Quote saying "education is more than a certificate or degree, it is the right to a better future"

When students pursue higher education, they have the opportunity to discover their passion, learn new concepts and skills, and explore future career paths.

Higher education is also a driver of upward social mobility.

If a student is part of a racial or ethnic minority, they will also face unique barriers that make pursuing a degree challenging. Students of color can experience racism, isolation, and feeling out of place due to the campus culture being vastly different from their culture at home.

The Retention Challenge

a majority of state legislatures graphic

Improving student retention is not a simple task. Even if institutions know that students need more hands-on support, providing it usually requires a wealth of resources that are not readily available.


As the economy struggles to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, community colleges are experiencing drastic budget cuts.

How can colleges and universities go the extra mile to support their students amid these challenges?

MMSI: An Overview of Our 3-Year Study

Watermark and the North Carolina Community College System (NCCCS) partnered to research whether technology-enabled success coaching could close equity gaps in higher education. This study is called the Minority Male Success Initiative (MMSI).

All 11 participating institutions used Watermark Student Success & Engagement and hired success coaches to improve student outcomes.


Overall, the course completion rates increased for the MMSI cohort students in both in-person and online courses, and term-to-term persistence also increased in all four cohorts.

When targeting additional support towards students that were marked medium- or high-risk,
persistence rates increased across all four terms.

Risk predictions can help success coaches prioritize resources for students most in need. When coaches have this additional support, they can efficiently initiate engagements that improve student outcomes.

A Student’s Perspective

Frank Raya-Viera was a part of an MMSI cohort at Nash Community College. With the support of his success coach Jamal Pitt, Frank was able to graduate from Nash Community College and transfer to East Carolina University to pursue a degree in Computer Science. When asked about his experience working with Pitt, Frank expressed just how important this relationship was to his academic success:


The MMSI project demonstrates that when institutions strategically align people, processes, and technology, they can improve student outcomes for vulnerable student populations.

The research shows an overall positive impact on retention, course completion, persistence, and engagement for minority male students.

Get the Report

MMSI has a full story to tell. Fill out the form below to read our 20-page report detailing three different campus accounts of the study, in-depth results and reflections, and takeaways that could help you advance student success on your own campus.