By Darcy A. Dauderis, JD MHA, Senior Vice President and Chief Compliance Officer, International Education Corporation
In today’s environment (and yesterday’s, and the environment the day before that), it is a given that outcomes are more important than ever to institutional sustainability. Producing poor outcomes leads to no programs, no students, and no institution. Regulators, accrediting bodies, and our student consumers are focused on our outcomes as individual institutions and as a sector. It also goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway), the outcomes reporting road is costly and riddled with resource exhaustion in remediating outcomes, responding and reporting on them, and playing catch-up in prior years’ reporting cohorts at the same time working on the current cohort. Yet, many institutions still seem to be mystified with their results at outcomes reporting time and struggle to enhance outcomes in ways that impact student success in “real-time.” The lack of “ownership” of outcomes, monitoring and reporting, and managing external forces impacting outcomes like credentialing and licensing may be one reason for these unpleasant reporting surprises and the resulting consequences.
Even with limited financial or human resources, there are simple ways to ensure quality outcomes for our students and institutions and ensure tomorrow’s workforce is well-equipped.
One of my favorite analogies for being compliant with outcomes (or anything else under the compliance umbrella) comes directly from my very detailed, organized, perfection-driven, neat-freak of a mother – “If you make your bed EVERY morning and do the dishes after EVERY meal, you’ll never have a mess.” As simple as it is, this rule of thumb really speaks to the ongoing, unrelenting focus that has to be built into our daily practices in our institutions. Outcomes should be no surprise to any of us at reporting time. Monitoring and tracking outcomes throughout the student lifecycle and the institution’s reporting year are essential to eliminating the surprise outcomes. Unfortunately, monitoring and tracking alone will not solve any outcomes issues. Accountability for action to solve the underlying concerns at the root of the outcomes is often the issue in moving outcomes in the right direction. Knowing about it isn’t enough.
For those institutions playing catch-up or looking for new solutions, I would suggest there are three high impact places to look at right away to get on the road to solid outcomes. First, for those institutions with programs that have licensing or credentialing required or preferred for employment, start here. Start with your graduate effectiveness on these critical exams aka pass rates and participation rates. Dissect these rates. It’s likely there’s a state board or national board pass rate that’s calculated differently than your accrediting body’s rate. Understand whether the pass rate is based on participation in the exam or total graduates. Understand whether the pass rate is based solely on first attempts at the exam or on multiple attempts. Find the actions to make sure you satisfy both formulas (first-time pass rate versus any passers count, for example).
Understand the licensing specifics. Can students test and apply for license simultaneously? What is the wait time for testing? What is the wait time for licensing? What are the hurdles with backgrounds for licensing or testing? By discovering the specifics of the process, you can plan the student lifecycle accordingly. Project plan when students complete applications to test or for licensing. Build your faculty and student services into the project plan with these deliverables. Ensure that your process isn’t creating unnecessary bottlenecks in time between the completion of curriculum and preparation for testing. Ensure there is a process in place to facilitate applications and educating students and graduates on the process steps. You may even elect to cover the fees or wrap them into total tuition and fees to streamline the process for students. In attacking this lever, you will likely get the 2-for-1 benefit of solving any placement rate issues that are due to graduates not be timely licensed. It seems obvious, but the licensing outcomes issue is often a long-term, deeply rooted issue in program delivery or curriculum that’s gone unresolved.
The next place to look for hidden outcomes issues are in the student, graduate, and employer satisfaction surveys. This is practically FREE information that you are already gathering (sometimes with great effort to get responses). So, why aren’t you reading them? And, if you are reading them, are you taking the next step and addressing the students concerns? How about the shortages of toilet tissue in the ladies restroom? How about employer concerns about the graduate’s soft skills? What about the evening faculty member that releases class early on Tuesdays? Not only are these expressions of satisfaction or dissatisfaction the survey participant’s perception about the institution, but it’s also usually a great place to start cleaning up retention issues, deficits in the facility, and any faculty concerns. A simple tip for reviewing these results – lose the ego. You have to consider that if one respondent took the time to comment, there might be something to it. Another place to look to understand your stakeholders’ perceptions about the institution are social media sites, consumer sites like Yelp and Glassdoor, and any other sites where you might be “trending.”
