Tracking Students through the National Student Clearinghouse

Submitted by Brian Pilcher and Melanie Bell

Student transition is a collegiate constant but TRIO programs often do not know where students enroll.  Do they enroll in college elsewhere? Do they transfer out or drop out?  Do they graduate after leaving your institution?  Do your graduates go on to graduate school and if so, where?  The EnrollmentSearch service offered by the National Student Clearinghouse can help by tracking your students to other institutions.  Some of our TRIO programs at UMW and MSU-Billings have used their campus’s EnrollmentSearch service, and it saves us so much time.  The service lists the name of the institution(s) where your students enrolled, students’ enrollment status, term begin date, and graduation achievement.  More than 2,700 institutions allow their enrollment and graduation data reports to be accessible through EnrollmentSearch, thereby enabling participants to access 91% of the nation’s enrollment.  Additionally, schools representing approximately 40% of the nation’s degree conferrals report detailed degree information, such as title, major, etc., to the Clearinghouse (the remainder simply indicate that students have graduated).  There are two ways this service can be available.

The first way is for your institution to enroll in the free Core Service.  Most of the Montana colleges are Core Service members already.   Once this free service is activated, then your college and your program are eligible to utilize the EnrollmentSearch Service– the service of interest to us for tracking students.  It is available because the Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education has paid for a statewide agreement that makes EnrollmentSearch service available to all Montana campuses that become Core Service members.  If you are based at one of the campuses listed in the first list below, it is recommended that you contact your campus contact first.  If your campus is not in the first list, you will need to convince your administration to enroll the campus in the Core Service or resort to the second method of utilizing EnrollmentSearch.

The second way (if your campus is listed in the second list of the non-enrolled and they won’t be enrolling) is to sign up for a special Outreach (TRIO) EnrollmentSearch program with a flat fee of $425 annually.  Institutions do not have to be a member of the Clearinghouse for your program to enroll.  With this tool, you can track your students after high school through multiple colleges and obtain factual data, not anecdotal.   Of course the students need to be attending one of the member campuses for you to get their enrollment information.  You can visit the following website to find out more about the services offered for programs housed at non-member campuses:  http://www.studentclearinghouse.org/outreach/default.htm.

Let us explain the campus involvement a little more for those campuses that are not already Core Service members.  To be a Core Service member, which costs nothing, the campus must send its enrollment reports a minimum of three times per term to the Clearinghouse, which creates the pool of data.  It involves exporting data from the campus student enrollment database in a required format.  If your campus has not done this before, it is helpful to know that there are software packages that can be purchased to interface with many of the existing student database programs.  These packages minimize/eliminate the computer programming your campus would have to do to generate the report.  This enrollment reporting is the only way the Clearinghouse learns about our students.

Melanie Bell, our regional director for the Clearinghouse, can be reached in Spokane, Washington at 509.838.2112 or by email at bell@studentclearinghouse.org.

Contacts at Montana colleges that are active with the Core Service and EnrollmentSearch:

CARROLL COLLEGE Kerry Jensen, Director of Institutional Research 406.447.4562 kcampbel@carroll.edu
DAWSON COMMUNITY COLLEGE Lane Holte, Registrar 406.377.3396 lholte@dawson.cc.mt.us
FLATHEAD VALLEY COMMUNITY COLLEGE Bill Bond, Director of MIS 406.756.3818 mailto:bbond@fvcc.cc.mt.u
MILES COMMUNITY COLLEGE Lisa Blunt, Registrar 406.234.3570 bluntl@milescc.edu
MONTANA STATE UNIVERSITY – BILLINGS Karen Everett, Registrar 406.657.2302 keverett@msubillings.edu
MONTANA STATE UNIVERSITY – BOZEMAN Chuck Nelson, Registrar 406.994.6650 cnelson@montana.edu
MONTANA STATE UNIVERSITY – GREAT FALLS COLLEGE OF TECHNOLOGY Carol Schopfer, Registrar 406.771.4312     cschopfer@ugf.edu
ONTANA STATE UNIVERSITY – NORTHERN Steve Jamruszka, Registrar 800.662.6132×4190 jamruszka@msun.edu
MONTANA TECH OF THE UNIVERSITY OF MONTANA Ed Johnson, Registrar 406.496.4256 ejohnson@mtech.edu
ROCKY MOUNTAIN COLLEGE Janet Alberson, Registrar 406.657.1030 albersoj@rocky.edu
UNIVERSITY OF GREAT FALLS Tracy Lampkins, Registrar 406.791.5207 tlampkins@ugf.edu
UNIVERSITY OF MONTANA Bill Muse, Institutional Research 406.243.4782 museaw!mos.umt.edu
UNIVERSITY OF MONTANA – HELENA COLLEGE OF TECHNOLOGY Christobal Valdez, Registrar 406.444.6882 valdezc@umh.umt.edu
UNIVERSITY OF MONTANA – WESTERN Jason Karch, Registrar 406.683.7471 j_karch@umwestern.edu
Montana colleges known to be inactive with the EnrollmentSearch service:

Chief Dull Knife College
Fort Belknap College
Fort Peck CC
Little Big Horn College
Salish Kootenai College
Stone Child College

 

A Message about Change from Montana ASPIRE President

Submitted by Brian Pilcher

We are definitely in a period of change in the TRIO community.  While we may understand the need for most of the changes coming out of the federal TRIO Office, we can’t help but be apprehensive.  It will behoove all of us to renew our commitment to professionalism and accountability in our programs, since accountability is definitely the key word for our future.  We must also be vigilant because, while well-intentioned, some changes may be very harmful to our programs.  I’ll mention a couple of examples.

