“Really from the start, they want to take a holistic approach to the student and get to know them as a total person, knowing their lives are complicated,” he said. “They’re not necessarily the traditional college students we think of; they may have families, kids, or a job ... and it’s finding out what their long-term career goals and strategies are.”Challenges students face are quite varied from coming up with plans and strategies to balance studies with professional and child care obligations to working their way through college administration to find the right support and services. As with complexity in learning, there is no one-size-fits-all model that can be applied, coaches partner with the students to understand their individual needs and challenges and work with them - over time - to help address those varied issues to help ensure that the focus on academics doesn't get lost in the shuffle.
“It’s not just about the academics, it’s not just the home life,” he said. “It’s about figuring out how those complicated pieces fit together...if you do that, you can build the trust in the student, and that’s what you need to do if you’re going to build a plan for the student to be successful. Coaches do an extremely good job at doing that.”
Four years ago, Ivy Tech Community College dedicated itself to raising its fall-to-fall retention rates among students, and in particular wanted to focus on its "21st Century Scholar" students, who benefit from a scholarship program for low-income Indiana students.