Northeast State has received a Tennessee Promise Forward grant from the Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) to expand academic and advising programs. THEC awarded five community colleges nearly $800,000 designated to help the recipient colleges focus on student success and retention.
Northeast State plans to expand its successful peer mentoring program. The College posted a retention rate of 84.2 percent for all Tennessee Promise students, an increase from the previous year’s retention rate of 78 percent.
Mentors will use interactive technology including personalized text messages and push notifications to alert students of academic and financial aid deadlines. Northeast State will also continue its required freshman success course Education 1030 this academic year with an added layer of mentor support for Tennessee Promise students.
Jane Honeycutt, director of the TN Promise Mentoring program at Northeast State, said the grant represented a new way of engaging students to aid both retention and provide a sense of community.
“This year we had additional time to talk with students about the mentoring process and get them involved,” she said. “Students respond really well to electronic communication so the Keeping Our Promise mobile app will continue to be a critical engagement tool for us.”
Northeast State piloted the Tennessee Promise mobile app, powered by ModoLabs, last year. This free app, which can be downloaded to all iPad minis issued to incoming first-year students, provides electronic access to the College’s calendar, campus maps, list of student advisors, and upcoming events.
The Tennessee Promise Forward grant program began in 2015 with the goal of retaining Tennessee Promise students at community colleges. The program was initially funded through a College Access Challenge Grant from the U.S. Department of Education. The College’s Office of Grant Development applied for the second phase of the grant in the first week of July.
“In addition to supporting the peer mentoring program, the current year’s grant funds an expansion of the Tennessee Promise mobile app to allow Education 1030 students to receive text messages and PUSH notifications,” said Linda Calvert, executive director of the College’s Office of Grant Development. “All program components are designed to keep Tennessee Promise students engaged with and informed about the college.”
First-year students enrolled in the Education 1030 class this fall will download the Remind mobile app that notifies students of upcoming deadlines and events. The Remind app functions with both a student’s iPad mini and his or her mobile phone.
“That was a key component to our proposal because Northeast State is becoming an iPad, iCampus,” said Calvert. “We focused on evidenced based retention models and the results for student engagement were very positive.”
First-year TN Promise students meet with their mentors every two weeks during the first critical 10 weeks of class and once per month thereafter. During the first year of Tennessee Promise, Northeast State recruited 27 student mentors to work with incoming students. That number nearly doubled to 50 mentors this fall.
“We’ve had some very good results with our mentoring program,” said Honeycutt. “We want to do a more comprehensive survey of retention for all our Tennessee Promise students next year.”
A good number of student mentors volunteer from the College’s Honors Program and the Alpha Iota Chi chapter of Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society. Honeycutt said the raw data of first-year Tennessee Promise students who accepted a mentor posted a 100 percent retention rate for the past year – an eye-opening number as colleges seek to raise retention rates.
In a statement announcing the grants, Executive Director of THEC Mike Krause said, “Since its launch in 2015, the focus of Tennessee Promise has been increasing the number of students enrolling in college. Tennessee Promise Forward grants represent the next step: ensuring that once students get into college, they have the resources and tools to graduate.”
Northeast State will also continue its required freshman success course this academic year with an added layer of mentor support for all incoming Tennessee Promise students.