WKU makes effort to retain struggling students

Kaely Holloway

In a new effort to encourage student retention, the Enrollment Management Office is reaching out to students to keep them engaged in school for the spring semester.

Through various social outlets, including Facebook, Twitter and student-to-student phone calls, the office has actively helped more than 500 students become more confident for the start of spring semester classes.


Joelle Davis Carter, vice president of Academic Advising, Brian Meredith, associate vice president of enrollment and 15 student workers, along with efforts of the entire office, started their work to reach these students on Jan. 7.

“[We’re] mainly trying to support students; Enrollment Management can help them,” Meredith said. “We want to be there for students. They can come see us to help counsel through challenges.”

Challenges and struggles vary from student to student. Specific challenges, such as a student being homesick, having financial problems, struggling socially or having academic issues, were identified based on results from the Mapworks, surveys sophomores and freshmen took throughout the first semester.

Questions in the survey asked students to rate their experiences with academics, finances and other issues to generate feedback for the department. Each student was given a different flag based on a color-coded scale.

Green was the most positive result, with yellow, red and double red following appropriately. Green flags indicate no problems with the student, financially, emotionally or academically. Yellow indicated some minimal struggle in one or other areas. Red and double red flags indicated much struggle in one or other areas.

Red and double red flags put those with the outreach efforts on alert, as those are students potentially not returning due to their specific reasons, which could range from financial to academic to social. Those students will receive calls from the student workers, who will check and see if any aid can be provided and ask general questions based on the student’s results. Many have already received such calls.

“We want to emphasize that color [of the flag] does not relate to success,” Carter said. “A student can be very successful in all of their courses, but still receive a red or double red flag. The determination of the flag color takes in other factors and issues.”

The issues Carter mentioned could potentially be homesickness, financial issues or other personal problems.

Meredith said that some financial help can be given, as appropriate, to those students needing it. Extensions and similar options can be discussed for financially struggling students if other options, such as financial aid and scholarships, have failed.

“It’s a collective effort in Enrollment Management,” Meredith said. “It’s a concerted effort making sure we’ve done everything we can to help students progress towards graduation.”

Carter is also getting the team involved in social media outreach. She has started a hashtag on Twitter, #drcartercares, and a Twitter account, @joellecarter, so students can interact with her, asking questions and advice, on a relatable level. Students can tweet questions about scholarship information and academic advising to her, or the hashtag.

“I answer questions, tweet in-demand information and re-tweet info from other departments or professors for students,” Carter said. “It’s tweeting for a purpose.”

Meredith is assisting in another Twitter account, @WKUem, for the Office of Enrollment Management. He tweets pictures and information about studying abroad, among other things.

Carter is working with Career Services to find new ways to show students that success in their major results in success in their career, including encouraging students to join LinkedIn, a social networking site for careers.

This is Carter’s first year in her position and she has spent much of the first semester going around campus talking to the Student Government Association and other student organizations to get in touch with the student body for these efforts.

“It’s a long break and we don’t want on-the-fence students to decide against returning,” Carter said. “We plan on becoming more structured and organized in our efforts throughout the spring and summer.”