York College implemented this semester an early-alert system called Cardinal Pulse, designed for first-year students who are struggling to pass their classes and in jeopardy of dropping out of the University.
“This is not replacing anything that we have in place already,” said Assistant Provost Holger Henke. “We’re adding another system to make this perhaps easier for professors to make them refer a student who may show signs of having problems or academic challenges to our academic support areas.”
The “added system” is a back-end ticket server that professors can access from the helpdesk to report students and make note of specific challenges by “referring the student for an intervention,” according to the Cardinal Pulse website.
The intervention is managed by what Henke referred to as a “triage” group comprised of two people, one in academic advisement and the other in counseling, who investigate and dissect what the student’s needs are and how they can help in retaining students.
All of this comes at a time when York College’s student retention is one of the lowest of the CUNY colleges. In the past three years, York College has seen on average a 17 percent drop in freshmen retention within the first year, which then jumps to 30.7 percent within the first and second year.
In 2012, CUNY established a University-wide goal to “implement [a] retain early alert system to identify students early in the semester who are at risk for failure,” stated a 2012-2013 University Progress Report. This early alert was established at both Hunter and Baruch Colleges in 2013 and include call centers that provide contact to at-risk students.
It would seem that York is aiming to meet the standards set by the University by also providing an early-contact call system, as well, explained Henke.
“Once the triage group, let’s say, determine that this is a student who needs help with math, they would be referred to the math center,” said Henke. “They will do an outreach to the student, probably by email at first, if there’s no response then I have recommended they do a follow up in a couple days by phone.”
The student has full confidentiality in the Cardinal Pulse process but also has the option to decline. “At some point, though, we’ll probably stop reaching out because we don’t want to harass anybody,” Henke said.
Cardinal Pulse also welcomes professors to report students who are exceptionally talented in classes, who might benefit from scholarships and other campus resources.
“We’re always looking for good stories,” said Henke. “Often it gets lost and not recognized, and indeed we would like to know.”