Aviso Retention Awarded Grant To Increase Enrollment and Success of Underserved Students

Austin, TX – February 28, 2021 – Aviso Retention, a student success and equity solution recently acquired by Watermark, has been awarded a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to create a single source of enrollment data for colleges and apply it to improving student outcomes. They will use the data to close the opportunity gaps for Black, Latino, and Indigenous students and students from low-income backgrounds. The project’s goal is to document learnings and process change at an individual institution and examine how the rollout of Aviso Enterprise’s new customer relationship management (CRM) functionality will permit the linkage of front-end recruitment efforts and back-end student success engagement to provide a holistic support structure.

This grant will support Watermark in an advising demonstration project with McDowell Technical Community College (MTCC) to develop processes for making student prospecting more equitable. MTCC is a small, underserved Title III institution in North Carolina that faces challenges in digital transformation due to its limited staffing and budget. Watermark is committed to helping such institutions achieve a level of success consistent with larger universities.

“This project will allow us to reinvent and reimagine how we do business with students,” said Brian Merritt, PhD, President of McDowell Tech. “Historically, we’ve largely relied on traditional advertising methods and then serving the students who walk through the door. But now, we can elevate our capacity to reach previously overlooked students and work with them in an intentional and personalized way during the onboarding process. We can also share what we learn and build a product that could be adopted as a model for other small, rural institutions.”

The project addresses various obstacles to student success institutional leaders face in recruiting, prospecting, and post-enrollment engagement. Currently, MTCC has no tools to tie together all the data they gather during the recruitment process. Without a holistic view of the data, it is difficult to understand the characteristics of individuals who would be most likely to complete a particular degree program successfully. Without unified data, it is also hard for MTCC’s student services staff to determine where to best focus their recruitment efforts or know what types of services these students would need once they enrolled. Traditionally disadvantaged groups of students are often most affected by convoluted onboarding processes. Watermark will work with McDowell Tech to provide straightforward, concise onboarding from prospect to enrollment, linking students to advisors and services the institution and community provide.

“We’re excited to help them tie the data together,” said Heather Taynor, vice president for student and customer success at Watermark. “We’ll help build and configure the platform to allow them to work with students with an equity focus in mind. Our goal is to create a true system of engagement to provide a holistic view of the student and allow for proactive outreach to increase students applying to and registering at the institution.”

The metrics Watermark will use to measure the success of this project, over both the grant period and beyond, include:

  • Prospect to Applicant Rate
  • Applicant to Enrollment Yield Rate
  • Enrollment Full-Time Equivalent by Term
  • Total Enrollment by Term
  • New Student First Term Course Completion Rate
  • New Student First to Second Term Persistent Rate

“The outcome of this project will be the documentation of the current state of advising at McDowell Tech, how they’re changing their process, and then tying that together with the size of the institution and the different populations they’re trying to focus on. We will release that research to the higher ed community so that other similar institutions can understand how to go through this transformation,” said Alexander Leader, chief impact officer at Watermark. “The learning that happens as part of this process and the eventual publishing of those learnings so others can take advantage of it is really what the Gates Foundation is after.”

About Watermark 

At Watermark, insights inspire progress. Watermark’s software gives higher education institutions the insights they need to improve, evolve, and empower student success. Watermark’s integrated digital solutions support assessment and accreditation, faculty activity reporting, course evaluation and surveys, and catalog and curriculum development for more than 1,700 higher education institutions around the world.


Michele Hujber


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