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May 9, 2024

Illinois Central College transformed their student support — and now they’re re-enrolling hundreds of learners

A 10.7% re-enrollment rate is just part of the story

Thanks to honest feedback on student surveys, Illinois Central College (ICC) knew they needed to make an institution-wide shift when it came to student support. Ready to enact real change, the college created a long-term plan, secured Title III federal grant funding, and partnered with InsideTrack to holistically redesign their advising practices, placing coaching at the center of their model.

The first phase, kicking off just as the pandemic hit, was providing retention coaching for 400 ICC students to help them set goals and stay on track to graduation. After the first year, ICC saw an 18% gain in retention among students who received coaching, versus their non-coached peers. What’s more, the retention rates for part-time students and African-American students increased by 23% and 33%, respectively.

Coaching development and training was the focus for the second, multi-year phase of the partnership. Student-facing ICC staff received training on InsideTrack’s research-proven methodology, giving them the necessary tools to expand their capabilities, improve student outcomes and ultimately redesign their academic advising services. A student satisfaction survey taken one year into the redesign showed a 95% overall satisfaction with ICC advising — 14.7% points higher than before the academic advising redesign. It was a strong start, but there was even more work to be done.

Round one: Adding re-enrollment to the mix 

Working closely with InsideTrack, ICC continued to elevate their student support, integrating coaching methodology into all student-facing support services. This helped increase the consistency and quality of service across all advisors. At the same time, this enabled advisors to decrease dependence on face-to-face, on-campus appointments, instead leveraging technology — phone, email, text, video — to connect with students in ways that work for them.

In 2021, while they were undergoing coaching development and training, ICC was also looking for a way to bring stopped-out students back to school. Between regular attrition and the pandemic, a sizable number of students had stopped out before completing their program. Knowing firsthand how well student success coaching had previously worked, ICC reached out to InsideTrack to add re-enrollment coaching to the mix.

The ultimate goal was to get ICC’s academic success advisors to the point where they could handle the re-enrollment coaching themselves. But first they wanted to see re-enrollment coaching in action. So ICC provided the data and InsideTrack provided the re-enrollment coaching, which also included retention coaching for students who returned. This was a unique campaign in terms of its timing — kicking off in the fall, with the goal of re-enrolling students for the spring term. 

Funding for this initiative came from Title III funds and GEER II grants. The project launched in November 2021 and ran through April 2022. Coaches reached out to 3,186 students, and of those, 177 returned to school for the spring term — a re-enrollment rate of 5.6%. 

Round two: Going all in on re-enrollment, side-by-side 

Because the ICC advising team intended to take over re-enrollment coaching at the end of 2022, the school worked with InsideTrack and devised a plan to coach in parallel. Along with the ongoing capacity building work, InsideTrack provided ICC’s student success advisors with specialized re-enrollment training focusing on techniques and strategies — re-enrollment-specific tools they could incorporate into their already robust coaching methodology toolkits. Using InsideTrack communication plans as a starting point, the ICC team also built their own comms plan for this initiative.

When it was time to launch part two of the re-enrollment coaching, InsideTrack coached roughly half of the students (590) and ICC student success advisors coached the other half (696). The campaign ran from June through November of 2022, funded by internal budget monies. 

When the numbers were compiled, the results were impressive. Of the 590 students InsideTrack offered coaching to, 95 of them re-enrolled for the following term — a re-enrollment rate of 16.3%. The ICC student success advisors had great results too, successfully re-enrolling 109 of the 696 students who were offered coaching — for a re-enrollment rate of 15.7%. 

Round three: Completing the circle 

In early 2023, ICC was eager to implement another round of re-enrollment coaching and wanted to work with InsideTrack once more before their team eventually took over the full re-enrollment efforts. Beginning in July, a small team of InsideTrack re-enrollment coaches began reaching out to stopped-out students. By the time the calendar hit November, Coach Kaye remained as the sole InsideTrack coach. 

Her role was to reach out to people who had either never responded to initial coaching outreach, or who had said they wanted to come back in the spring but weren’t sure how to go about it. “Re-enrollment coaching is about building a bridge for learners to return to college,” she says. Coach Kaye appreciated how ICC took on waves of changes during this multi-year process, but through it all, they were always clearly focused on student support. “Their attitude was all about making coming back to school as easy as possible.” As an example, she remembers the process for helping students with financial aid issues as “smooth and seamless.” If a student expressed having challenges with financial aid, Kaye was able to contact a liaison in ICC’s financial aid department, explain the situation, and that person would then contact the student directly. 

“It was wonderful to be able to make a warm transfer and seamlessly hand-off the learners I worked with to an ICC student success advisor who has been trained in our methodology, ready to help those students take the next step toward re-enrolling.”

“It was wonderful to be able to make a warm transfer and seamlessly hand-off the learners I worked with to an ICC student success advisor who has been trained in our methodology, ready to help those students take the next step toward re-enrolling.” – Coach Kaye

In terms of results for this final round of re-enrollment coaching, 123 out of 1145 students who received coaching re-enrolled for the Fall 2023 term — for a re-enrollment rate of 10.7%. 

