An Introduction to College Partnerships for College Success Programs

When supporting students’ college persistence, it’s important to recognize where your goals overlap with those of their institution and how you can partner effectively. Most college success programs are exceptionally responsive to their students’ needs, but their services are unlikely to match the breadth of offerings at a college campus. Imagine if your advisors had the insider knowledge and personal contacts to just pick up the phone and make a hand-off to campus resources. At the same time, don’t undervalue what your program brings to the table as a partner to the institutions your students attend. You have a unique view into the student experience, along with valuable data on the students you serve.

Wondering how college partnerships can help advance your mission? Here are some approaches that are moving the needle for organizations in the GradSnapp community and for the students they’re supporting along the college journey.

Building Relationships on Campus

Collaboration between a college success organization and an institution often begins organically. It could start with an advisor simply picking up the phone to help a student navigate the complexities of the verification process. On the other end of the line, they may be connected with a savvy financial aid counselor who is happy to engage with them both, and who eventually becomes the program’s go-to resource for financial aid at this college.

For a program like the Dell Scholars program, which supports students at hundreds of colleges across the country, this may be the extent of the collaboration — identifying a contact on campus who is familiar with your program and ready to take your call. But for other programs, this relationship could be the beginning of a deeper partnership.

Partnering for Student Retention

When a significant proportion of your students are enrolled at a particular college, the strengths and limitations of that institution will have an outsized impact on the work you do every day — and the level of impact your team is able to achieve. If you have a large number students attending an individual school, you have the ideal circumstances for a meaningful partnership so that your program and the college can align resources towards shared goals.

When Fulfillment Fund Las Vegas found that 90% of their students attended four colleges in the region, their team decided to initiate robust partnerships with each of them, focused on college persistence and career readiness. This year-round collaboration includes shared programming, data sharing, and building relationships with departments across campus, so that Fulfillment Fund advisors are able to facilitate referrals to college resources.

Offering On-Campus Support

An underlying principle in our approach to college success is to meet students where they are. If they’re living on campus or spending most of their day there, that often means staking out space at a nearby coffee shop — not always the best setting for a sensitive conversation. Building on their existing college partnerships, Fulfillment Fund Las Vegas explained the need for a dedicated space on campus where they could connect with students and be available for drop-in meetings. In recognition of the program’s track record supporting students, all four partners were willing to host the organization’s staff on-site — an investment to advance their shared mission of student success.

Developing a Shared Vision for Success

When it comes to college partnerships, your program has valuable insights to bring to the table and can be a meaningful contributor toward an institution’s vision for student success. While colleges can segment persistence and graduation outcomes based on particular demographics, your advisors are likely well-positioned to address the factors informing those outcomes. What are the common obstacles for Pell-eligible students during year one? What are you hearing from your students of color about their experience across different colleges? For administrators striving to achieve equitable graduation rates, these insights are worth their weight in gold.

Nashville State Community College is the largest destination for the Metro Nashville public school graduates supported by Persist Nashville. What began as a collaboration on student programming has grown into a strategic partnership, with Persist Nashville advisors helping to identify trends and opportunities. The team meets bi-weekly with campus leaders to share the program’s insights and learn more about how they can work together to advance student success.

At the end of the day, colleges and college success programs are working toward a common goal: seeing students achieve the higher education that will help them transform their lives, their communities, and our society. Through partnerships supporting college persistence, they can better align their missions and have a greater impact on each student’s journey to graduation.