Integrated Planning and Advising for Student Success (iPASS) entails using technology to increase the amount of advising postsecondary students receive throughout their entire college experience. iPASS includes providing advice about career goals and challenges faced while in school. Advisors use iPASS technology to detect early warning signs of academic and non-academic challenges and intervene as needed.
The study was conducted in three different postsecondary institutions: (1) California State University, Fresno (Fresno State), (2) the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNCC), and (3) Montgomery County Community College (MCCC). Both Fresno State and UNCC are large four-year institutions, serve mostly full-time students, and have graduate schools. In contrast, MCCC is a two-year college located on two campuses in suburban Pennsylvania and about two-thirds of its students attend school on a part-time basis.
This is a longer term follow-up study to an earlier report (Mayer et al., 2019). This study looks at student outcomes four semesters after study entry.
The study sample included 8,011 students who were randomly assigned to either an enhanced iPASS group or a standard iPASS group. The sample at Fresno State included 1,219 students: 610 students in the enhanced iPASS group and 609 in the standard iPASS group. The sample at the UNCC included 2,989 students: 1,248 in the the enhanced iPASS group and 1,741 students in the standard iPASS group. The MCCC sample included a total of 3,803 students: 1,902 students in the enhanced iPASS group and 1,901 in the standard iPASS group. Slightly more than half (51 percent) of the students in the total sample were White, less than one-sixth (14 percent) were Black, and 17 percent were Hispanic. Slightly over half of the sample were female (52 percent).
Students assigned to the enhanced iPass condition received two-semesters of the program. Enhanced iPASS enables advisors to follow up with students as they progress through college, refer students to tutoring and other support services, and offer personalized guidance. Each of the three institutions had a slightly different approach when implementing enhanced iPASS. Fresno State used early alert surveys completed by faculty, and required peer mentors to contact students who appeared to be dealing with challenges. Advising at Fresno State entailed mapping out educational plans, discussing strategies for staying on course to complete a degree, and addressing any early warning alerts. MCCC used enhanced iPASS to reach students who were considered to be at-risk for not completing a degree program and who were not already required to meet with an advisor. MCCC included a faculty early alert survey, a student self-report on academic and non-academic issues that could affect their academic progress, and a career assessment. The UNCC model entailed first identifying at-risk students and then reaching out to them to offer advising support. Advisors held sustained communication with students and used a toolbox to guide advising sessions. UNCC's model also included early alerts, including notifying students in the program group if they were enrolled in a "critical progression" course for their majors. Finally, the UNCC model included both warnings and positive feedback, as appropriate, which were sent through the early alert system.
At all three institutions, students in the comparison group participated in standard iPASS intervention which included some of the same features as enhanced iPASS, such as early alerts, and more advising than what is believed to be offered at a typical college. The standard iPASS program is described as being less well integrated, less consistently applied, and included fewer components than the enhanced version of iPASS.
Support for implementation
iPASS is an initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to support postsecondary institutions with incorporating technology into advising and student services. Each of the participating colleges received supplementary funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to offset study participation costs (such as time for research-related activities) and to expand the capacity of advising staff to support students.