Press Release
June 29, 2022

Student Coaching Initiative Boosts Persistence for Underserved Students at Illinois Central College

Illinois community college reverses persistence declines by integrating coaching into the advising process; records 18% improvement in retention overall, 33% increase among African American students

EAST PEORIA, ILL. (June 23, 2022) -- Illinois Central College, a community college that serves one out of every four graduating high school seniors within its geographic footprint, today announced initial results from a four-year initiative to improve student retention and redesign its student advising and support services. In collaboration with the student success nonprofit InsideTrack, the college incorporated one-on-one coaching into its advising programs and generated an impressive 18% improvement in persistence for all students who received coaching and a 33% increase among African American students who received coaching compared to their peers.

“The impact of the pandemic has given us all a renewed sense of appreciation for the complex challenges that community college students face—from balancing work, life and academic commitments to basic needs insecurity,” said Dr. Sheila Quirk-Bailey, the president of Illinois Central College. “When we took stock of our internal advising and student support systems, we recognized a need to provide our students with additional wraparound support to help them successfully navigate the complex world of college access and completion. This work is about redesigning our advising services to help students overcome barriers, thrive academically, and achieve their personal and professional goals.”

Amid declining enrollments at colleges and universities across the United States, Illinois Central enrolled 7,813 students in fall 2020. That was a decrease of 10.7% from the previous year and continued a decade-long decline in enrollment for the college from nearly 12,300 students in fall 2011. Compounding the challenge was that, as of spring 2019, Illinois Central’s retention rate was just 58.6%. The rate was lower for part-time students (58.0%), students who needed developmental coursework (55.8%), and especially African American students—less than half of whom (43.5%) returned for another year.

To help provide stronger wraparound support for students, the college tapped into federal grant funding under Title III of the Higher Education Act to engage InsideTrack, a national student success coaching nonprofit whose methods have been shown to increase student persistence and graduation. InsideTrack coaches began working with students in January 2020 and produced striking results despite the tumult caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Originally launched in October 2019, the partnership began as a pilot program to provide coaching to improve retention among 400 students who were academically at-risk and were members of historically underserved groups and were randomly selected to receive coaching.

In spring 2021, the retention rate for InsideTrack-coached students was 60.6%, an 18% improvement compared to students who did not receive coaching. For African American students who received InsideTrack coaching, the retention rate was 58.7%, a 33% increase compared to African American students who did not receive coaching. The coaching service also generated significant improvements in persistence for full-time students (+14%), part-time students (+23%), and students enrolled in developmental education (+20%).

To extend the program’s reach beyond direct coaching, Illinois Central has also been working to grow the college’s own coaching capacity through a “train-the-trainer” methodology and integrate coaching into their advising services. Staff members are trained as student success advisors using InsideTrack's evidenced-based methodology and employ a proactive case management model in their work with students. The college found that integrating coaching into its academic advising services in this way increased student engagement, as student satisfaction with advising sessions increased from 87% to 97%.“

As a former community college student and adult learner, I saw firsthand the challenges that many of my fellow students faced as they balanced the complex demands of work, family, financial and academic commitments,” said Ruth Bauer White, president of InsideTrack. “This work is about helping community colleges build a new and more holistic model of advising that addresses the needs of the whole student to help them achieve their education and career goals.”

Illinois Central will continue the capacity-building work through September 2023, working with InsideTrack to integrate coaching into its advising services and train clusters of student success advisors who are each focused on specific programs. It will include ongoing foundational coaching training, program management and change support, a manager development program, and a certification program for the college’s coaches and trainers.As part of their work together, Illinois Central College and InsideTrack also collaborated on a case study about the partnership and its results. View the case study and learn more about the partnership.

Read the Case Study.


About Illinois Central College: Illinois Central College (ICC) first started classes on September 18, 1967, at its East Peoria, Illinois campus and serves the Community College District Number 514. This district encompasses all or part of ten counties with more than 360,000 residents. The college offers in excess of 2,100 courses each semester with more than 150 different programs of study. In 2020, over 12,000 credit bearing students attended ICC. In addition to Associate Degrees in Arts, Science, Applied Science, Engineering Science and General Education, the college offers a variety of occupational and technical degrees and certificates, which prepare students in such areas as HVAC, health care, industrial and solar technology, truck driving, and information technology. The college also partners with area schools, businesses, agencies and organizations to promote workforce development and strengthen economic growth.ICC provides a wide array of professional development and continuing education courses through its Corporate and Community Education department and a number of cultural programs through the Performing Arts Center. The college continues to embrace the ideals of life-long learning offering all of its citizens the opportunity to benefit from its services.

About InsideTrack: InsideTrack is passionate about helping all learners achieve their education and career goals through the transformative power of coaching. Since 2001, we've served 2.6 million learners, partnering with more than 250 institutions and organizations to directly improve enrollment, persistence, completion and career readiness. Our coaching methodology is evidence-based and research-confirmed, with proven outcomes for every type of learner — from traditional to adult, part-time to full-time, online to in-person — including first generation students and those who face systemic barriers to postsecondary success. We also work with partners to build internal coaching capacity through staff training and professional services — designed to sustain advances in-house for lasting, scalable impact. InsideTrack is a part of Strada Collaborative, a mission-driven nonprofit. To learn more, visit and follow us on Twitter @InsideTrack and LinkedIn @InsideTrack.

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