3 things that count in college completion program models

My job requires that I quantify many things. Some are more difficult to count than others.

There are three core principles of the Dell Scholars Program: 1) Know each individual Dell Scholar; 2) Adapt our strategies to the needs of each student; and 3) Measure our effectiveness. Supporting 1,500 scholars per year in their pursuit of a college diploma has required us to explore countless roads less traveled by other college completion programs and scholarship providers and implement the most innovative and flexible ideas to best assist students.

As the program matured, we found that there wasn’t an existing case management model to allow our lean staff to provide high-touch support. In order to efficiently and continuously offer students the right help at the right time, support them through graduation and track our progress, we’re forced to work differently than a traditional caseload model in which individual staff are assigned a specific subset of students to shepherd through their college careers.  Our approach, referred to as collective case management, is a hybrid of traditional practices—students are assigned to a primary program contact—and techniques that ensure any team member can engage with a scholar and pick up where the last contact left off to provide necessary assistance without delay.

3 benefits of collective case management

The benefits –the things that count most – of our collective case management approach are threefold:

  1. Efficiency – Our centralized scholar admin platform, based on proprietary technology developed by the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, provides immediate access to scholar information and staff interaction records. With a secure, clear view of the student’s academic performance, financial situation and personal challenges, any of our trained staff can address the scholar’s specific needs without sifting through mountains of papers or relying on a single staff person who might be unavailable at that exact time.
  2. Individualization – Easily-accessible student information gives our staff the power to respond to a scholar’s specific needs, whether the student needs comprehensive support, resources or information for academic, financial, personal or work-life issues.
  3. Scalability – Our collective case management model enables us to effectively support more than 1500 active Dell Scholars each year.   It’s an advancement that will continue to meet our needs in the years to come, as well as support other innovations to best support the scholars through graduation day. More important, this scalable solution that has been critical to the success of the Dell Scholars Program can be leveraged by many of our college readiness partners that are struggling to provide individualized assistance to their students.

The more pathways we can clear for students and the more risks we’re willing to take, the more students will graduate with a college degree.

Piloting a program for positive change

Our team is energized when we witness transformational change, particularly when the impetus for such improvement is an original idea or unique model.  The collective case management model is helping to ensure Dell Scholars adjust to life on campus and graduate with a college degree in hand.  Meanwhile, a pilot project with charter school partners is leveraging our approach and implementing their own collective case management platforms in response to the exponential growth in the number of their own college-bound students.

The goal of the pilot project with YES Prep Public Schools, Mastery Charter Schools, and Cristo Rey Network is to implement our program approach and leverage our technology to better prepare their students for academic success.  Together, these schools are already supporting more than 5,000 college attending students and will eclipse 15,000 students by 2018.   For these organizations, collective case management is the only approach that gives them the power to provide exceptional student support while keeping staffing and administrative costs low.

Our commitment to uncovering better, faster, cheaper ways of meeting the needs of our scholars and their families is unwavering.  Our hope is that our enthusiasm regarding the advancements we can share with our college completion and college readiness program partners will be contagious.  The more pathways we can clear for students and the more risks we’re willing to take, the more students will graduate with a college degree.

We can quantify the number of students to advance through our individual programs, but the long-term benefits of a college degree to those students and families are infinite.