The loss of the funding renewal and the subsequent failure of the appeal for The University of Montana’s McNair program in this last grant competition is difficult to rationalize.  They had produced proposals in the two previous competitions that were scored so highly that they were awarded an extra year of funding each time.  Then they didn’t get any funding in this last competition.  The appeal process was perfunctory and the TRIO Office would not allow the proposal to be reread.  I will be urging our professional organizations and those I talk with in the TRIO Office to provide for a thoughtful appeals process.

The $5,000 Per Student Mandate, implemented last summer, is an attempt by the TRIO Office to equalize funding among Upward Bound programs by bringing costly programs (on a cost per student basis) more in line with the average.  They are asking these programs to serve more students or forfeit part of their funding to lower the cost.  Program costs per student, according to October 2002 data, ranged from $2,722 to  $10,530.  This is calculated by dividing the annual grant award by the number of students served.  The concept of bringing about closer equalization of funding is reasonable enough, but there are at least three problems with it as currently implemented.  One is that it circumvents our proposals.  After grant awards were made for Upward Bound proposals and we were believing that our proposals were our contract with the TRIO Office, programs were being forced to meet the $5,000 per Student Mandate (and serve the same number of students in the summer as in the academic year).  These required radical departures from our proposed plans of operation.

Another problem is that $5,000 is too low for many programs, especially those with a residential component.  A related third problem is that if a program was not meeting the Mandate, it opened the door for negotiations requiring service to increased summer numbers.  The Mandate became a backdoor approach to this other Department agenda that programs serve as many students in the summer as in the academic year.  In order to provide extensive academic-year services, a large number of programs have needed to serve fewer in summer to economize on the expensive residential component.  This thrifty approach is being jeopardized.  After a very strong start in implementing this requirement, the TRIO Office has decided this isn’t official policy yet.  Apparently some program officers have continued to insist on it.  Our program officer has said it is likely to be policy for all programs next year. COE has a task force that has been studying the $5,000 Mandate and is scheduled to meet with the TRIO Office the week of January 26.  Most likely, the discussion will center on what threshold is reasonable, but hopefully we will also be able to preserve some flexibility in how we manage our summer numbers.

I want to caution that I am not promoting an adversarial relationship with the TRIO Office.  We have much to gain through a positive approach.  Some of the federal changes are being prompted by that office’s desire to position our programs to be defensible from Congress’ scrutiny and its desire to cut costs outside of the Department of Defense.  Part 1 of the Mathematica Study has left Upward Bound open to criticisms about its effectiveness.  Part 2 was scheduled for release this past fall and may be out already.  Also, a reputation for strong accountability for all TRIO programs will help to maintain our Congressional appropriation.  However, we do need active engagement to ensure that the changes are not harmful.  We need participation in our state and regional associations from as many TRIO employees as possible.

Outlook for Montana ASPIRE

Submitted by Brian Pilcher

I’m excited about the outlook for Montana ASPIRE and the service we can provide our membership in this time of change (please see related article).  Amy Verlanic, President last year, led our progress in many areas and has positioned us to be a more effective organization.  We have made some changes to help our state officers be as effective as they can be.  At the October state meeting, the membership amended the state bylaws to shift more responsibilities to the President Elect to prepare holders of the President Elect position for their upcoming presidency.  We wanted the President Elect to have more experience by the time they moved into the Presidency. Our past officers had observed that they could have been more effective if they had known at the beginning of their terms in office what they learned by the end of their terms.  The other improvement was that our new officers got off to a great start with the Officers’ Orientation Workshop developed by Amy.  We met in Missoula November 12 and 13 to learn about our state and regional associations and to redraft the MT ASPIRE budget.  These changes should provide for a more effective state leadership.

Now we need to attract as many Montana TRIO staffers to join our association and to attend the state spring meeting so we can provide information and training.  Our Membership Committee (see their report) is working hard to promote our organization so we can have more contact with TRIO professionals across the state.  Please see the associated article about the meeting.  The State Meeting Planning Committee is working hard to offer valuable information for every TRIO professional.  With the changes in the national TRIO Office, it is imperative that we bring staffers up to date with renewed expectations on accountability.  We also need to promote professionalism by encouraging implementation of CAS Standards.

