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PAWS Alert improves retention rate, connects students to services

By Jessica Sinn
University News Service
October 8, 2007


Being a college student can be a tough balancing act.  For many students, the incessant need to fit in, make good grades and afford tuition can be overwhelming.

In an effort to alleviate these pressures and prevent students from dropping out, the Texas State University-San Marcos Student Affairs division launched a web-based outreach system:  Positive Action with Students Alert early warning system.  

The program enables faculty and staff members to request a referral for students who may need campus resources to boost their scholastic performance.  Other referral topics include financial, personal, social, emotional and physical health.       

Jennifer Beck, director of retention management and planning at Texas State, said after PAWS was launched in Sept. 2005, the university’s student retention rate has significantly improved.  She said through this system, students can take a proactive approach to identifying and improving specific problem areas. 

“It’s very critical to catch these problems early so students can be directed to appropriate services,” Beck said.  “Through these services, they can make corrections and adjustments in academic performance, and they can seek counseling services so they can pass their classes and not go on probation.”   

Beck said the PAWS Alert system provides assistance to all Texas State students.  She said once the Student Affairs office receives a referral, the student is matched with appropriate campus services through a series of troubleshooting methods.

“We have a group that looks at the entire issue, then they focus on key indicators that might be affecting other issues and find out what appears to be the student’s first and foremost need,” Beck said. 

The Texas State Multicultural Student Affairs organization is one of the many programs at Texas State that helps students acclimate to campus life.  Texas State Allies Coordinator Heather Aidala said the MSA program provides a sense of belonging to many underrepresented students, who otherwise might feel isolated and withdrawn. 

“The MSA provides education about diversity as a means of creating a greater sense of appreciation and celebration of differences,” Aidala said.  “It also creates a sense of community for students who are underrepresented, giving them a support system, and to some degree, a second family here at Texas State.” 

The Allies of Texas State program is a division of the MSA, which promotes awareness and understanding about sexual minorities through education and training.  Aidala said the Allies program strives to create a safe environment that is conducive to intellectual and personal growth. 

“Everyone has the ability to live up to their full potential when they feel valued and supported,” Aidala said.  “To do well academically, students need to be in a safe environment where they can tap into their intellectual skills and establish an emotional well being.”  

Aidala said students who get involved in school organizations, activities and on-campus jobs are more likely to gain motivation to succeed in and out of the classroom. 

“Research has proven that students who get a job on campus or are part of a student organization have invested a sense of community, make healthy life choices and do well in school,” Aidala said. 

Aidala said for many incoming students, transitioning to college life can be overwhelming.  Through the PAWS Alert, she said students can utilize services that can help them overcome obstacles.

“As our school gets bigger, it’s harder to have that sense of connection,” Aidala said.  “When we first enter college, it’s easy to be intimidated, so it really helps when someone specifically reaches out to you and points you in the right direction.” 

For more information about the PAWS Alert early warning system, visit https://www.studentaffairs.txstate.edu/pawsalert.

For more information about Multicultural Student Affairs, call (512) 245-2278 or visit www.msa.txstate.edu.

For more information about the Texas State Allies program, call (512) 245-9289 or visit www.txstate.edu/allies.