Paul Smith's College recognized nationally for student success program

PAUL SMITHS, NY (03/30/2015)(readMedia)-- Paul Smith's College has been recognized by University Business magazine as a Spring 2015 Models of Excellence recipient. One of only 10 colleges and universities across the country to receive the award, Paul Smith's was selected for its innovative approach to student academic success.

The Models of Excellence program is sponsored by Higher One, a leading provider of financial services and data analytics to more than 1,900 college and university campuses across the United States.

"Student retention is a problem most colleges face, but not many know how to tackle it," said University Business senior editor Tim Goral. "Paul Smith's College found a vendor solution that offers a holistic approach, connecting faculty observation with administrators and counselors who know what to do with this type of information."

Student success at Paul Smith's College has always been a top priority. The college had routinely monitored the performance of students who were deemed "at-risk;" namely, those who had been conditionally admitted, had relatively low high school grades or SAT scores, or who were enrolled in a major with a higher percentage of at-risk students. However, this effort failed because "both high and low risk students can find themselves in trouble during the semester," said Loralyn Taylor, Paul Smith's registrar and director of institutional research.

Five years ago, the college discovered challenges with its information flow and the communication process between faculty and student support offices. Faculty members began to wonder whether they should lower their grading standards to hold on to every student and support the focus on retention. But the newly developed Comprehensive Student Support Program made it clear that faculty should keep their standards high and rely on student support services to bolster the students as needed.

To facilitate better information sharing and collaboration between faculty and student services, the college implemented a system of proactive and reactive success strategies, including an early alert survey using Starfish Retention Solutions Early Alert. The four-question survey of faculty takes just five minutes to complete, Taylor said, keeping compliance high. The system allows faculty members to raise flags about missed work, poor attendance, social/personal concerns or low grades. Starfish then automatically identifies and prioritizes students for outreach and notifies the student's advisor and support staff, saving staff time and allowing staff to focus on the student. Ninety-nine percent of faculty completed the early alert survey during the fall 2014 semester, a sign that now nearly everyone is on board.

"Our goal is to get the right support to the right students at the right time to make a difference," Taylor said.

It's already working. In the first year, retention of sophomores increased from 62 percent to 74 percent into junior year. The percentage of students on probation or suspension at the end of the semester has dropped, and on-time graduation rates for associate and bachelor degrees are up significantly.

"We want to increase student success for all groups," Taylor said. By expanding the scope of the college's focus, through its Comprehensive Student Support Program, student performance, retention, and graduation are all up at Paul Smith's.


At Paul Smith's College, it's about the experience. Paul Smith's, which was founded in 1946, is the only bachelor's degree-granting institution of higher education in the Adirondacks. Our programs – in fields including hospitality, culinary arts, forestry, natural resources, entrepreneurship and the sciences – draw on industries and resources available in our own backyard while preparing students for successful careers anywhere. For more information:

About University Business

University Business is the leading publication for senior managers at colleges and universities throughout the United States, reaching 75,000 leaders who manage enrollment, technology, business, finance, facilities and academic affairs. More information is available at

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Higher One (NYSE: ONE) partners with colleges and universities to lower their administrative costs and to improve graduation rates. We provide a broad array of payment, refund disbursement and data analytics and management tools to institutions that help them save money and enhance institutional effectiveness. And for students, we offer financial literacy programs and convenient, flexible and affordable transaction options to help them manage their finances. Higher One's products and services support more than 1,900 schools and 13 million enrolled students. More information about Higher One can be found at