Helping students reach their goals at Texas State University by providing personalized attention and support at scale
With an enrollment of 38,000 students, putting them in the top 40 largest public institutions in the United States, the Texas State University team is accustomed to doing things at scale. Of all the things they do at scale, the most important is delivering a high level of care for their students. They recognized that this should extend not only to their current students but also to their former students who stopped out before finishing a degree.
In 2018, Texas State created the “Bring Bobcats Back” program designed to reach and support stopout students returning to finish their degree. As the Associate Vice President for Enrollment Management and Marketing, Gary Ray oversees the program and describes what they quickly recognized in reaching out to stopout students: “It is very time-intensive work to find these students.”
It was essential to maintain the highest standard of care and support for each student so Texas State limited the pilot project’s scope to a group of 350 students. Gary adds: “The early success of this program ignited our interest in finding and bringing back more students.”
Texas State had good reason for wanting to scale its efforts. The State of Texas has an ongoing initiative, the 60X30TX Strategic Plan, which seeks to ensure that 60% of Texans between the ages of 25 to 34 earn an academic credential by 2030. Gary explains: “As a public university in the State of Texas, we support that initiative, and one great way we thought would be to scale up the size of our efforts in going after students who had not finished their undergraduate degree. We want to make sure that the students who attend Texas State realize the ongoing support in completing their degree.”
With multiple reasons all pointing towards the opportunity presented by building up the scale of their stopout work, Gary describes how Texas State started to explore their options: “We began talking with ReUp and felt like it was a good opportunity to scale the program by bringing them in to reach out to those students that we were trying to track down.”
As they explored working with ReUp, they did not want to sacrifice the standard of care they had delivered to the initial group of 350 students. This was critically important to Texas State and they monitored the partnership closely as it launched. “Naturally when you hire a third party to represent you and be the first outreach to former students, there’s always the question of whether they are going to represent the university with the same level of care,” notes Gary. “We have found the interchange we have with the ReUp Success Coaches is very reassuring and have seen how professionally they are working with students over time. To see there’s not a push, but a guided approach. We have been very pleased. With the enrollment results, It’s evident that they are working with students in a very professional way.”
Providing care at scale is ultimately about helping people reach their goals as they overcome their own specific set of challenges. Gary talks about the vital role that encouragement plays in the first contact: “When ReUp makes that initial call to the student, it demonstrates a high level of care that the institution is taking time to reach out to them. Some of them have been away for many years. We must show that care, and we are still concerned about their success. When you do that well, and they respond to that, and they have always thought about coming back, but this might be the call that makes that difference.”
One returning Texas State student is an example of someone who had been thinking about coming back for a long time. The support from her ReUp Success Coach helped give her the confidence to move forward and re-apply. When she texted her ReUp Success Coach to share the good news, it was a powerful moment: “I got accepted! I am so happy I am going to cry. I am ready to get my degree finally. Thank you so much for reaching out to me, checking in with me, and being so nice and comforting. I appreciate you.”
Graduation is ultimately the most critical indicator of success, Gary explains: “Seeing them walk across the stage, we now have some of the first ReUp graduates, I can’t begin to tell you how satisfying it is to know that both Texas State and ReUp had a part in that journey. It is worth the effort. It’s a good feeling to know each student received encouragement from ReUp to get back on track, and it’s inspiring and meaningful work.”
One year after signing on to work with ReUp, Gary reflects on the progress to date and how the partnership is already making an impact.
The enrollment numbers that we are seeing, we are very pleased with the early results. We were very shocked in 90 days, just how much progress ReUp had made on the outreach and connecting with students. We are on pace to hit our re-enrollment targets for this coming fall.
— Gary Ray
Associate Vice President for Enrollment Management and Marketing
Beyond bringing back students, ReUp is also sharing new insights into Texas State’s stopout population. Gary describes how they use this information: “The ReUp team has been great to help us analyze, benchmark against other schools, and provided data about why students stop out, and also the barriers students are having in coming back. ReUp is constantly coming to us saying, ‘here are some barriers that we might have in bringing students back.’ We have to keep working on the barriers, and ReUp provides some great insights into addressing them. We want to listen to our students’ needs and engage the university to respond to them to elevate student success. If I can do that, then we will have the best program in the world. That’s our goal.”
Texas State’s partnership with ReUp partnership launched in 2020 during a global pandemic. Some might be reluctant to roll out a new initiative like this during such a time, but Gary shares why the challenges created by the pandemic actually heightened the need for the support made possible through the partnership: “The pandemic has created such uncertainty for a lot of families. The most impacted are the under-resourced communities. I can’t imagine not having a partner like ReUp to work with us during such a tough time to re-engage and recruit back students.”
In discussing the impact of this work, Gary brings the focus back to the students that are returning: “When they have invested time and money, one of the greatest things that we can do is help them finish. It is a game-changer for their whole life. It improves their lifelong earnings and decreases their likelihood of being unemployed; it has so many benefits. It’s great knowing they can then go on to doing what they had always dreamed about doing. That’s very fulfilling and satisfying to know that our partnership with ReUp and the hard work of the Success Coaches generates such a good feeling for these students that the institution still cares about them.”
Looking ahead, Gary shares: “I am confident that we can make a difference with this partnership as we move forward. It’s all worth the effort. Having a great company like ReUp working with you is the secret sauce to really go after and help those students who have been derailed. We are looking to bigger and brighter goals as we move forward.”
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