Integrated Planning and Advising for Student Success (iPASS Initiative)

The work of iPASS has now merged with the work of multiple other ATD learning initiatives to form our new Holistic Student Supports approach. To learn more about how we can support your institution in designing a student support experience that meets student where they are, learn more about our Holistic Student Supports Redesign Coaching program or contact Shauna Davis, Executive Director of Holistic Student Supports at



Students do not exist 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. Achieving the Dream’s (ATD) approach to integrated advising and student support redesign leverages technology and relationship building to provide proactive, personalized, and holistic supports that meet the individual needs of each student. ATD’s work with two-year and four-year institutions in the iPASS initiative across the country informs our thinking and enables us to develop student support programs tailored for a broad spectrum of student bodies, institutional cultures, and organizational structures. Using the distinctive integrated student support and advising redesign approach, advisors, faculty, tutors, counselors, and other staff are better able to target their time and resources to those students who stand to benefit the most from specific, additional supports.


Achieving the Dream is providing strategic assistance to 26 two- and four-year higher education institutions to leverage technology and human relationships to transform their advising and planning services at scale, with the goal of increasing retention and completion for all their students. Through this work, students will receive a more personalized, streamlined, and consistent experience of advising and planning services that will be designed to help them identify the path that is right for them, and then get on and stay on that path through to transition to another institution or the workforce.

In particular, this work seeks to transform the student experience of three key areas of student supports:

  • 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 courses that fulfil necessary program requirements.
  • Counseling and coaching: Engaging with students in a proactive, personalized, and integrated way in order to connect students to on and off-campus resources.
  • Targeting risk and intervention: Predicting course failure and program stop-out to support timely and effective interventions.


Through the iPASS initiative, ATD and partner, EDUCAUSE, aim to:

  • 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).
  • 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.
  • Increase the field’s understanding of how to lead transformative change in advising and planning services and implement iPASS effectively at scale.

This work, as well as the work of 10 community member institutions that attend grantee convenings, is generously supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust (Helmsley Charitable Trust).



At DREAM 2017, grantees and community members designed posters to showcase one component of their work that has proved most successful up to this point in the project. Each institution provided information on the work they are pursuing in one of the three buckets of the iPASS work (listed in the Project Overview), the impact of this work on the student experience, and their two biggest successes and challenges to-date. Click here to download the posters to learn more about their work. 


As we enter the third and final year of the iPASS learning initiative, grantees are focused on refining and scaling their new advising and planning policies, processes, and technologies, and building a plan to sustain the work beyond the grant. Additionally, the institutions’ work to track the progress and impact of their redesign continues through year three.

All 26 grantees, along with the 10 community members, will be attending their final in-person convening in February in conjunction with DREAM 2018 where they will be sharing lessons learned with the broader ATD Network. 

iPASS Grantees  

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


Press Releases

There are no press releases related to this initiative.


  • The Loss-Momentum Framework developed by the Completion by Design initiative helps colleges identify where students meet their greatest obstacles to persistence and completion. By doing this, colleges can map their student success efforts to the key stages of the student experience to ensure they are providing the necessary supports to students throughout their full experience. This version of the framework has been updated by Achieving the Dream to include the essential component of transtition to a four-year institution or the workforce. 


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    loss_momentum_framework_atd_version.pdf376.92 KB
  • A confluence of factors, including a shift to performance-based funding and declining student enrollment, has led to an increased focus on student retention and on-time graduation at postsecondary institutions. In response, over 100 vendors in the integrated planning and advising services market have introduced products aimed at improving student retention and graduation rates. These product offerings vary significantly in capability and maturity, but all aim to fix the inadequate model many institutions have in place, in which retention and advising efforts are disjointed and underserve the student. Tyton Partners' two-part series Driving Toward a Degree: The Evolution of Planning and Advising in Higher Education is intended to equip institutions with an understanding of this immature but quickly evolving vendor landscape. These papers also identify the gaps between the supply and demand sides of the market and, within the context of those realities, provide institutions with a guide for selecting and implementing a student success and retention strategy.

    Part 1 - The Supplier Landscape

    Part 2 - Roadmap for Institutional Adoption

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  • The literature on broad-access colleges suggests that low persistence and completion rates may be improved through better advising that employs a teaching-as-advising approach. While resource constraints have traditionally limited the ability of colleges to reform advising practices, technological advances have made it possible to implement technology-based advising tools, some of which can replace face-to-face services.

    Using focus group interview data from 69 students at six colleges, this study investigates students’ attitudes toward technology-mediated advising. More specifically, the authors seek to understand how students’ perceptions and experiences vary across different advising functions. They find that students are open to using technology for more formulaic tasks, such as course registration, but prefer in-person support for more complex tasks, such as planning courses for multiple semesters and refining their academic and career goals.

  • Community colleges and broad-access four-year institutions have a crucial role to play in increasing educational equity in the United States. In order to fulfill this role, however, institutions must engage in organizational change to address their low completion rates.

    Drawing on qualitative case studies of six colleges, this study explores the influence of different types of leadership approaches on the implementation of a technology-mediated advising reform, and assesses which types of leadership are associated with transformative organizational change. Expanding on Heifetz’s theory of adaptive change and Karp and Fletcher’s Readiness for Technology Adoption framework, the authors find that transformative change requires multitiered leadership with a unified commitment to a shared vision for the reform and its goals.

