USF acts as student success mentor to three universities across nation

University of South Florida undergraduates gather at the USF Sun Dome in Tampa for the fall commencement ceremony last December.  LUIS SANTANA | Times
University of South Florida undergraduates gather at the USF Sun Dome in Tampa for the fall commencement ceremony last December. LUIS SANTANA | Times
Published February 22

At a conference all about helping students succeed, University of South Florida officials talked about how they're lending a hand, and their example, to three institutions with similar demographics.

As a national mentor institution, USF is working with the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, New Mexico State University and Augusta University in Georgia to help them with graduation rates and other measures of student performance.

USF's designation as a mentor comes amid awards for closing graduation gaps. At USF, black and Latino undergrads graduate at similar rates to white students — if not higher ones.

The mentor effort is a partnership with the Foundation for Student Success, an organization founded a few years ago and housed at the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems in Colorado. The foundation encourages the use of predictive analytics and other tech tools to help colleges find and help at-risk students.

USF has been using predictive analytics for just that purpose, achieving clear results. Last year, the Education Trust named USF the No. 1 public university in the U.S. for Latino student success. For black student success, it was No. 6.

Now USF is one of seven institutions acting as a mentor. Between those schools, the foundation expects to see an impact on about 100,000 at-risk students across the country.

The foundation's leader, Sally Johnstone, formally announced the program this week at the first annual National Student Success Conference, which USF is hosting.

She explained that, though plenty of national projects aim to boost student success, the foundation gets a little more personal.

"These mentor institutions are sharing their successes and failures while 'holding the hands' of their mentees as they begin their long journey to shift their campus cultures," Johnstone said.

USF will work with its mentees for two years while the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems keeps track of how the schools are doing in terms of equity gaps and campus culture.

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