(NewsUSA) - What if colleges could predict whether students would drop out of college before they had a chance to? How helpful would this information be in reducing dropout rates and increasing graduation rates?

Well, a new system may be able to help do just that.

"We have identified factors that can be predictors of student success, which gives colleges the ability to flag at-risk students," says Eric Reich of Higher One's Campus Labs platform. "Now, thanks to Higher One's Campus Labs platform, colleges are able to use sophisticated data analysis techniques to understand more about students."

Clues to how students are doing include how often they participate in campus activities (like sporting events or student organizations), how often they use campus services (such as checking in at the financial aid office, career center or computer labs) and how engaged they are with their own course work (providing course feedback or visiting professors during office hours).

All of these actions create data that institutions can capture, and all of these actions have been shown to increase the likelihood of a student to graduate. It makes sense, but only in recent years have schools embraced the technology that can gather and analyze these data so the college can really identify at-risk students and "tweak" their programs to help.

"Using Campus Labs, an advisor can actually detect patterns of students who are not successful and intervene to give them the guidance at the critical time -- before it's too late," says Reich.

Just look at Northern Arizona University, which recently partnered with Higher One to help the University collect data, collaborate across divisions, embrace student assessment and ultimately guide decisions by administrators.

"Freshman outreach has been very successful for us," says Erin Grisham, executive director of educational support service at Northern Arizona. "Students we meet with retain at higher rates than those we don't meet with."

For more information, visit www.higherone.com/campuslabs.

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(NewsUSA) - For most college students, the path to earning credit typically involves several weeks of listening to lectures, taking notes, completing assignments and passing a mid-term and final exam.

But if you could earn that credit in less time and at a fraction of the cost of taking a formal course, would you be interested? There would be no assignments to complete and no lectures or classes to attend, just an exam to pass.

Students looking for a more efficient model to earn a college degree should consider credit-by-exam programs, which have become popular among those who want to accelerate their pace and contain costs.

"Credit-by-exam programs have been used for decades and continue to grow today because they offer real value to students and enable them to complete degree requirements more efficiently than taking traditional courses," noted Marc Singer, vice provost of the Center for the Assessment of Learning at Thomas Edison State College (www.tesc.edu), which recently aligned several of its credit-by-exam programs with open courses to create new pathways for students to earn credit.

Nearly 3,000 colleges and universities in the U.S. accept credit-by-exam as transfer credit. The programs enable students to earn credit by passing a single exam and tend to be a good fit for independent learners, students who possess college-level knowledge and students who are good test takers.

Credit-by-exam programs are not for everyone, especially students who prefer a structured environment and interacting with a professor and fellow students. Deciding to earn college credit by preparing for an exam that covers a semester's worth of content means you have to be self-motivated and disciplined. This approach appeals to many busy adult students who have competing demands on their time and who prefer to work independently.

Two of the most popular credit-by-exam programs in the U.S. are the College-Level Exam Program (CLEP exams) and DSST exams.

"Students considering credit-by-exam programs should talk with their academic advisor to make sure credits from the exam they are planning to take can be transferred to satisfy a requirement in their degree program," said Singer.

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Placer Community Foundation recently handed out $250,000 in grants for mental health prevention and early intervention in Placer County, as well as awarding $19,000 in scholarships at Sierra College to benefit local workforce development.

Grants of $50,000 each were awarded to five local nonprofits that provide services to youth and families. This funding will allow the organizations to provide varied mental health services, including court advocates for foster children, mentors for fathers of at-risk children, counseling for birth families recently reunited with their children, support and services for mental illness within the Placer Native community, and intervention for teens exposed to, and at risk for, drug abuse.

This funding was made available through a partnership with the County of Placer Department of Health and Human Services and the Mental Health Services Act. The grantees are: Child Advocates of Placer County—CASA Expansion Project, Lilliput Children’s Services—Home to Stay, KidsFirst—Supporting Fathers, Community Recovery Resource—Full Circle Student and Family Support Program, and Sierra Native Alliance—Women’s Group/ Counseling Program.

“A big thank you to Placer Community Foundation for funding our ‎Home to Stay program in Placer County,” said Lilliput Children’s Services CEO Karen Alvord. “We are starting the second year of the program and are thrilled with the results thus far. We couldn’t have done it without the foundation’s ongoing support.” Lilliput’s Home to Stay program is focused on providing intensive, in-home parenting education, coaching, and therapy with a focus on creating stability for both birth families and kin whose children are at risk for disruption/out of home placement due to emotional, behavioral, or mental health issues.

Additionally, eleven students were awarded a total of $19,000 in scholarships to pursue degrees in engineering, welding, and drafting at Sierra College. The John G. and Lillian M. Walsh Family Scholarship Fund awards scholarships to graduates from the Auburn area, where the Walsh Family lived for four generations. Through this memorial scholarship entrusted to Placer Community Foundation, the legacy of the Walsh Family continues by investing in the future through our community’s youth. One of the scholarship recipients, Drake Whitton, said, “I am honored to get this scholarship. It means a lot to me, and I look forward to seeing where my welding career takes me.”

About Placer Community Foundation: Placer Community Foundation grows local giving to strengthen our community by connecting donors who care with causes that matter. Known for sound financial management and knowledge of the nonprofit sector, the Community Foundation continually monitors the region to better understand the nature of local needs, so that it can invest in areas such as arts and culture, education, health and human services, and the environment. The Community Foundation provides regular trainings and technical assistance for the many local nonprofits that are experiencing growing public demand for programs and services. To learn more about establishing charitable funds, visit placercf.org, contact Veronica Blake at vblake@placercf.org, or call (530) 885-4920.

Source for story and photos: Placer Community Foundation

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