In addition, 154 out of 1293 coached students enrolled in Spring 2024, an 11.9% enrollment rate. This number includes both students who re-enrolled for the Fall 2023 term and continued on into the Spring 2024 term, as well as those who did not re-enroll in Fall 2023 but instead re-enrolled in Spring 2024.

What made these re-enrollment campaigns so successful? Hear from an ICC leader

Amy Daxenbichler, Dean of Students at Illinois Central College, plays a pivotal role on campus — and with the InsideTrack re-enrollment coaching efforts. “I oversee advising, counseling, student life, diversity, testing and transfers — roughly half of the ICC staff. In that role, you wear a lot of hats.” According to Amy, here are three ways that helped pave the path to success for ICC.

1. Double down on the data

It’s an old adage that the stronger the list, the better the outcome. When providing InsideTrack with an outreach list, ICC was really smart about their data. They picked near-term stop-outs, looking at students who had left school the previous fall or spring term. They also did their due diligence to check student clearinghouse data to identify students who have graduated or transferred schools, removing those names from their lists. By providing a well-researched list of students to reach out to, coaches were able to connect with more students who were open to considering a return to college.

2. Commit to a campus-wide change

Revamping the very way a college addresses student support is a massive undertaking and requires a long-term commitment. Leadership and staff have to be on the same page. Budgets need to be in place. And goals and objectives must be clearly defined and agreed to. In the case of Illinois Central College, they were on board and excited to make a change — one that would not only benefit their learners, both today and well into the future, but the institution itself.  

Amy refers to the institutional change as a “mindset shift,” and notes that after going through coaching development and training for three years, ICC not only has a full roster of student success advisors who are well-versed in InsideTrack coaching methodology, but they also have InsideTrack-trained trainers and observers, giving them the ability to continually build capacity to support their students. “Now students know that there’s a single person on campus they can reach out to for support, something that greatly improves belonging,” she says. Amy adds that “student satisfaction rates have gone up significantly.”

After the first round of direct coaching and the start of the coaching and development training, ICC did an ROI analysis and determined that it was well worth it to add re-enrollment coaching — and it paid off exponentially with additional students and tuition money. 

When asked to cite a specific success story, Amy notes that the institution implemented an easy-to-follow escalation system. Sometimes situations crop up where an InsideTrack coach will have to loop in someone from the school to help with a specific student challenge or barrier. With the escalation system in place, the coach can quickly contact the right person at ICC and that person will quickly respond to the student and assist with their issue. “If a student has a barrier with something in advising, the coach escalates it to the head of advising and they will reach out to the student directly.”

3. Provide a consistency of care

Having a consistent core team of administrators throughout the partnership was also key to its success. From the Dean of Students, Dean of Enrollment and the VP of Student Success to the advising and data integration teams, maintaining this consistency added institutional value to the program at every touchpoint. The VP of Student Success and the President were both instrumental in decision making — ever mindful of what’s best for students and staff. 

As Amy explains it, all advisors and directors have gone through Foundational Coach Training with InsideTrack. “Any staff members who have student-facing interactions have been fully trained on InsideTrack’s coaching methodology. This creates a consistent framework, and it gives student success advisors the tools and skills they need to effectively handle communications with students.”

“Any staff members who have student-facing interactions have been fully trained on InsideTrack’s coaching methodology. This creates a consistent framework, and it gives student success advisors the tools and skills they need to effectively handle communications with students.” – Amy Daxenbichler, Dean of Students, Illinois Central College

Over the course of the four-year partnership, Amy says the whole team has prioritized coaching. “InsideTrack has given us the foundation of what coaching is and what it looks like. Having this structure and direction is critical. It gives student success advisors comfort and confidence in what they do. And by understanding and embracing the structure, they don’t have to second-guess how things work.” 

Reaping the rewards of a trusted, transparent and collaborative partnership

When asked what she would say to another college or university thinking about partnering with InsideTrack, her response is immediate. “Investing in the front end reaps many rewards in the back end. It’s important to consider what you will get from that investment for the long term. If you invest in your people, you’ll be able to retain them. If you provide students with a consistent framework, you’ll increase retention. Year over year, you see things have improved, things are better. And when you’re working with InsideTrack, all around you feel truly supported. I would say go for it! Partnering with InsideTrack has been the most collaborative relationship with an external partner that I’ve seen.”

Each year, InsideTrack partners with colleges and universities like ICC across the country to help bring stopped out students back to school to complete their goals. In 2023 alone, success coaches were able to connect with more than 6,800 former students, ultimately helping 1,850 register for courses and start their completion journey. This is an overall re-enrollment rate of 7% — four times higher than the national re-enrollment rate, as calculated by the National Student Clearinghouse.

* Coach name has been changed

Learn more about InsideTrack and Illinois Central College’s expansive partnership — starting with an 18% retention gain during the height of the pandemic.

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