Marcia Layton Turner
St. Petersburg College

St. Petersburg College initiated The College Experience in 2012 to increase the percentage of students completing core, or gateway, courses.

A review of the Florida college’s records at that time revealed that only two-thirds of students earned a grade or C or better in those classes.

And among African-American and Latino males, the percentage was even lower, says Tonjua Williams, senior vice president for student services.

Campus leaders identified five key areas known to impact success rates: out-of-class academic support, integrated career and academic advising, early alerts, a custom learning plan, and a new student orientation called Smart Start. These are the crux of The College Experience initiative.

Into the Future

  • Short-term, St. Petersburg officials plan to monitor retention and enrollment related to The College Experience. Faculty and staff are invited to weekly webinars, with topics like the rates of recruiting and applicant-to-enrollee conversions.
  • Looking beyond current enrollees, the college may explore how to help students on probation or returning to school.

Campus leaders, faculty, academic leaders, and advising and learning resources staff now track students’ class attendance, engagement, tutoring sessions, meetings with faculty and career decisions.

Raw data from the college’s Pulse Business Intelligence system and other online tools is then analyzed and reported weekly.

Every Wednesday morning, 150 to 200 faculty, staff and visitors—from other colleges, doctoral cohort groups and national organizations—meet online to review student performance and strategize how to take action where needed.

“We regroup each week to review leading measures in all five initiatives,” says Williams. These measures paint of picture of how students are progressing so college personnel can intervene early to improve performance.

As data is shared, “staff work together to connect the dots for student success,” Williams says. At the end of each term, the data is summarized and posted online. In the first two years of the program, overall success rates rose more than 5 percent.