Guided pathways update: New onboarding processes, proactive outreach, and enrollment gains

In the three months since Austin Community College began transitioning to guided pathways, new onboarding processes and the collaborative efforts of several college divisions are helping thousands of new Austin Community College students get off to a strong start.

“The proactive approach to student onboarding is a sign of the changes to come with guided pathways and represents the supportive structure we are seeking collegewide,” says Vice President of Student Services Dr. Virginia Fraire. “We are off to an incredible start, and our students will benefit from it.”

ACC fall enrollment at September 1 was up slightly from the beginning of the fall 2015 semester. Of the 41,383 students enrolled, almost 27 percent (11,164) are new to ACC. Following is a rundown of how they were supported through each phase of the enrollment process.

“The proactive approach to student onboarding is a sign of the changes to come with guided pathways and represents the supportive structure we are seeking collegewide.”

Enrollment Management

The Enrollment Management Office spearheaded several onboarding changes beginning with a revised, streamlined ACC application. From June 1 to August 28, the Admissions and Records Office received and processed 9,990 new student applications. Applicants designate their area of study (AoS) and home campus to help the college deliver services effectively and efficiently.

Recruiters and enrollment advisers under the leadership of Enrollment Management Director Patty Behr contacted more than 8,000 applicants to assist with enrollment steps and help them become registration-ready for their AoS Information Session. The team also facilitated videotaped AoS sessions for more than 800 students during the last week of registration.

ACC’s Financial Aid team contacted almost 3,000 students to encourage them to complete their financial aid application. As a result of the outreach, 24 percent of applicants called were awarded financial aid or had documentation ready for review by the first day of classes. More than $112 million in financial aid has been awarded for 2016-17 with $18.3 million disbursed as of August 31 — a 10 percent increase over disbursements at the same time last year.

The Student Services Help Desk served on the “front lines” by managing questions from new and prospective students. Staff under the direction of Lee Buentello handled 91,583 calls, emails, and live chats between June 1 and August 30.


Students attend an AoS session.

Areas of Study Sessions/advising

Throughout the summer, almost 5,000 students attended AoS information sessions facilitated by advisors, counselors, and faculty. Student response was overwhelming positive: 86 percent said the session met their needs; 94 percent agreed the information was useful to them; and 95 percent agreed they learned the importance of meeting with their assigned advisor on a regular basis. The sessions, along with scheduling logistics, were led by advising supervisors under the leadership of Advising Director Kathy James.

Collegewide support

Several college offices supported the new onboarding processes:

  • Public Information and College Marketing (PICM), in partnership with Video Services, created the First Step video and gathered viewer data. PICM also developed webpages for the new areas of study, enrollment steps, and assigned advisors; created a new print document summarizing enrollment steps, and notified students of payment deadlines and other requirements.
  • Business Office staff provided timely communication about payment deadlines and deregistration schedules and was quick to respond to and accommodate students’ needs.
  • Information Technology provided systems support for the revised application and AoS information session registrations. The team also continued the transition to the Self-Service Student Planning tool and prepared for the CRM Recruit implementation.
  • The Human Resources Office managed the organizational changes supporting the pathways redesign.  (View From the Student Services VP: Organizational structure and advising processes to see how Student Services is evolving to support guided pathways.)

Dr. Melissa Curtis, associate vice president enrollment management, says faculty and staff involved in the new processes gained a wealth of experience they can apply to spring registration, which begins October 17.

“The devoted work by our Student Services team and many others led to excellent results this summer,” she says. “No doubt we will continue to evolve in our efforts as we develop into a supportive guided pathways institution.”

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