If you’re still not seeing the importance of being aware of how others see your institution, you might be interested to know that your regulators are also reviewing these sites and it’s never fun to be the last to know.
The third-place worth checking out is right there in your building – time to take inventory of your resources. The areas of student services and career services are great places to impact retention, completion, graduation, and placement. Here are some simple questions that can be used as prompts in an honest evaluation of resources and either adding, reorganizing or better utilizing what you already have. Who is calling students that are missing in action before they are dropped for attendance? Who is assessing co-curricular needs of students and assisting with pointing them to resources? When is the student’s interaction with career services starting? (Hint: earlier is better.) Who handles student grievances? What is the involvement of career and student services on campus? What’s the tone of the campus? What student appreciation and community activities are ongoing?
Overall, responding to outcomes at the time of reporting (or after an agency request for a response) is too late. There is no more “waiting for things to clear up.” Anticipate the issues using the information you already have and be proactive in assuring you have no surprises in retention, completion, graduation, licensing, and placement. Measure yourself constantly by monitoring throughout the reporting year and setting up your retention/attrition, placement, licensing, and any other metric on run rates the same way you measure your budgets, enrollments, student to faculty ratios and the like. Lining up expectations for your faculty, career services, and student services is also key to achieving these ongoing milestones for outcomes. Make sure that everyone on the team understands the “why” of reporting outcomes, what the outcomes mean, what the underlying causes might be for the outcomes you are getting, and what to do about it. It’s a trap to assume that everyone understands the numbers or why they are so critical. If you don’t spell it all out, you are missing the opportunity to ensure that you have all hands on deck and that everyone is focused on outcomes with a commitment to getting them consistently as a daily practice.
While I’ve not done a comprehensive search of the current literature, I’m pretty sure that having hope as a strategy never really worked and is not an acceptable approach.
So, being strategic about getting our outcomes and using an organized approach to get there is really the only way for long-term success. The shotgun approach to getting outcomes after-the-fact is an unwise use of resources and doesn’t exactly lend itself to sustainable operations or satisfaction. Strategic and specific affords opportunities to hold our teams accountable and motivates performance against these goals. A team with a plan is always more successful. The worst case is the plan doesn’t work, and you can retool. The hopeful shotgun approach leaves no evidence of what worked and what didn’t. I’m not telling you anything you don’t know here, but in some cases, you may have to shift your organizational approach and thinking about outcomes.
Just like making your bed every morning and doing the dishes after every meal, this type of ongoing reflection and action in our institutions is key to mastering outcomes throughout the student and institution life cycle. Building organizations that are proactive, strategic, organized in approach, specific in accountabilities and objectives, and committed to having all hands on deck for achieving student outcomes is the pathway for continuing to prove why our institutions are best suited to fulfill the workforce needs for skilled workers. Now, go make your bed!
MS. DAUDERIS has been part of the postsecondary career education sector for more than a decade. Her experience in the sector includes various positions in academics, accreditation, and regulatory compliance. Ms. Dauderis also has experience in the legal, financial services, real estate, and health care sectors.
Prior to joining International Education Corporation as Senior Vice President and Chief Compliance Officer in 2017, Ms. Dauderis held a number of regulatory and academic executive roles in medium and large-sized postsecondary career education institutions including Vice President of Accreditation and Licensing and Vice President of Academics. In those positions, she managed relationships with more than 10 institutional and programmatic accreditors for more than 100 programs, assisted in the launch of new campuses and programs, and developed academic and compliance leaders and teams.
Ms. Dauderis has served on the Board of Commissioners for the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES); as Chair of the Annual Review Committee for ABHES; as a member of the Financial Review Committee; and as a Team Leader and Distance Evaluator for site evaluations. Ms. Dauderis is a licensed attorney with a JD, Certificate in Health Law and a Master’s of Health Administration from Saint Louis University. Ms. Dauderis will defend her dissertation in early 2018 to complete her Ph.D. in Education with an emphasis in Higher Education Leadership.
Contact Information: Darcy A. Dauderis, JD MHA // Senior Vice President & Chief Compliance Officer // International Education Corporation // 702-525-9947 // firstname.lastname@example.org // http://www.iecglobal.com // https://www.linkedin.com/in/darcy-dauderis-a716157/