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University of South Florida: Historical First-Year Retention Unlocks Performance Funding

In 2012, USF hit a performance plateau, with retention and graduation rates holding steady for three years. When Florida introduced performance-based funding in 2014, USF knew they had to radically change their approach and their culture. To change their trajectory, they needed to better understand their students and identify opportunities to deliver focused, coordinated care to students who need it most, exactly when they need it. 

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In February 2016, USF created a Persistence Committee to engage in candid data-informed dialogues that shape priorities and goals for student success, and align related actions. On a typical week, this team uses Illume to identify 70 students with “low” and “moderate” probabilities of success and explore the powerful predictors influencing those students. For example, attendance data from the LMS has shown up in Illume as a powerful risk factor for their institution. 

A “Care Team” serve as case managers and are mobilizing support personnel across campus who can make a difference in students’ lives. This team focuses on 8 at-risk factors and 11 interventions across each student to deliver support, and uses Inspire in their strategy to deliver personalized outreach to students.

This work has raised first-year retention rate to 90 percent and six-year graduation rate to 70 percent — the highest in USF history. With an integrated case management strategy and a system of intelligence, USF has been able to implement a rapid try-and-test framework that can impact students during the active term. With decision makers across campus having unprecedented access to predictive data about the students they support, the Persistence Committee is promoting a cultural shift based on transparent communications around using data in meaningful, productive ways.

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