Integrated Planning and Advising for Student Success (iPASS Initiative)

Project Update

At DREAM 2017 in San Francisco, Achieving the Dream was pleased to announce that registration is open for our inaugural Integrated Advising and Student Supports Institute, to be held in New Orleans, Louisiana on October 2 – 5, 2017!

Grounded in lessons learned from iPASS (Integrated Planning and Advising for Student Success) initiative, this hands-on institute will prepare your college to transform advising and student support services to promote a seamless delivery and student experience. Attendees may choose from one of two tracks designed to support either colleges wanting to learn more about the work or colleges already pursuing components of an integrated advising and student supports approach or implementing pathways. 

Through the content, tools, and training delivered to attendees, as well as the consultation with Institute Facilitators—practitioners and coaches who have successfully implemented this work on the ground—attendees will leave with the knowledge, tools, and skills that prepares them to move their institution’s advising and support services redesign work forward. Learn more and register at

To learn more about what this work looks like in practice, view the posters designed by our 36 iPASS grantees and community members shared at DREAM 2017 highlighting some of their iPASS work, success, and challenges. Click here to download the posters.

Want to know if your institution is ready for integrated advising redesign? Learn more about ATD's support and tools for institutions pursuing this type of reform by contacting Mei-Yen Ireland at


What’s Next?

Our recent grantee convening, held in conjunction with DREAM 2017, laid the foundation for our grantees to infuse process mapping and design thinking tools and practices into the refinement of their new advising and student support model. Moving forward, many grantees report they will be focusing on developing and implementing effective communication with students, using their new process mapping skills to better understand different aspects of the student experience, and broadening the team engaged in implementing this work on the ground by ramping up their efforts to communicate their vision for this work. 

To learn more about some of the institutions’ iPASS work, successes so far, and challenges they will be addressing moving forward, download their posters shared at DREAM 2017 here.

Integrated Student Support Strategies Overview

No student exists within a vacuum.  When they arrive on campus, they bring their own educational, career, and personal goals and social context that impacts the conditions they need in order to succeed.  The integrated student support approach (informed by the iPASS learning initiative) embraces this diversity of goals, needs, and contexts and provides a framework for institutions to design a student-focused culture that delivers the unique combination of supports each student needs at the time they need them.

Often referred to in the field as iPASS (integrated planning and advising for student success), IPAS (integrated planning and advising systems), or technology-mediated advising, this approach requires a transformation of the traditional way of providing four essential support services at community colleges.

Integrated advising strategy is an approach to advising redesign that leverages technology and change leadership principles to enhance and personalize academic, career, and financial advising and planning services to meet each individual students’ needs. This approach, referred to by ATD as integrated advising strategies, requires a transformation of an institution’s approach to providing four essential support services that help students identify their ideal path and stay on that path through completion:

  1. Academic education, career, and financial planning: Helping students identify their educational and career goals and then guiding students to select programs of study that are relevant to these goals and courses that fulfill necessary program requirements.Guiding students to select programs of study that are relevant to their career and academic goals and course that fulfil necessary program requirements.
  2. Counseling and coaching: Engaging with students in a proactive, personalized, and integrated way in order to connect students to on and off-campus resources.
  3. Targeting risk and intervention: Predicting course failure and program stop-out to support timely and effective interventions.
  4. Transfer articulation: Managing student flow between institutions to maximize credit transfer and degree completion.

Integrated advising designThe integrated student supports approach empowers helps college personnel provide more tailored and comprehensive support to students by enabling them to define, monitor, and act on the multiple factors that impact student success in an efficient, coordinated, and simple way. Armed with this information, advisors, faculty, tutors, counselors, and other staff are better able to prioritize their work and target their time and college resources to those students who stand to benefit the most from additional supports. Integrated student supports advising design also empowers students by providing additional information and guidance that supports their efforts to reach their educational and career goals.

No student experiences these supports as independent services, unconnected to each other or to their learning experience in class.  We therefore cannot, as institutions, rely on a support model that silos these services and treats them as independent of our teaching and learning functions.  Community colleges must design holistic, integrated academic and non-academic support structures that can provide a more personalized experience for each student that helps prepare them to be in the best condition to learn in the classroom.

Integrated Student Supports Approach within Guided Pathways

In recent years the comprehensive, college-wide reform effort known as guided pathways has gained broad support within the community college field as evidence increasingly shows that the cafeteria-style approach to serving students, where they pick and choose the classes and services they receive with little support or guidance, is detrimental to student progress and completion.  The four overarching principles of a guided pathways approach are: Clarify paths to student end goals; help students choose and enter a pathway; help students stay on path; and ensure that students are learning.

