The Role of a Student Success Administrator in Higher Education

May 12, 2023 Watermark Insights

The Important Role of a Student Success Administrator in Higher Ed

In order for a higher education institution to be a well-oiled machine, attention needs to be paid to all of the moving parts. From top administration to faculty and staff, each role within the college system is important to its overall success. Perhaps one of the most vital roles within a higher education institution is that of the Student Success Administrator. 

What Is a Student Success Administrator? 

The Student Success Administrator oversees the student success program, identifies its priorities, and leads the student success team in its efforts across the broader campus. The fundamental role of the Student Success Administrator is to marshal data collected, set goals and priorities for student retention and success, reorganize the systems currently in place, or implement new systems that will assist the institution in achieving those goals.

The Roles and Responsibilities of a Student Success Administrator 

The Student Success Administrator role is no small job, as is evidenced by the sample position summary below:

As the leading strategist regarding students achieving their academic, career, and financial goals (enrollment, retention, persistence, credential completion, and economic mobility strategies), academic and financial aid advising, student financial stability, career coaching, academic student support, and engagement with college experience, the Student Success Administrator is responsible for the development and implementation of applicable academic policies and processes. Works collaboratively with faculty, staff, students, across departments, and in the community to advise students, thus promoting student success, completion, and satisfaction.

The Student Success Administrator must maintain a student-centered focus within the department, understand all retention functions and resources within the college, and continually work to improve these functions, understand, and manage all student processes and procedures facilitated by the department. In addition, support students from orientation to graduation

They will build, supervise, and maintain a cohesive team by providing strong leadership, training, support, and oversight. Manages the day-to-day operations, conducts strategic planning, sets the mission and vision based on the College and the Office of the AVP of Student Success to create an environment that emphasizes evidence-based student success coaching and advising strategies with specific attention to equity in outcomes; is based on proven best practice and high-impact retention strategies for community colleges.

A tall order! However, with much responsibility comes much reach. Student Success Administrators and their teams have the power to advocate for the best, most proactive strategies for overcoming the financial, mental health, and academic roadblocks that students face.

How Successful Are Student Success Administrators in Higher Education? 

How Important Are Student Success Administrators in Higher Education?

At present, student success experts find that on many campuses there is not a cohesive, centralized office that looks at data aggregated from departments across campus, including enrollment, financial aid, advising, and academics. 

With these departments working individually rather than collaboratively, it is difficult to identify and stem the tide of issues that may start in one area, such as financial aid, and flow into another, such as the inability to complete courses because of the need to work. Additionally, what students face outside of the classroom is rarely known by faculty and administrators, making it difficult to properly identify and support underserved students.

In these cases, comprehensive data and analytics can play a big part in student, and ultimately institutional, success.

Early Warning Systems Help Student Success Administrators Succeed

Early warning systems (EWS) that use predictive analytics allow Student Success Administrators to anticipate issues on campus before they occur. Integration software, such as Watermark Student Success & Engagement software (formerly Aviso), integrates every major student information, learning management, financial, and survey system commonly seen in higher education. It minimizes the institutional effort needed for integration and allows Student Success Administrators the time to focus on process optimization. 

Predictive software, such as Watermark Student Success & Engagement software, is then able to flag students who are at risk of not completing a course imperative to their certificate or degree and begin proactive interventions. Using known data about students allows the Student Success Administrator and their team to not only determine which students might benefit from success coaching but also identify what challenges a student might be facing both inside and outside of the classroom.

How Important Are Student Success Administrators in Higher Education? 

It has become increasingly clear during the global COVID-19 pandemic that Student Success Administrators are more important than ever. According to the Education Data Initiative, a non-profit organization composed of a team of researchers seeking to make data about the U.S. education system more open and accessible, the overall dropout rate for undergraduate college students is 40%. A staggering 30% of dropouts occur between the freshman and sophomore years. Black students make up the majority of dropouts, coming in at a rate of 54%.

Given research findings that show a strong correlation between education and income levels, it is imperative that students across the country have access to higher education. The “college wage premium,” defined as the higher wages earned due to a higher education degree, can be significant. In a 2021 study, college graduates earned around $52,000 annually, while high school graduates made $30,000 annually. 

How, then, do colleges and universities ensure the success of their students, given the challenges that students face, particularly underserved students, within and outside of the campus setting?

Higher education institutions are looking at new ways to retain their existing students. New technology and student data analysis are offering more insight to higher education officials trying to support their overall population and at-risk students. This system can highlight the various ways students are struggling for better strategies and programs.

This is where the importance of Student Success Administrator becomes clear. 

