UW System adopts new software to reduce graduation gaps

MADISON — The University of Wisconsin System is implementing new advising software in an effort to improve retention and reduce graduation gaps between students of color and their white peers.

All of the university system's campuses will soon begin using the software Navigate Student Success Collaborative , which tracks class attendance, grades and financial factors that could affect student enrollment.

The system's Board of Regents approved a $4 million contract for the software with the Education Advisory Board in December, Wisconsin Public Radio reported.

Georgia State University used the program as an early warning system to help identify and support students at risk of dropping out, said Ray Cross, the Wisconsin system's president.

"They have totally eliminated their achievement gap between underrepresented groups and their counterparts," Cross said. "In fact, the graduation rate for African-American students at Georgia State is 1 percent higher than their counterparts."

The new software is part of the University of Wisconsin system's broader effort to introduce "intrusive advising," a process in which advisers check on students who don't seem to be doing well.

The university system has seen its graduation numbers improve over the last decade.

Nearly 37,000 students completed their degrees in the last academic year, which was a 13 percent increase from a decade ago. The number of graduates of color more than doubled over that period, from 1,839 in the 2007-2008 school year to 4,919 in 2017-2018.

Cross said recent budget cuts forced the system to abandon resources, such as advising, and focus on classroom offerings. He said those resources need to be restored.

Former Republican Gov. Scott Walker slashed $250 million from the system's 2015-2017 budget.

Democratic Gov. Tony Evers has proposed budgeting an additional $150 million for the system, one-third of which has been outlined to go toward backfilling revenue lost through a freeze on in-state undergraduate tuition.