Guided pathways provides a unifying framework for colleges to use to integrate their student success efforts while an integrated advising and student support approach provides the structure for delivering an enhanced student experience that supports their progression along the pathway.  Therefore, the student experience—and student outcomes—shows the most improvement when integrated student support strategies are implemented in conjunction with guided pathways reform.    

Below is a visual representation of how the components of iPASS and pathways approaches are aligned across the student experience.

Watch this pre-recorded webinar to hear ATD’s President/CEO, Dr. Karen Stout, and CCRC’s Dr. Melinda Mechur Karp talking about how taking an aligned pathways and iPASS redesign approach can help colleges transform their student experience.  [This webinar was held for iPASS initiative grantees in May 2016 to help them embed the pathways approach into their iPASS reforms.]

To learn more about iPASS, review the resources at the bottom of this page or contact the project lead, Mei-Yen Ireland, at

The iPASS Initiative

Achieving the Dream is excited to be partnering with EDUCAUSE—with the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust (Helmsley Charitable Trust)—to provide strategic assistance to 26 two- and four-year higher education institutions to effectively transform their advising and planning services at scale with the goal of increasing retention and completion for all their students. 

Project Goals

Through the iPASS initiative, Achieving the Dream and partners aim to

  1. Support the 26 grantees in designing and implementing their iPASS models to increase student retention and completion. Grantees have been challenged to increase student retention rates by 10 percentage points by the end of the three-year grant period (2015 - 2018).
  2. Identify successful models of integrated planning and advising services that improve students’ progress into and through postsecondary education and to share the lessons learned with the higher education field.
  3. Increase the field’s understanding of how to lead transformative change in advising and planning services and implement iPASS effectively at scale.

Strategic Assistance Description

Achieving the Dream’s work is based on the premise that to improve student success on a substantial scale, colleges need to engage in bold and holistic institutional change. Research shows that small changes are unlikely to improve student experiences substantially and for enough students to move the needle on completion rates. Instead, institution-wide change is needed that trickles down to the students themselves.

We believe integrated planning and advising services (iPASS) have the ability to spur such transformative change (see boxed footnote1). This work aligns closely with Achieving the Dream’s new Institutional Capacity Framework as it requires a high level of capacity in all seven ATD capacities for a student-focused culture, particularly in strategy and planning, leadership and vision, data and technology, and engagement and communication.

Achieving the Dream is leveraging its twelve years of experience supporting higher education institutions in achieving organizational and cultural transformation to provide strategic assistance to the 26 iPASS grantees and 10 iPASS community members as they design and implement their iPASS reforms. Together with EDUCAUSE, we are supporting grantees in building their capacity for transformative reform through the following mechanisms:

  1. Change leadership training for each institution’s iPASS project team and a cross-functional, cross-hierarchical team of 24 individuals involved in implementing iPASS on the ground.
  2. Direct, customized support from an iPASS Coach to support the institution’s planning and implementation efforts in real-time.
  3. In-person working sessions and a monthly webinar series designed to provide professional development in areas of high need and impact on iPASS success.
  4. Virtual learning community through ATD Connect, Achieving the Dream’s online platform for cross-institution learning, collaboration, and discussion.
  5. Design and delivery of a curriculum to provide professional development in the planning and implementation of the reform of advising models.
  6. A comprehensive, rigorous external evaluation, conducted by the Community College Research Center.
  7. Support in business modelling and return on investment assessments to inform the development of sustainable, replicable iPASS models.
  8. Development of new tools and guidebooks to help institutions;
  • assess their readiness for technology-mediated reform,
  • develop a strong communication strategy that increases engagement and buy-in,
  • design effective training and ongoing support models for new technologies and processes, and
  • develop strong formative and summative evaluation plans to inform the refinement and scaling of their iPASS models.

Throughout the grant period, Achieving the Dream will leverage its Network to accelerate effective adoption of iPASS systems by sharing what we are learning throughout the grant period through our in-person learning events, webinars, iPASS blog posts, and the provision of new resources and service options.

STEM-Focused iPASS Component

In addition, Achieving the Dream—supported by the Helmsley Charitable Trust—is working with four community colleges to target their efforts towards improving supports for students enrolled in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) programs of study. This component of the overarching iPASS project will help the field understand the unique advising and planning needs of STEM students, with a focus on more effectively recruiting and retaining underrepresented student populations in STEM programs of study and careers.

iPASS Grantees  

*Institutions marked with an asterisk are receiving strategic assistance directly from Achieving the Dream.


1. We define transformative change as organizational growth and development that combines structural, process, and attitudinal change. Structural changes lay the framework for new behaviors, thereby encouraging improved student experiences throughout the institution. Process change reforms how people do their jobs at an individual level: it therefore requires supportive structures to ensure it occurs among enough college personnel to change experiences for large numbers of students. Transformative change takes root when attitudinal change occurs—when individuals start to understand their work and view work processes in new ways.



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