of the cohorts, such as those who are part-time or returning students, although national reports are done, she said.
The interventions that are most effective will be the ones CNM works on scaling to larger groups of students, which could be from the 2000-student cohorts up to 20,000 to 30,000 students schoolwide, she said.
CNM is collecting data, but predicts that to figure out which methods are most effective compared to each other, it would require random assignment of prospective programs to students, which CNM is not doing, she said. “We don’t want to withhold really great work.”
In addition to their analyses, she said, CNM takes feedback from students about their experiences with the school and its new programs.