Research News

UB’s college success expert to study ‘the right fit’ among students and universities

students at college success center.

Graduate School of Education researcher Nathan Daun-Barnett has established several College Success Centers at Buffalo public high schools.  


Published November 28, 2017 This content is archived.

headshot of Nathan Daun-Barnett.
“The decisions about whether or where to attend college are complex for students and families. And the stakes are high for colleges and universities. ”
Nathan Daun-Barnett, associate professor
Graduate School of Education

Graduate School of Education faculty member Nathan J. Daun-Barnett has secured another grant to help students thrive while at a college or university.

Daun-Barnett, an expert on college access and financial aid policy, will work with the private firm vibeffect under a three-year, $556,000 grant contract to evaluate the effectiveness of an electronic guidance strategy designed by the company to help students make more informed decisions in the college-choice and enrollment process, as well as its implications for higher education institutions.

“The decisions about whether or where to attend college are complex for students and families,” says Daun-Barnett, associate professor in the GSE’s Department of Educational Leadership and Policy who has established several College Success Centers at Buffalo public high schools. “And the stakes are high for colleges and universities.”

Vibeffect has been developing and testing strategies to help students find the right fit and to thrive at the institution they attend, Daun-Barnett explains.

“We are collaborating with vibeffect to examine whether this targeted, electronic guidance strategy will help students make more informed decisions at key points in the college-choice and enrollment-decision processes,” he says.

“The benefit to students is clear. Simple questions, thoughts and recommendations — appropriately timed and personalized to individual students — can help them to clarify their decisions, anticipate the steps to success and develop confidence in their decisions as they progress through college.”

The benefits are not limited to students and their families, Daun-Barnett points out. If prospective students make good decisions on where to continue their education, the colleges and universities enjoy a more productive enrollment-management process.

“Researchers have documented and studied the ‘summer melt phenomenon,’ where a significant percentage of students who plan to attend college reverses course before the semester begins,” he says. “Our research will begin to test whether this strategy can reduce summer melt for institutions and help students make better choices as they progress into and through college.”

Over the past five years, vibeffect has developed a scientific model to define and measure student thriving in real time in any learning environment. The company then built student-centric and student-direct guidance systems that are offered to students just before critical decision and action points during a student’s academic career. The model aims to efficiently deliver personalized success interventions to all students, rather than limiting interventions to those students identified as demonstrating risk.

The company’s higher education database provides access to 3.5 million data points collected from students at more than 1,200 colleges and universities. It uses an intuitive web interface and advanced analytics to help higher education partners fulfill their promise that every student they admit can maximize their full potential.

These strategies have the potential to revolutionize the way educators think about managing the college-enrollment and retention processes, according to Daun-Barnett.

“The key difference between vibeffect and other strategies,” he says, “is that they shift our focus from remaining enrolled to thriving in college.”