Four UNC Charlotte departments and 20 academic advisors will be participating in a $225 thousand national research program this semester, says Dr. John Smail, Dean of University College.

The program aims to connect college advisors with students who may be struggling academically. UNC Charlotte is participating in the study alongside two other colleges in the U.S. The grant, called Integrated Planning and Advising for Student Success (IPASS), provides the funding for “predictive analytics tools” that flag students who are labeled potentially at risk and follow their progress through their courses.

UNC Charlotte academic advisors hope with these tools, they will be better able to highlight students who are, or may be at academic risk. With predictive analytics, college advisors can better monitor and assist students with encouragement and strategy to improve academic performance.

“Advisors are in contact with students every two weeks or so, initially with positive messages and suggesting success strategies. If students show signs of risk, then the messages progressively become more insistent,” Smail said.

2,600 UNC Charlotte students are to be a part of the IPASS study involving the Belk College of Business, Computing and Informatics, Liberal Arts & Sciences and University College. Randomized controlled trials are to be conducted which compare flagged student groups that are only engaged by analytic tools and automated, infrequent advising messages against groups of flagged students that are exposed to persistent, unrelenting personal advising support. Researchers will compare the impact these analytic tools have when employed alone versus coupling the analytic tools with personalized and consistent support from college advisors.

Smail said UNC Charlotte attracted the IPASS grant award as a result of advising restructuring implemented in the fall 2015 semester. Funding for the IPASS grant is disbursed over three years and is provided by the Helmsley Charitable Trust and the Gates Foundation. Research throughout the program’s duration is being done in conjunction with the Community College Research Center at Columbia University and another social research institution, the Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation (MDRC). The California State University system’s Fresno campus and Montgomery County Community College in Pennsylvania are the other two institutions participating in the study.

Students can expect research trials to begin in upcoming semesters.


  1. Excellently written article; concise yet very informative. I look forward to seeing what this research study will do– and this writer!

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