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Foundation for Student Success


The mission of the Foundation for Student Success (FSS) is to support postsecondary institutions to achieve greater student success and reduce equity gaps through comprehensive campus culture-change strategies.

FSS was founded in 2016 and is housed and administered at NCHEMS.

Approach Impacts


In 2016, NCHEMS began a project to identify how campuses change their cultures to achieve better student success and to eliminate equity gaps. Using publicly available data, NCHEMS analyzed institutional-level data to identify campuses around the country that were doing much better graduating Black, Latinx, and American Indian students than their input variables (ACT/SAT scores, Pell eligibility, etc.) would have predicted and that were enrolling at least 25% of its students from the racial/ethnic categories of focus. From that list, FSS selected four universities and three community colleges to act as mentor campuses based on findings from interviews with campus leadership. Each mentor campus was paired with three similar campuses based on characteristics such as size and student body composition. Over a two-year period, NCHEMS coordinated monthly conversations between the mentor and mentee campuses covering topics selected by the mentees. For each audio/video call appropriate campus staff would be involved –depending on the topic, those might be financial aid staff, deans, institutional researchers, and the like. NCHEMS monitored and recorded each of these interactions. NCHEMS also surveyed mentee campus staff, received case studies from each mentor institution, and shared lessons through webinars featuring leaders from participating institutions.


After two years of practical research with 28 public institutions of various types (urban, rural, research universities, community colleges, comprehensive universities, HSIs and HBCUs), NCHEMS identified the following as the most critical levers for starting and maintaining institutional culture change that results in equity gap reduction and better success for all students.

    • Data collection, analysis, and use
      • How to find available data.
      • How to better use available data (e.g. disaggregate data, share data broadly and clearly).
      • Engaging Institutional Research (IR) offices as partners.
      • Developing Key Performance Indicators (KPI) on student success and using data to hold the campus community accountable.
    • Effective campus-wide communication and engagement
      • Campus-wide training for faculty (including adjuncts) and all non-academic staff (including campus facilities and services staff).
      • Communicating with entire campus community regarding institutional culture change and equity gap reduction strategies.
      • Sharing data campus-wide on student success.
      • Engaging all faculty and staff as partners in the goal of institutional culture change and equity gap reduction on their campus.
    • Hiring strategies and personnel policies
      • Developing and implementing strategies for more diverse and equitable hiring that considers collective bargaining if needed.
      • Empowering a high-level person who leads the charge, has resources to ensure the campus is making progress on equity and diversity goals, has the authority to hold others accountable, and is accountable for meeting campus-level goals.
      • Implementing strategies that promote campus culture change (including activities such as revising job descriptions and interview questions, ensuring diverse search committees, and diversifying job posting locations/websites).
      • All campus community members are held responsible for student success.
    • Auditing campus and state policies and practices to identify those that perpetuate the status quo
      • Identify alignment with institutional culture change and equity gap reduction strategies.
      • Evaluate those typical practices that can easily change and those that are mandated by institutional or state policies.
      • Work to modify practices and policies as needed.