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Defining Student Success

For the past year or so, I have been writing about CRM and student success. In one post I argued that CRM is Not Enough for student success; my colleague Jim Ritchey recently noted that there are a myriad of approaches that vendors have taken to solve the Student Success puzzle in CRM: Which Student Success; and my colleague Jennifer Spahn has recently focused on advising and technology in CRM: Is Advising Technology the Answer?


But with all the talk and attention about student success and institutional accountability, it seems to me that while we can all agree that we want students to be successful in college and to hold colleges at least somewhat accountable for student success, I sincerely doubt we will all come to an agreement on how to specifically define student success. In other words, what is the desired expected outcome of a student’s investing time and money, including taxpayer’s money?

Specifying Success

However, it is important, and obvious, that within an institution there must be general agreement as to what constitutes student success. I also understand that one needs to keep an eye on the public measures such as “best colleges” lists and the US Federal Government’s College Scorecard, regardless of their limitations.

Once an institution has a clear definition of what constitutes student success for their students, they can then begin to identify impediments to student success. Once impediments are identified, approaches for removing or ameliorating their effects can be designed, measurements defined, and changes and/or programs implemented.

A Fluid Process

Keep in mind, though, a student success initiative is not a “one and done” initiative. Student success initiatives change how the student and institution interact. In other words, student success is a journey for the individual student as well as for the institution, and it must be rooted in each student’s self-defined success, not the institution’s.

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