Established in 1966, Kalamazoo Valley Community College (KVCC) is a two-year community college located in Kalamazoo, Michigan. KVCC has approximately 12,000 students enrolled throughout each academic year.
In the fall of 2018, KVCC began exploring ways to not only find and bring back stopout students but also provide them with the resources and support to graduate. This became a priority for KVCC after their internal research team discovered that 24.4% or 39,276 Kalamazoo County residents have some college, but no degree. Evan Pauken, Director of Retention and Completion, and his team saw it as part of their mission to serve the population of students with some college, no degree, and assist students who had stopped out.
Partnership Launched September
Number of learners who have
returned so far
Recaptured tuition through Summer 2022
Prior to partnering with ReUp, Evan worked with multiple departments at KVCC on an initiative to boost completion rates for near completers who had stopped out. They started by digging through their records, identifying students that had been enrolled within the last academic year, and determining if those students were close to completion or, in some cases, if they had already earned a degree for a program they had not yet petitioned for.
After reviewing their records, they compiled a list of more than 250 students who were within one to five classes of completing but were no longer enrolled at the institution. They prioritized the list based on how close the students were to completion and looked for completion grants or financial aid options that could incentivize a return. Once they had vetted the list, the financial aid staff reached out directly to students to notify them about their eligibility for a grant or financial aid with emphasis on how close they were to completion and to encourage them to come back and meet with an academic counselor.
The internal pilot helped bring back and award four students, but the efforts weren’t as successful as they had hoped. “The financial incentive alone wasn’t enticing enough to bring those students back, which kind of really solidified what we’ve thought all along; money is a factor, but it’s not the only factor that causes students to stop out and not finish their degree program,” Evan recalls.
What we feel like students need is a support person that can really dedicate some time to determining the specific barriers they’re facing, help them overcome them and also navigate their way through the system.
— Evan Pauken
Director of Retention and Completion
Although their initiative helped a handful of students earn their degree, it didn’t bring the results they had hoped. They began looking for a partner who could address five key areas:
KVCC’s research for a scalable solution led the team to ReUp. ReUp’s unique combination of data, technology, and personalized support delivers value to institutions and systems throughout the entire student cycle, beginning with finding and reaching their stopouts.
Evan notes: ”Our students are pretty transient, so it’s not uncommon for them to move to a different area of the county, to a different area of the state, maybe even out of state. And being able to keep track of where students are and get in contact with them to deliver information can be difficult as well, especially once we’ve lost track of them or several semesters have passed.”
ReUp’s technology platform located more than 50% of the students in KVCC’s database who had been impossible to reach prior. With the updated contact information, ReUp reached out to this group of students by leveraging marketing automation to deliver personalized, relevant, and consistent messaging across multiple channels.
Using insights from ReUp’s patented technology, ReUp Success Coaches worked closely with each student to provide personalized resources, support, and encouragement in their journey. Each student interaction with ReUp offers unique insights and, as Evan and his team suspected, financial obstacles were among the main reasons students stopped out, but not the only factor: ReUp’s research showed that the top reasons for stopping out at KVCC were related to life balance and motivation; financial reasons came third.
ReUp Success Coach Cherish B. recalls: “Many students communicated to me they felt like they lacked the maturity to stick with college in their youth, attributing their interest in returning to seeing the value of a degree later in life. Also in the motivation category are students who could not see a path from the degree to a career at the time they left.”
In addition to better understanding and supporting stopout students, the ReUp partnership offered an opportunity to consider policies and processes through the lens of an adult learner. In May 2022, Evan shared his experiences and learnings on a ReUp webinar titled “The FAFSA Is Not Enough” that highlighted the ways to support adult learners outside of traditional financial aid resources.
In their internal pilot, the team at KVCC had found it challenging to provide enough support for each returning student, a common challenge that institutions run into when launching re-entry programs. By partnering with ReUp, KVCC was able to provide personalized support to their adult learners at scale while maintaining the high standard of coaching that drives learner success.
For adult learners, many of whom are juggling multiple responsibilities including work, childcare and elder care, traditional financial aid resources like the FAFSA® and work-study are not enough when it comes to financing their degree. Learn about programs and initiatives the teams at KVCC and Excelsior University have successfully implemented to support the growing population of adult learners.
Schedule a strategy session to learn more about partnering with ReUp.