Don Hossler: One Million Students Coached

As part of our celebration for having coached one million students, we’re sharing stories here on the blog. Below is a message from Don Hossler, Member of the InsideTrack Advisory Board, Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies & Director of the Center for Postsecondary Research at Indiana University Bloomington.

What Works in Student Retention?

In the last 15 years I have increasingly found myself asking, how can institutional programs and policies improve student retention and success? It is worth noting that while we have accumulated nearly 50 years of research on what we know about the characteristics of students who withdraw from college, until recently little attention has been given to what we know about the efficacy of institutional efforts to improve student persistence and success. Only recently have scholars turned their attention to this important question, what do we know about the role of institutional programs and policies and their ability to enhance student success?

I first joined the board of InsideTrack in 2007 because of my interests in what works in student retention. I was attracted to InsideTrack because of its strong orientation toward evaluation and the willingness of the organization to make its data available to researchers like Eric Bettinger to determine its effectiveness. During my first few years on the Board, the organization conducted more than 100 randomized trials with experimental and control groups to determine the efficacy of their model and to look for ways to improve their services. In almost all cases, their approach to delivering high quality, personalized advising worked. After serving on the board for more than 8 years, it is clear to me, that in almost all instances, InsideTrack works!

I am continually impressed with the data and evaluation orientation of the leadership of InsideTrack. I often walk the hallways of exhibit halls at professional enrollment oriented meetings and I am struck with how little data most organizations have on the efficacy of their interventions. In the case of InsideTrack their use of behavioral and predictive analytics, along with their proprietary software and their hiring practices results in effective student interventions. Increasingly I have come to think that most colleges and universities could benefit from the technology oriented systematic intrusive advising model employed by InsideTrack.

There are several beneficiaries of the success of InsideTrack. Certainly students are the principal beneficiaries. Students who have access to InsideTrack services are more likely to persist, more likely to stay enrolled, and more likely to graduate. This makes them more likely to secure the kind of jobs they were seeking and to be able to pay back student debt they have accrued during their collegiate experience.

Institutions are also beneficiaries. In an era when student persistence, graduation, and debt rates are considered important indicators of institutional quality, improved outcomes on these measures will increase the reputation and selectivity of colleges and universities. Increased retention also results in higher levels of tuition revenue which is also of value to most colleges and universities. Reductions in student withdrawal may reduce the size of entering classes that need to be recruited in future years. Indeed there are substantive benefits to both students and institutions that have access to the services of InsideTrack.

Finally there are social benefits that are derived from InsideTrack. Improved measures of student success means that more college graduates are likely to enter the labor market and/or go on to graduate school. They are more likely to have better jobs and be more productive members of society.

Over time InsideTrack has worked hard to bring down their costs through the use of advanced train-the-trainer models and learning analytics. While it may still cost a little more than the advising/retention models of many institutions, it works. Colleges and universities spend substantial amounts of money to recruit students. It is well past time that institutions put the same intensity of resources into retaining students and enhancing their success that they invest in recruiting students. I have spent more than 35 years studying factors that affect college enrollments. The InsideTrack model is the best comprehensive advising and support model I have seen during this time period.


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