PACT Mentoring Program
- By Dr. Kimberly R. Cline
- January 1st, 2012
At Mercy College, we have developed a unique mentoring program that plays a pivotal role in accelerating effective recruitment and fostering an engaged student experience, leading to enhanced retention.
The Mercy College Personalized Achievement ContracT (PACT) is designed to maximize student success by creating mutual responsibility between students and the College — providing a highly personalized mentoring support system. Each student participating in PACT is assigned a skilled mentor, cross-trained in all areas of student services, who assists them from enrollment through graduation. The mentor serves as a single point of contact, supporting the student as he or she navigates aspects of the college experience: from financial aid and choosing the right major and classes — to developing leadership skills, utilizing e-portfolios, and landing internships.
The PACT program breaks down the traditional walls of student service operations, providing mentors with the necessary expertise to address advisement, career, financial aid, registration, and student life. This holistic PACT model is fundamentally different than most programs as it provides one person as a “go-to” source, thereby eliminating the frustration that students experience when assistance is fragmented into segregated silos, such as single departments of financial aid, student life, and academic advising.
PACT’s Role in Recruitment
The PACT mentoring program is introduced to prospective students early in the recruitment process — and often. We lead with the PACT program in all of our recruitment efforts: first explaining the program at visits to high schools, encouraging discussions with PACT mentors at on-campus events, and featuring PACT in digital and print marketing materials. Deirdre Whitman, vice president for Enrollment Management at Mercy College, reports the PACT mentoring program is one of the strongest talking points during recruitment — and it resonates deeply with students, parents, and guidance counselors.
Students, while looking forward to becoming independent at college, can be intimidated by the prospect — and they find the concept of a “go-to” person who understands their challenges to be a source of comfort and confidence.
Parents are also comforted by the prospect of having an individual at the college who is looking out for their son or daughter. A common reaction expressed by parents is their wish for the PACT mentoring program when they went to college.
Guidance counselors respond favorably to PACT, as they are cognizant of the fact that mentoring enhances the likelihood of a less stressful and more productive transition to college. They also recognize the value of mentoring in sustaining student motivation and retention to achieve career success.
The prospect of PACT mentoring has contributed to a significant effect on both our overall enrollment trends and application cycles. Since 2009, we have seen an increase in first-time freshmen applications by 95.7 percent. First-time, full-time bachelor degree seeking enrollment has increased 33.4 percent since fall 2009, bringing in the largest class in the College’s history. At the same time, academic quality of students has increased and the geographic base has expanded in both secondary and tertiary markets.
Sustained Mentoring as a Key to Retention
By design, PACT is a high-contact mentoring program, with an average of 16.5 interactions a semester — compared to a national average of 2.5 interactions. Students can contact their mentors via email, phone calls, and texting, but are also encouraged to have in-person contact that makes this mentoring truly personal. The mentor provides support, but also challenges students to fully develop their potential to enhance academic and career readiness.
The influence on retention rate is visible in the College statistics. Since our first PACT cohort was enrolled in the spring of 2009, the full impact on retention rates is not yet charted — but the trend is significant. Already we are witnessing a 15-20 percent increase in retention of PACT students over non-participating students. In addition, the PACT program assessment of student readiness, academic performance, career development, and persistence are showing promising results.
The PACT model has been shared broadly and has received positive responses in the form of partnerships, funding, and formal recognition, including being named a “Best Practice” for retention and career services by the National Association of Colleges and Employers. In addition, all of the PACT students surveyed since 2009 stated that they would recommend the program to other students.
Dr. Kimberly R. Cline is president of Mercy College, a private, nonprofit institution founded in 1950 offering more than 90 undergraduate and graduate programs at the main campus in Dobbs Ferry, as well as campuses in the Bronx, Manhattan, Yorktown Heights, and White Plains, NY. Visit www.mercy.edu or call 877/MERCY-GO.