(Graphic: Business Wire)

Citing a lack of independent research on “for-profit” education institutions, The Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education (Pell Institute) conducted a comprehensive review and analysis of DeVry University’s academic and support services for low-income, first-generation college students. The study’s findings, released today at a policy forum in Washington, D.C., show nontraditional students at DeVry University receive high levels of personal and academic support, which similar institutions could look to replicate.

The goal of the study, Promising Practices Supporting Low-Income, First-Generation Students at DeVry University, was to catalog the academic and social support services offered at one of the nation’s largest proprietary universities, and benchmark them against similar programs designed to support individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds. According to The Pell Institute’s previous research in other sectors, effective support services can have a positive impact on low-income, first-generation college students, helping them to persist in their studies and graduate.

“We were very familiar with what successful support programs for low-income, first-generation students looked like at traditional schools,” said Chandra Taylor Smith, Ph.D., vice president of research and director at The Pell Institute, “but since schools like DeVry University do not receive federal TRIO grants, we wanted to learn their supportive practices which seemed to show the most promise for student success. What we discovered was that many strategic academic and social student support services established in the literature as effectively supporting low-income students in other sectors are incorporated in the DeVry University structure.”

The Pell Institute’s research included site visits to three DeVry University Chicago-area campuses, personal interviews with administrators, faculty and staff, and focus groups with students. The Chicago-area campuses were selected because they enroll a high percentage of low-income and underrepresented minority students.

The study highlighted the following three guiding strategies behind the practices at DeVry University as key to their support for these students:
  • Approach support services for students as customer service
  • Provide early, in-depth, on-campus student opportunities
  • Establish and sustain a shared sense of community

The report notes, “These three overarching categories are distinctive because of the way in which the dynamic confluence of business values and higher education practices come together to inform DeVry’s educational culture.”

Among the essential elements of DeVry University’s support services cited by The Pell Institute are: a one-stop shop advising model, an early intervention warning system, degree progress tracking, academic success centers, and career and employment services.

In addition, The Pell Institute found that “valuing students as customers can establish an effective college success culture,” especially for low-income, first-generation students. “Students at DeVry express that they appreciate feeling valued as a customer and receiving individualized attention from the staff, administrators and faculty,” according to the report.

The Pell Institute report also describes DeVry University’s many programs offering early, in-depth, on-campus student opportunities for high school students, such as the DeVry University Advantage Academy. The report notes: “Exposing low-income, first-generation students to college as early as possible enhances their ability to successfully navigate the college access process, and to persist and graduate from college with a degree.”

In addition to their study findings, The Pell Institute made several recommendations on ways DeVry University could enhance its practices to serve low-income, first-generation students, including: expanding the use of disaggregated data to track student outcomes, clarifying and reconsidering rigid attendance tracking policies, and better acknowledging the contributions of faculty and staff that excel in supporting these students. Pell also recommends that DeVry establish greater transparency around student services and outcomes so that the supportive practices observed by researchers are more apparent to consumers.

“We have long recognized and valued The Pell Institute’s expertise with the needs of low-income, first-generation students, so we were eager to get their outside perspective on our student support services,” said Sharon Thomas Parrott, senior vice president, external relations and chief regulatory compliance officer at DeVry Inc. “We are reviewing and evaluating the Pell Institute’s recommendations to see how we might incorporate them into our approach to student services. DeVry has always operated by a continuous improvement model, and finding new and better ways to serve our students is a high priority.”

A full copy of Promising Practices Supporting Low-Income, First-Generation Students at DeVry University by the Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education is available at http://www.pellinstitute.org/publications.html or http://www.devryinc.com/resources/pdfs/Pell_DeVry_Report_May2011.pdf.

The policy forum webcast can be viewed for the next 30 days at the following link: http://www.iencode.net/Webcast/Page/165/1080.

About The Pell Institute

The Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education conducts and disseminates research and policy analysis to encourage policymakers, educators, and the public to improve educational opportunities and outcomes for low-income, first-generation, and disabled college students.

About DeVry University

Founded in 1931, DeVry University is one of the largest, private sector universities in North America, with nearly 93,000 students enrolled in the United States and Canada. The university's mission is to foster student learning through high-quality, career-oriented education integrating technology, business, science and the arts. With more than 90 locations, DeVry University delivers practitioner-oriented undergraduate and graduate degree programs onsite and online that meet the needs of a diverse and geographically dispersed student population. Home to five colleges of study, including Business & Management, Engineering & Information Sciences, Health Sciences, Liberal Arts & Sciences, and Media Arts & Technology, DeVry University's outstanding faculty members, work in the fields that they teach, providing students with real-world experiences that prepare them for high-growth careers.

About DeVry Inc.

DeVry's purpose is to empower its students to achieve their educational and career goals. DeVry (NYSE: DV, member S&P 500 Index) is a global provider of educational services and the parent organization of Advanced Academics, Becker Professional Education, Carrington College, Carrington College California, Chamberlain College of Nursing, DeVry Brasil, DeVry University, and Ross University Schools of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine. These institutions offer a wide array of programs in business, healthcare and technology. DeVry's institutions serve students in secondary through postsecondary education and professionals in accounting and finance.

Copyright Business Wire 2010

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