MCCCD Secures Award from Largest U.S. Foundation in Support of Innovative and Affordable Student Success Technology

Dec, 16 2021

Mesa students in orange polos

The Maricopa County Community College District (MCCCD) has received $499,987 from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which will help fund Maricopa's development and implementation of a student success technology suite called ASSIST. ASSIST is an acronym that stands for Academic and Student Success Integrated Support Technology and is designed to empower advisors and other student service professionals with user-friendly access to holistic student data. At the core of Maricopa’s solution is an inexpensive, fast, and scalable cloud-based data layer that ingests student data from many disparate systems. The front-end includes a web application layer that presents a single pane of glass experience that advisors and other student support staff need to effectively and efficiently support students. 

Buying expensive commercial products and hiring consultants and staff to implement those investments is out of reach for many community colleges. This challenge, coupled with complex data integration and migration issues at scale, inspired the core ideas behind ASSIST, which stands to be an alternative, lower-cost approach.

"We are so excited to share the news about ASSIST, a platform that will provide advisors and student support staff with insights and key information to help students during service experiences," said Mr. Joseph Licata, the technology lead for ASSIST and Associate Vice Chancellor for Information Technology. "The tools in this suite span several product categories from traditional CRM capabilities to early alert and case management. Not only do we plan to help many of our students across our ten colleges with this technology, but we hope to find ways to share our work with other institutions facing similar challenges."

Throughout its history, the Maricopa Community Colleges have worked to make high-quality education accessible and affordable for students. Many institutions struggle to empower advisors and student service professionals with the information they need to assist students effectively. MCCCD’s goal is to ensure an interested person can not only navigate the educational process to become a student but also successfully traverse the student lifecycle and complete with a credential, be it a certificate or degree from one of our 10 colleges serving more than 140,000 students.

“Good data, that is easily accessible, enables Maricopa to provide more holistic, proactive, personalized support to promote student success, and it can help leaders make better decisions and take action to address equity barriers,” said Dr. Mark Koan, Vice Chancellor for Information Technology. “We believe the recent shift toward more remote learning and virtual services advances the utility and quality of student data not currently reflected in today’s advising technology. This demonstration project will allow the Maricopa Community Colleges to continue our work in developing critical new capabilities that we believe will transform the way our student service professionals interact with hundreds of thousands of students in one of the fastest-growing counties in the United States.”

Technology and automation will be used to help Maricopa advance its mission, optimizing the journey for students. Such an endeavor is two-pronged. First, MCCCD needed to redesign the data layer to ensure it is holistic, durable, fast, and can serve both applications and data analysts. Second, the District has assembled a front-end application service layer that presents a single pane of glass with one login and a unified interface for all of the relevant data that advisors and other student support staff need to effectively and efficiently support students.

“This new approach we’re developing in the coming year will aggregate a wide variety of important data elements into a single system so that our advising staff has a more unified experience and students can get better faster service,” said MCCCD Interim Chancellor, Dr. Steven R. Gonzales. “ I’m proud of the collective effort put forth in solving our challenges to ultimately help more students enroll, persist, and complete.”

The enhanced technology platform will provide advisors and student support staff with insights and critical information to help students during service experiences and provide additional proactive, targeted, and automated service, with the hope of improving student outcomes. Automation will help Maricopa, and potentially other institutions, overcome the challenges under-resourced colleges and universities face with advising ratios that are greater than they should be for an optimal student service experience. 

As a mission-oriented public organization, the Maricopa Community Colleges seeks to solve many issues for Maricopa students and hopes to create an affordable, repeatable technology platform strategy for community colleges across the country. Over the next year, with the help and support of the Maricopa community, institutional leadership and staff, and key investments from partners like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, MCCCD plans to complete the development and implementation of ASSIST across the District.

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