YSU to expand use of retention software

The trial period of the Starfish Retention Software has proved successful, and with that, officials at Youngstown State University have decided to expand the use of the software to incoming freshmen come summer.

The software allows instructors, advisers and peer mentors to identify areas of improvement for students and share it with them and other teachers.

“Most all universities have a way of making students feel special — like they’re not just a number,” said Jonelle Beatrice, director of the YSU Center for Student Progress. “To me, that’s the benefit of this system.”

She said it will be applied as an early warning system to acknowledge the problem before it’s too late.

Jack Fahey, ombudsperson and vice president for student affairs, used it in his Reading and Study Skills class, and said the students responded well.

“The magic of the software is you can either raise a flag or give kudos,” Fahey said.

When a flag is raised, it notifies the student about a problem area. Kudos is given when a student has performed well in a specific area.

Fahey and Beatrice said students have thanked them because it helped keep them on track.

“‘It takes a village to raise a student’ kind of thing,” Fahey said.

Beatrice said student privacy shouldn’t be a concern because professors can only view information of the students on their roster.

“Our business is student success, and we have access to certain information because it’s our job,” Beatrice said.

Jeanne Herman, university registrar, said she is happy with YSU’s decision to choose Starfish.

Herman said accessibility improvements to the software have been made since it was introduced in the summer.

“We chose this because it allows us to reach out to the students rather than the students reaching to us,” Herman said.

Incoming freshmen, however, will not be the only students affected by the software.

“At one point, we would like to expand to the entire university,” Beatrice said. “We understand that it’s not only freshmen that feel anonymous and could use the attention.”

She said she hopes the end result will bring higher retention and graduation rates to the university.

According to csocollegecenter.org, 35 percent of YSU students graduate within six years. YSU Institutional Research reported that the fall-to-fall retention rate has been steadily decreasing over the last six years and is currently at 62 percent.

Additional reporting by Sarah Perrine.