Report Identifies 10 Most Common Gaps in Student Support Strategy that Limit Student Success

Analysis of 40 institutions, serving more than 700,000 students uncovers common pitfalls for student success initiatives; nearly 60 percent of institutions report change fatigue

PORTLAND, ORE. (FEBRUARY 12, 2019) — InsideTrack, a pioneer in coaching for student success, today released an analysis of student success initiatives at more than 40 colleges and universities, over a five-year period. The analysis, which is based on focus groups with institutional leaders, faculty and staff, and more than 1,000 separate interviews identifies the ten most common barriers to student success and staff engagement.

The report offers recommendations rooted in the experiences of institutions including Old Dominion University, the University of Central Florida, and Austin Community College that have overcome internal obstacles and retooled their student support methodology to improve student outcomes. Since 2001, InsideTrack has provided success coaching to more than 2 million college students and currently serves more than 4,000 programs.

“Through listening to students and auditing our existing student support efforts, we identified the potential to develop even stronger relationships with students, moving beyond transactional support to developmental engagement,” said Virginia Fraire, Vice President of Student Affairs at Austin Community College. “It was particularly valuable to partner with an outside expert, like InsideTrack, to conduct this analysis, since it provided us an objective viewpoint, opened our eyes to new possibilities and offered us a strategic sounding board for ensuring best practices.”

At a time when only 57 percent of students complete their degree within six years, according to the National Student Clearinghouse, institutional leaders nationwide are grappling with the complexity of crafting strategies to support increasingly diverse, and highly variable student populations. Several common challenges, however, emerged across 2- and 4-year institutions, including change fatigue, which was cited as a barrier to success by more than half (58%) of all institutions included in the analysis. The study also found that taking a transactional approach to student support, diagnosed at 65% of institutions reflected in the research, is the most common challenge to improving student outcomes that institutions face.

Although student/advisor ratios present a perennial barrier to institutions, the coordination of student-facing teams from within and across departments (58%) was cited as a frequent concern, giving students an inconsistent (and often insufficient) experience of institutional support. Similarly, as the use of tech-enabled communication and advising technology grows on campus, a third of institutions showed difficulty even connecting with students, relying on face-to-face appointments instead of virtual meetings and communication.

This report is part of InsideTrack’s ongoing research efforts to provide higher education leaders with the insights they need to improve student success. The data is rooted in direct experience supporting students and student-facing teams, and offers a channel for decision-makers to learn about the practices and approaches that are working for other institutions.

“Institutional leaders are often inundated with new research and recommendations on the most effective ways to deploy student support resources. But despite best intentions of improving student success and outcomes, many initiatives fail to live up to their full potential,” said Dave Jarrat, senior vice president of strategic engagement and growth at InsideTrack. “Institutions are achieving better results by designing initiatives from the ground up with student needs in mind. This research provides a clear and practical framework for institutions hoping to unlock the full potential of their student success initiatives and ensure that all students succeed.”

Dr. Melissa Leavitt, who heads InsideTrack’s research efforts and authored the report added, “Student support touches so many aspects of institutional life that it can be tough to pinpoint the exact changes that will make the biggest impact. This research cuts through the complexity by distilling our findings from dozens of institutions into a distinct set of identifiable challenges.”

For a complete look at the research findings, the complete report, “Common Challenges, Uncommon Results: Ten Recommendations for Enhancing Student Support and Improving Staff Engagement”, can be found here.  


About InsideTrack

InsideTrack is passionate about student success. Since 2001, we have been dedicated to partnering with colleges and universities to create adaptive student success solutions that generate measurable results. These solutions combine student coaching, staff training, technology, and data analytics to increase enrollment, completion, and career readiness. Our adaptive coaching methodology is based on the latest behavioral science research and knowledge gained from working with more than 2 million students and currently serving more than 4,000 programs. In combination with our uCoach® Platform, our approach optimizes student engagement and generates valuable insights on the student experience through predictive modeling, behavioral analysis, and multichannel communication. InsideTrack is a member of the nonprofit Strada Education Network. Join us and the leading institutions, foundations, and others working to bring the transformative power of education to all individuals. Visit us at and follow us on Twitter @InsideTrack.

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