How to Implement Student Success Administrators at Your School 

Because Student Success Administrators have many responsibilities and requirements, knowing how to establish your program can streamline results for institutions and students. 

Outline Student Success Program Goals and Outcomes

Before you can implement a successful student success program with administrators leading initiatives, your school must define what a successful student looks like on your campus. Student success will vary from institution to institution, depending on administrative priorities. Further, these objectives might change over time as you try to improve various aspects of student life. 

Some aspects of student life your school can use to define student success include the following: 

  • Academic performance: Many schools measure student success through grades and GPAs, helping them understand student performance. Some schools even have minimum GPA requirements students must maintain to remain a student at their institution. When developing your student success administration program, you can use these metrics to determine at-risk students. 
  • Leadership: Students have many opportunities to demonstrate their leadership capabilities and skills on campus, from leading school organizations and clubs to serving as resident assistants (RAs) or student researchers. If your institution wants students to graduate with highly curated leadership abilities, adding this to your definition of a successful student can create initiatives that support this goal. 
  • Social life: Many institutions boast their diverse social life on their campuses. From Greek life to religious organizations, students can often find countless clubs to join throughout their time as students. Community and campus engagement can help students find communities where they feel connected, helping prevent transfers and dropouts. While you may want to focus on student retention, adding social aspects to your student success profile can provide the data and outcomes you want. 
  • Post-graduate activity: Your institution can measure student success by what students accomplish after graduation. Students have many paths to choose from, including jobs, internships, continued learning, military service, family, and more. When you want to support your students and their success, you may also have to consider their goals for after they leave your school, so you can provide them with the essential skills, resources, and knowledge they'll need. 

Your definition of student success can provide a basis for Student Success Administrator responsibilities at your institution for more direction. When your administrators know what student success looks like, they can better target students falling below the threshold and support students who are doing well. 

Take a People, Process, Technology Approach

Using a holistic approach to student success and equity by collaborating with an organization such as Watermark allows higher education institutions to solve some of the biggest problems that colleges and universities face: keeping students engaged, increasing the chances of student success, and increasing student retention rates.

This can be accomplished through a solid People, Process, and Technology approach. To be successful in their work, a Student Success Administrator must have the following skillsets:

  • People: Relationship-building abilities and influence across financial aid, advising, academic support, and career service departments to collaborate and help people work together to accomplish a similar goal — helping the students and achieving widespread adoption of implemented technologies.
  • Process: Marshaling data, reorganizing systems, and setting priorities.
  • Technology: Increasing the sophistication of higher-ed data and analytics.

Student Success Administrators with the above experience have the dexterity to take these skills and build a student success program that is accepted and successfully implemented campus-wide, ultimately leading to greater success ratios and ROI for the institution.

Prioritize Availability and Visibility 

Because Student Success Administrators must work with several different parties, accessibility and visibility are essential. Individuals must be accessible to other administrators, faculty, and students to streamline their responsibilities and effectively impact student success. Further, visible outcomes and actions shared with various groups can help institutions understand how their program is functioning and supporting needs. 

For example, reporting back to other administrative teams and institution shareholders can ensure that Student Success Administrators continue to have the school's interests and priorities in mind. However, also publishing accomplishments and sharing new initiatives can help students feel supported and show campus-wide improvement. 

Implement the Right Software Solutions 

Student Success Administrators need a way to track student progress and overall performance, so they know which students they'll need to help and how. Software solutions can measure various student activities to help Student Success Administrators access metrics they need to direct initiatives and interactions with students. 

Further, you can convert data into records that help administrators track overall institutional progress. Having access to historical data can show university decision-makers and investors how your student success administration program is helping students. 

Measure Student Success With Watermark 

Measure Student Success With Watermark

Watermark offers several data tracking and management solutions for higher education institutions, including Watermark Student Success & Engagement. This solution tracks student performance metrics, like attendance, to help administrators identify at-risk individuals and tailor actions. The individuals working with students get alerts, so you can better respond to their needs. 

Gene Smith, the president of Brunswick Community College describes the impact Watermark and its solutions had on their student success:

“Watermark has accelerated our focus on student success and it has allowed for a valuable intersection between our faculty and staff, our processes and procedures, and our technology. With Watermark, we are better able to provide timely intervention when needed, connect students to resources to help them succeed, and create new means of communication and transparency across campus.”

With the help of Watermark, Brunswick Community College has an 82% graduation and transfer rate. This percentage is part of why they ranked as the nation’s number one community college in America for the second year in a row.

Request a demo today of Watermark and discover how it can transform your institution. 

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