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The Murky Middle

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Rachael Silvey

on 12 May 2015

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Transcript of The Murky Middle

The Murky Middle
The Murky Middle
Skills, Theories & Techniques
Freshmen retention strategies
Advising, mentorship, campus activities (Veenstra, 2009).

Identify and assess student's perception of college, what they bring with them, who they are (Veenstra, 2009).

Institutional approach - institution should make services that match the incoming student's needs (Veenstra, 2009).

Student drop outs seen as an institutional and social loss (Veenstra, 2009).

High-impact practices
Learning communities, freshmen seminars, engagement with faculty, in/out of the classroom learning, etc.

Boyer's theory and relation to student engagement

Strengths perspective
As mentioned earlier, minimal to no attention or supportive services are offered to murky middle students.
Lack of support services and pre-interventions are dynamic implications and not only affect the students but also the university/college retention rates.
The fate of the Murky Middle student is just that—murky. This population demands attention, but with limited resources, it isn't possible to target the entire group.
Interventions & Approaches
Student Success Collaborative Initiative: mixes predictive data with individual consulting to identify at-risk students (Meagher, 2014).
Has increased retention from 83% to 86% when used; increase in student GPA (Meagher, 2014).
Flags students who are getting C's in major courses
Multi-year scholarships (Meagher, 2014).
Block scheduling
1-on-1 tutoring; time management skills (Redirecting learning services to the "murky" middle, 2015).
Living-learning communities (Engstrom & Tinto, 2008).
Extend experience
First-year experience seminars (Jamelske, 2009).
Move seminars to second year
Increased faculty-student contact
Reading Related to Topic:
The 'Murky Middle'
Issues & Concerns
Two students, each with a 2.7 G.P.A., might look the same superficially. But one student might receive mostly Bs, while the other earns a mixture of As and Fs.
The student with Fs is at much higher risk, because they may not be completing enough course credits (Tyson, 2014).
Case Study Example
John, a Biology major, presents to an advising appointment discussing how he feels overwhelmed and confused in an upper division Biology elective he is taking. After looking at John's transcript, you notice that John has been at the university for 5 years and is currently a Junior standing. Furthermore, John has received C's in almost all of his classes except for a few general education requirements in Sociology and Psychology. You notice that if John fails this class he will no longer be in "good academic standing" because of his prior grades.
Implications Cont.
The limits on how much money and time colleges can spend on academic support account as another implication.
The student drop out rates affect university funding in which state funding is decreased due to the decrease in student retention.
Funding affects intervention efforts, where the possibility of implementing certain interventions may require money that's not available.
Because "murky middle" is so new universities and colleges staff may be unaware of the research for this specific population of students. This lack of awareness and understanding is another major implication.
The murky middle is a group of students with a first-year
G.P.A. between 2.0 and 3.0
who aren’t failing but aren’t necessarily progressing toward a degree.
Many times, these students complete their first year of college but leave without a degree.
At most universities, academic support goes disproportionately to the students who are thriving, because they seek it out, and to the students on the cusp of failing, because the college sees they’re at risk.
Tyson (2014)
In order to maximize retention and graduation rates among college students, institutions should shift some of their student-support resources from first-year students and from students unlikely to graduate and allocate them toward at-risk students in the murky middle (Tyson, 2014).
What would you tell John?
What should John do next?
How would you feel?
Veenstra, C. (2009). A strategy for improving freshman college retention. The Journal for Quality and Participation, 19-23.
Problems & Statistics
Tinto, V. (2012). Completing college: Rethinking institutional action. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
"On average, the people who go to college and complete a bachelor's degree earn over one million dollars more during their lifetime than do those who do not go to college" (Tinto, 2012, p. 1).
"What matters is not simply attending college but completing a degree, especially a four-year degree. Starting but not finishing college yields little earnings benefit in relation to those who do not" (Tinto, 2012, p. 1).
Tyson, C. (2014). The 'Murky Middle'. Retrieved from https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2014/09/10/maximize-graduation-rates-colleges-should-focus-middle-range-students-research-shows
7.5% of students eligible for Pell Grants (they come from low-income backgrounds and are also the first in their generation to attend college) obtain a bachelor's degree within six years
(Tinto, 2012, p. 2).
Institutions that enroll wealthier students, students from college-educated families, and students who have higher high-school grades have higher rates of institutional retention and graduation (Tinto, 2012).
Engstrom, C., & Tinto, V. (2008). Access without support is not opportunity. Change, 46-50.
Jamelske, E. (2009). Measuring the impact of a university first-year experience program on student GPA and retention. Higher Education, 57, 373-391.
Meagher, B. (2014). Student retention tools that work. Retrieved May 1, 2015, from http://www.shorelight.com/blog/student-retention-tools-that-actually-work
Redirecting learning services to the "murky" middle (2015). Retrieved May 1, 2015, from http://blog.tutor.com/2014/10/improve-retention/
The Education Advisory Board found during its Student Success Collaborative project that while colleges generally focus most of their student support efforts on freshmen, their time and resources would be better spent focusing on students with GPAs between 2.0 and 3.0
(Official Tutor.com Blog, n.d.).
Official Tutor.com Blog. (n.d.). Redirecting Learning Services to the “Murky” Middle. Retrieved from http://blog.tutor.com/2014/10/improve-retention/
Georgia State University has 16 different programs focused on student retention and graduation. But in the last few years, the institution has focused on creating a "culture where numbers matter"—translating millions of pieces of data into student programs and interventions that are advancing student success metrics.

Vice Provost Timothy M. Renick discusses how the Student Success Collaborative has helped Georgia State better serve individuals straying from the track to graduation. By directing more resources to students in the "murky middle"—not just those at the top or bottom of their class—they've created a more strategic advising program, significantly narrowed the achievement gap, and improved graduation rates.
Charlie Tyson September 10 2014
Murky Middle: students with a first year GPA between 2.0 and 3.0 that are not sending any alarms or are on the radar as being at risk but make up nearly half of total drop outs
Researchers at the Education Advisory Board is collecting student data from four year colleges that can help better inform student success strategies institutions employ.
Some of the patterns of the data challenge the common understanding of timing and reason to why students drop out suggesting that universities may be directing academic support services to the wrong students, which is not helping to improve retention and graduation rates
With in the 'murky middle' group, small academic improvements correlate with greatly heightened chances of graduation offering colleges a powerful 'return on investment.'
Company found that: A typical 'murky middle' drop out spends 4.5-5.7 semesters at college prior to dropping out and a dip in grades typically starts several semesters prior to dropping out
To maximize retention and graduation rates the data suggests to shift some of the colleges' student support resources from first year students and from students unlikely to graduate and aim it toward at risk students in the 'murky middle'
Some has expressed concerns regarding shifting the focus of and resources and some have stated that it is the curriculum that is negatively impacting student retention
Full transcript