Retention – A Regional Strategy

Supporting At-Risk Students – A Pittsburgh Approach

As costs for education increase and students continue to be stretched while studying, educational institutions have increasingly focused on retention strategies that help identify and support students who are at-risk of leaving school due to financial strains. The PCHE presidents all agree that collaborating as a consortium with our regional external partners to tackle this issue will increase our chances of successfully addressing these challenges and thus helping all institutions retain and graduate our valued students.

Partnering with HCEF (Homeless Children’s Education Fund)

Led by founder, Dr. Joe Lagana, HCEF has been partnering with PCHE leaders on a number of different activities that will increase outreach, support and resource referrals for our local at-risk college students. A few of these efforts include:

  • Training campus public safety teams on the newly created BigBurgh app that anyone can use from a smartphone. This app allows staff, faculty and students to immediately identify resources within proximity of their location that best addresses their needs. This gives our public safety officers support options at their fingertips. Download the app
  • Meeting with campus leaders to collectively share risk identification protocols across multiple institutions. This allows a sharing of best practices and policy changes to better address needs.
  • Hosting the first Collegiate Basic Needs Dialogue held at University of Pittsburgh on October 2, 2017. Participants included students, staff, faculty and community practitioners working in the sphere of collegiate food and housing insecurity, mental, emotional and physical wellness, and financial security. The Dialogue aimed to provide resources for campuses to meet the basic needs of their students and to cultivate a community of people working within this sphere in western Pennsylvania.

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Partnering with Eden Hall Foundation to Address Homelessness.  
  • PCHE, HCEF and the Eden Hall Foundation, led by Sylvia Fields, Executive Director, have discussed the growing national trend of student homelessness and higher education’s focus on identifying true numbers of students affected. This has led to a partnership in creating a viable survey tool that will allow Pittsburgh institutions to assess actual student numbers and need. This survey or assessment will then allow all PCHE schools, HCEF and additional community organizations to then strategically focus on targeted prevention and intervention strategies.  In September 2017 Eden Hall granted PCHE and HCEF the funds to initiate this effort which will be led by Dr. Heather Starr-Fiedler, Chair of the Department of Community Engagement at Point Park University. She will lead her Ph.D. students as they create this tool, implement the survey, collect the data and produce their findings.