CAC’s Early Alert program signals increase in student retention and success

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PINAL COUNTY, Ariz. – Since the 2008-09 academic year, Central Arizona College has witnessed a 19 percent increase in full-time student equivalencies (FTSE) that has yielded the largest total in school history.

CAC’s FTSE report through 2011-12 stands at 5246.28, up 839.44 since 2008-09 and 120.13 (2.35 percent) over 2010-11.

Dr. Philip Tompkins, the interim associate vice president of Student Affairs, discussed the correlation between the increased FTSE and the Early Alert program instituted at CAC.

“There is no doubt a link exists between our programs designed to keep students enrolled and those students having success,” Tompkins said. “Early Alert is a program that has had tremendous impact on student retention in a short period of time.”

Its success is yielding an Early Alert II follow up program entitled S.O.S – Support Our Students.

“Research on retention shows that many students choose to leave or opt out of their classes within the first six weeks,” Tompkins said. “The latest data indicates that the first 10 days is the most critical time period for a new student.”

Creating strategies to help students with the transition into college during those key opening days are paramount. These strategies include multiple contacts with students, a Welcome Week with engaging events for students at all three of the campuses, and the Orientation to College program that helps remove the anxiety of starting college by alerting freshmen to an array of resources before school actually begins.

The initial contact is just the proverbial tip of the iceberg in an environment that can melt the confidence of first-year students faster than monsoon humidity.

Follow-up advising, Orientation to College, mentoring and CPD classes all help create a supportive atmosphere for students.

“The S.O.S program is a partnership developed between Student Affairs and Academic Affairs,” Tompkins explained. “The partnership allows for online notification when a student is struggling, setting off a chain of support service events designed to keep the student in school.”

The S.O.S. program helps students with issues such as test anxiety, undeclared career path, poor attendance, time management and sudden drop in grades. CAC has a spectrum of offices that support students throughout the district.

The interconnection of The Learning Center, Advising Office, Student Retention Office, Financial Aid Office, and the TRiO, Title V, STEM and WIA grant programs allows CAC to rapidly respond to a variety of student needs and concerns.

“Coordinating multiple resources within CAC to maximize our efficiency has created an atmosphere of support for students,” Tompkins said. “It is reflected in the enrollments as students stay in school to accomplish their goals.”

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