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  • Faced with the need to improve student outcomes, colleges frequently look to new technology for solutions. One approach is to use technology tools to address challenges created by high studentto-advisor ratios and by student unfamiliarity in navigating college. Sometimes referred to as Integrated Planning and Advising Services (IPAS), these technologies provide an array of student support–focused functions, including course management, degree planning, and early alerts.

    Yet the value of IPAS extends well beyond the additional functionality it provides. Ideally, it motivates a college to rethink its advising system and, in particular, the way advisors do their jobs, thus encouraging and enabling large-scale and fundamental reform—reform that restructures college processes and that alters the attitudes and behaviors of college staff and students.  

    This guide summarizes findings from a study in which CCRC examined how six colleges planned for and began IPAS implementation and associated reform, and how they addressed the surprises and challenges they encountered. The guide and the Questions-to-Ask supplement aim to help college practitioners embarking on advising reform anticipate and plan for the kinds of challenges that peer institutions have faced, so they can improve their chances for successful implementation and end-user adoption.

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    UsingTech-Insights-WEB.pdf138.31 KB
    IPAS-QuestionsWEB.pdf52.39 KB
  • EDUCAUSE, with the support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust (the Helmsley Trust) and in partnership with Achieving the Dream (ATD), is seeking two- and four-year college and university partners to increase the impact of IPAS aimed at improving students’ progress into and through postsecondary education. We are seeking up to 24 postsecondary institutions that are currently pursuing IPAS solutions (i.e., that have launched components of the system and can deploy comprehensive solutions after a supported year of planning and piloting) to participate in a project that will adapt and use new technologies to enable staff, faculty, and administrators to improve advising. The project will also examine IPAS practices, including business process reengineering, implementation challenges, and early outcomes. What we learn during the project about improving advising will be shared in real time with the broader community of institutions and vendors to accelerate the evolution of the IPAS market and increase its impact.

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    IPAS2_RFP_3.pdf347.01 KB
  • Implementing and supporting a new technology is difficult and expensive, both in terms of financial cost and staff time. Therefore, better understanding the likelihood of successful adoption before embarking on a reform can help your college invest wisely in new technologies. Performing a self-assessment of your college’s technological and cultural characteristics can help you evaluate whether a given technological reform is likely to be adopted, and it can help you identify issues that may need to be addressed to facilitate successful reform.

    This self-assessment tool is based on the Community College Research Center’s Readiness for Technology Adoption (RTA) framework. CCRC researchers developed this forward-looking framework through an extensive review of the literature and preliminary validation research conducted at six colleges engaged in technology-based reforms (see Karp & Fletcher, 2014).

  • This report presents a literature-based framework that identifies characteristics associated with colleges’ readiness for technology adoption (the RTA framework). By differentiating between implementation and adoption, we provide a new way of thinking about technology-based reforms as tools for changing end-user practice and student experiences. We conceive of implementation as the first step in instituting technological change within an organization. Implementation entails selecting an appropriate technological tool and ensuring that the organizational infrastructure supports its use. “Going live” with a new technology-based product is a key signifier that the product has been implemented. Not all technology products that are implemented, however, are actually adopted by the organization. Adoption, in this framework, refers to the use of the system by college personnel and students in their daily work practices. Ideally, a new technology will fundamentally change end-user practice in order to improve college functioning and student outcomes.

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  • Achieving the Dream College Whatcom Community College and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation discuss the Integrated Planning and Advising Services (IPAS) Initiative that implements next-generation approaches to promote shared ownership among students, faculty, and staff. Discover how the collaboration incorporated proven services – advising, counseling, progress tracking, and academic early alerts – to improve student retention, persistence, and completion. As one of the eleven Achieving the Dream Network colleges in this initiative, Whatcom Community College implemented innovative methods to efficiently help students formulate and advance their educational goals. 

    -Tawny Townsend, Director for Student Access & First Year Experience, Whatcom Community College 
    -Greg Ratliff, Senior Program Officer, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

  • Understanding the likelihood of successful adoption before embarking on a reform can help colleges invest wisely in new technologies. Based on CCRC’sReadiness for Technology Adoption (RTA) framework, this self-assessment tool is designed to help colleges develop a nuanced picture of their overall readiness for technology adoption.

    The RTA framework consists of four broad areas of readiness, addressing technological and cultural factors at both the institutional and project levels. For each area, the self-assessment tool provides a rubric listing the components of readiness and describing the features of institutions that are minimally ready and those that are poised for action.

    This tool is designed to encourage conversations among individuals within an institution. Engaging in the self-assessment process will help colleges identify additional steps they may need to take before beginning a technology-related reform.

  • This report presents a literature-based framework that identifies characteristics associated with colleges’ readiness for technology adoption (the RTA framework). The authors illustrate what an adoption-ready college looks like by drawing on fieldwork conducted at six colleges in five states implementing Integrated Planning and Advising Services (IPAS) technologies during the fall of 2013.

    The RTA framework is particularly focused on ensuring that technology-based reforms lead to end-user adoption and changed practice. For this to occur, colleges must not only have sufficient technological resources, they must also attend to the cultural components of readiness. Notably, the framework acknowledges the existence of various microcultures within an organization—groups of individuals, each with their own culture, norms, and attitudes toward technology.

    For colleges preparing to embark on technology-based reforms, the RTA framework can provide an important vehicle for self-assessment. Engaging in a self-assessment process will highlight areas for development or improvement and provide a roadmap for colleges to develop the conditions that will enable their success in technology-based reforms.

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