As a public, four-year urban research university in northeastern Ohio, Youngstown State University (YSU), enrolls more than 13,000 undergraduate and graduate students. In 2010, YSU launched Strategic Plan 2020, which recognizes that YSU students require different types of academic support. YSU’s homegrown paper-and-pencil early warning system did not provide timely support to struggling students, causing it be known as the “late warning system.”

YSU needed an efficient, user-friendly solution to:

  • Inform faculty who on the team would address a particular student concern.
  • Create one system for finding and updating student information.
  • Help students dependent on financial aid to stay on track to keep their funding, allowing them to improve their grades or drop a class before it would effect their GPA.

Starfish went live in January 2012, immediately resulting in increased outreach and collaboration across the university to help students succeed.


  • Streamlined paper processes.
  • Course completion rates rose from 78.4 percent in Fall 2011 to 85.2 percent in by Spring 2014.
  • More than 40 percent of faculty completed Progress Surveys to report how students were progressing academically, a dramatic increase from a 2 percent engagement rate.

“At YSU, each individual in a student’s network has a part to play in that student’s success. With the Starfish platform, we can take a holistic, coordinated approach to encourage students to stay on track,” says Becky Varian, Director of the Center for Student Progress at YSU. “The response from our faculty, staff and students has been very positive. Most importantly, our approach has resulted in fewer course withdrawals, increased credit hours earned, and increased GPAs – all leading to our goal of improving student progression and graduation rates.”

YSU continues to see results, and students have expressed their appreciation, telling YSU staff that they know someone at the university is concerned about them and wants to help keep them on track. As a result, students take action to resolve the issues identified.


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