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Increasing Advising Capacity: The EMERGE Approach to Summer Melt Support

January 2024

EMERGE was the winner of TxCAN’s 2023 Pitch Competition. Explore how their SQUADS program tackles Summer Melt, boosts student persistence, and addresses capacity concerns, paving the way for matriculation into higher education.

EMERGE’s mission is to empower and prepare high-performing students from underserved communities to attend and graduate from selective colleges and universities across the nation. At the heart of EMERGE's mission is the commitment to provide comprehensive support, starting from the sophomore year of high school and continuing through college graduation.
One of EMERGE's standout initiatives is the SQUADS program. This program, which recently clinched victory at the 2023 TxCAN Pitch Competition, is designed to combat summer melt and bolster student persistence in higher education. The program's success is evident in its higher-than-national-average persistence rate, standing at an impressive 87%, compared to the national average of 76%.

The SQUADS Program: An Antidote for Summer Melt
EMERGE describes the SQUADS program as "an antidote for Summer Melt and a pathway to increased Persistence.” The program connects students from five Houston-area school districts who are heading to the same college or university. These students are not left to navigate the uncharted waters alone; instead, they are linked with upper-level students at the same institution who act as SQUAD coordinators.

These coordinators play a multifaceted role, serving as mentors, role models, and campus guides. Their involvement begins the summer after high school graduation and extends throughout the academic year, incorporating fall and spring semester social programming. The result is a supportive community that addresses issues like transportation to campus, lack of guidance, and the fear of not belonging, all of which have historically hindered students from matriculating and persisting in higher education.
SQUAD coordinators, in recognition of their valuable contributions, receive a $300 stipend annually. They undergo training, participate in virtual kick-off events, maintain group communication channels, conduct check-ins, and organize social events, all contributing to the development of a cohesive and supportive community.

The Practice Benefit: Addressing Capacity Concerns & Student Belonging
EMERGE's innovative SQUADS program serves as a potent antidote for Summer Melt as it strategically addresses the critical issue of capacity concerns in providing transitional support to first-year students. By tapping into the network of alumni and current college students with their SQUADS program, EMERGE effectively expands its capacity to provide personalized support. This scalability is crucial for organizations facing limitations in staffing and resources during the summer transition period.

The SQUADS program goes beyond addressing immediate capacity concerns by fostering a supportive ecosystem within higher education institutions. The involvement of upper-level students as SQUAD coordinators creates a peer-to-peer support structure. This not only alleviates the burden on existing staff but also establishes a culture of mentorship and community building on college campuses. The sense of belonging and support within these SQUAD communities contributes significantly to student matriculation and retention. Students who feel connected, supported, and a sense of community are more likely to persist through enrollment challenges and successfully matriculate.

How Your Team Can Implement
EMERGE shares that this practice can easily be replicated in any city with a large population of incoming first-year students. The implementation process involves analyzing enrollment and matriculation data, selecting institutions with high enrollment numbers, recruiting current college students as SQUAD coordinators, and coordinating groups of incoming first-year students.

The current budget for the SQUADS program stands at approximately $15,000, averaging around $30 per incoming first-year student. This budget primarily covers SQUAD coordinator stipends, with the potential for an increase if in-person summer programming is introduced.

Learn More
If you're intrigued by the impact of the SQUADS program and want to learn more about how your team can implement a similar initiative, reach out to Gary Tashima, Managing Director of Alumni and College Success at EMERGE (gary@emergefellowship.org).