College News

UW System signs new software deal to support underrepresented students, lower opportunity gaps

A recent deal with the Education Advisory Board and the UW System will utilize new advising software to target help towards low retention and graduation rates across UW campuses. 

Image By: Madeline Heim

The UW System Board of Regents have signed a five-year deal with the Education Advisory Board to improve retention and graduation rates Tuesday. 

The company’s student-centered advising software, called Navigate Student Success Collaborative, is part of the System-wide priorities for the educational pipeline of Wisconsin. “360 Advising” is one priority that seeks to increase student capacity and retention, as well as decrease graduation time and opportunity gaps.

The new deal will bring the student-centered service to all UW campuses. However, the EAB’s software has already been in use at UW-Platteville, Milwaukee, Oshkosh and Eau Claire. 

UW-Platteville’s Director of Retention and Academic Support Karen McLeer, who has experience with EAB’s software, has noticed its impact on the students she oversees.

“If access to more timely information means that an advisor or academic coach can reach out proactively to a student who is beginning to face academic obstacles,” McLeer stated, “But before that student finds [themself] on academic probation or facing dismissal, then that early support really makes a positive difference for that student's experience.”

Primarily the advising is aimed at closing the gap between “high-risk” students, who are less likely to return for a second year or to graduate on time, and their peers. 

McLeer stated that often the best solutions to closing opportunity gaps are those that support students individually — a strength of EAB’s software.

“Each individual student success is important,” McLeer wrote in an email, “If we add them up, then we will make strides toward our goals.”

Although the UW-System has seen record numbers of graduates, race and income-based gaps remain.

Even in areas where the gap has lessened, it is still sizable as less than 75 percent of African-American and American-Indian students returned for a second year in the UW System in 2016. 

UW System President Ray Cross stressed that on both moral and economic grounds that it is imperative to close these gaps, in a recent press release.

In the same release, Cross commented on the software’s effects on these gaps, hoping that it would “assist our efforts to ensure every student remains focused on their educational journey.”

On some campuses it appears to have accomplished just that. At UW-Milwaukee, the software is responsible for the increase in retention of first-year students from 68 to 74 percent, as credited by university officials. 

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