With the mention of committees, I’d like to tell you that I’m very proud of the work coming out of our committees.  There are some solid plans for the coming year and folks with a lot of initiative to carry them out.  Our State Initiative activities were very strong last year.  Please see the Governmental Relations Committee report.  The committee is developing a brochure to educate our legislators about the relationship between family income and college-going rates and to illustrate the impact of our programs on Montana students.  They will base the brochure on updated information gathered from program performance reports across the state.  At the time of this writing, plans for the Indian Advocacy Committee had not been finalized.

College Goal Sunday – A National Project Coming to Montana

(Based on information provided by Lumina Foundation for Education)

College Goal Sunday, a program that helps low-income families clear the paperwork hurdle when applying for college financial aid, has proven effective for more than a decade in Indiana. In the past several years, it also has been active in Arizona, Kansas, Kentucky, California, Hawaii, and in a combined program in Maryland, Delaware and the District of Columbia.  News was just released that Student Assistance Foundation in Helena was awarded a Lumina Foundation grant to lay the groundwork for the program in Montana.  The goal of the program is a perfect fit for our TRIO programs.

College Goal Sunday began in Indiana in 1989 as a joint project of the Indiana Student Financial Aid Association (ISFAA) and the State Student Assistance Commission of Indiana (SSACI), with funding from Lilly Endowment, Inc. Like most successful projects, it was designed to meet a specific need. Research had shown that Indiana families often cited high cost as the main barrier to college attendance, even though tens of millions of dollars in various forms of financial aid were available to Indiana students. Too many families – particularly those of color, low income and no tradition of pursuing an education beyond high school – simply were not applying for those funds.

It was clear that the mere availability of funds wasn’t enough to push these students over the threshold to higher education. These students and their families needed two more things: first, they needed to receive more information through a variety of channels about the availability of financial aid;  second, they needed expert assistance in filling out the paperwork required to qualify for that aid.

A two-part strategy was devised to address the problem. First, ISFAA members, who primarily staff college financial aid offices throughout the state, volunteered their expertise on one particular day of the year. On College Goal Sunday (traditionally, a week or two after Super Bowl Sunday), these professionals would fan out to select community sites in Indiana to help families complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), the universally required financial aid application. Second, as a prelude to College Goal Sunday, the group implemented an extensive public information campaign to reach low-income Indiana residents. The campaign used the news media, direct mail and celebrity appearances at key high schools to inform the public about the importance of an education beyond high school, the availability of financial aid, and the existence of College Goal Sunday to help them complete the FAFSA.

Over time, College Goal Sunday has attracted a number of important and loyal allies in Indiana, including the Indiana Career and Postsecondary Advancement Center (ICPAC), the Twenty-first Century Scholars Program and former NFL standout Bill Brooks, who volunteered his personal endorsement for the first College Goal Sunday and remains the program’s faithful celebrity spokesman.

College Goal Sunday also has garnered generous financial support beyond that of Lilly endowment. For several years, USA Group (then, the nation’s largest guarantor and administrator of student loans) and its affiliates co-funded the program with the Endowment. Also, employees of USA Group and its philanthropic division, USA Group Foundation, served as College Goal Sunday volunteers. In addition, the Foundation provided matching grants to replicate the College Goal Sunday program in Arizona in 1997, in Kansas in 1999, in Kentucky in 2001, and in the Washington, D.C./Baltimore area, Hawaii and California in 2002. Lumina Foundation is committed to expanding College Goal Sunday nationwide and is pleased to provide the funds and the model to help establish the program in other states.

Lumina Foundation leads this effort with the encouragement of ISFAA because College Goal Sunday works. In the past 13 years, the program has assisted more than 55,000 Indiana residents. The event has more than tripled its reach from 10 sites statewide the first year, to 34 sites in 29 Indiana cities and towns in 2003. Volunteer and media support continue to be strong – both important indicators of the program’s success. Also, exit surveys conducted at College Goal Sunday sites clearly demonstrate the program’s strength: that it helps the targeted population complete a vital and often difficult task, that volunteer support continues to be vibrant and committed, and that more Indiana communities want to initiate their own sites.

Ultimately, through a combination of Lumina Foundation grants and support from locally based organizations in each of the involved states, involved organizations hope to make College Goal Sunday a nationally prominent initiative that will serve students and families for generations to come.  We have an ideal opportunity in Montana for the Student Assistance Foundation of Montana, the Montana Student Financial Aid Association (MSFAA), and Montana ASPIRE to work together to expand this opportunity for our students.  You’ll be hearing more about this at our spring conference.

For answers to specific questions about organizing or operating a College Goal Sunday program, contact Jeanna Keller at 317-951-5330 or via e-mail at jkeller@luminafoundation.org.

These are websites for some of this year’s College Goal Sunday locations, including the original one in Indiana….

http://www.collegegoalsunday.org/information.html (Includes description of Indiana program)

http://www.collegegoalsunday.org/

http://www.collegegoal.org/home.shtml

http://www.collegegoalsundaymaine.com/

 

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