In 2010, Cleveland State University (CSU) had a six-year graduation rate of only 29 percent. In the fall of 2012, the Starfish® Enterprise Success Platform™ went live on the CSU campus. In 2014, the Ohio Board of Regents reported that CSU’s six-year graduation rate had increased to 34 percent, and today the rate approaches 40 percent.

Recently the CSU team received a 2015 Excellence and Innovation Award in Student Success and College Completion from the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU).

“Technology in general, and Starfish in particular, plays a central role in student success initiatives at CSU,” said Dr. Jianping Zhu, Interim Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs at CSU.

At Hobsons, we are honored to have been a part of their journey, and I want to share a few specific items of interest:

Addressing Attendance Issues

First-year students miss class for a variety of reasons. They may not feel academically prepared, they might be facing financial pressures, or there is a registration mistake. Advisors can help, but they need to know what is happening in the classroom. At CSU, faculty use the Starfish platform to track attendance for key first-year courses, such as the “Introduction to University Life” as well as all math and English course sections. When a student is absent, the faculty member triggers an alert flag in the Starfish platform. From there, the appropriate first-year advisor prioritizes outreach to each student with phone calls, e-mails, text messages, or Starfish To-Do tasks.

Adding Efficiencies to Intrusive Advising

One of CSU’s key strategies involves Intrusive Advising, which identifies students in crisis and actively presents them with helpful services and a plan of action. Intrusive Advising has been implemented for all freshman, honors students, athletes, and the Student Support Services TRIO program students at CSU. Integration between Starfish and CSU’s PeopleSoft system automatically groups these populations (as well as for 19 more) into cohorts to facilitate more efficient and targeted outreach.

The Most At-Risk Students Reap the Benefits

The Starfish platform has become a critical part of CSU’s TRIO program, funded by a federal grant designed to help disadvantaged students. During Spring 2015, 84 percent of CSU’s TRIO students used Starfish to meet with an advisor. CSU has also developed year-by-year Starfish Success Plans to help TRIO students stay on track. These approaches are working: In 2013-2014, 47 percent of TRIO students graduated within six years, compared with 34 percent for the rest of the university. The TRIO program also boasts a 77 percent retention rate, 10 percent higher than CSU overall.

Cleveland State has an ambitious goal to attain a 50 percent six-year graduation rate by 2020. They are moving in the right direction, and Hobsons is proud that AASCU has recognized them for their efforts!

Visit our website to see how other institutions are using the Starfish platform to advance their student success and retention efforts.


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