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Case Study | How To Make Mentor Matching Easier

May 15, 2020
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Launched in 2008 in Knox County, tnAchieves began with a mission to increase higher education opportunities for Tennessee high school students. Since then, they continue to set the bar for one of the country’s first and most successful promise initiatives. tnAchieves has worked with over 380,000 students since its inception and currently serves 74,000+ students in 90 of the state’s 95 counties. 

In partnership with tnAchieves, the Tennessee Promise is an initiative that provides a “last-dollar scholarship” to all high school students graduating within the state of Tennessee. The three major components of this scholarship include paid tuition and fees, a volunteer mentor for each student, and required community service hours. Since the launch of TN Promise, the state has seen an increase in its educational attainment from 39% in 2014 to 43% in 2017, and now boasts one of the nation’s highest FAFSA completion rates. 

The Problem

tnAchieves was significantly impacted by a changing statewide policy that affected the number of students they would be serving as well as their process for placing students and monitoring their progress. After experiencing this significant growth, tnAchieves realized their organization was suffering from a lack of systems and technology infrastructure. As part of their program, tnAchieves matches students with mentors statewide based on a specific set of criteria, such as location, interests, and availability. tnAchieves knew they needed a solution other than multiple excel spreadsheets to pair over 60,000 student applicants with 8,400 volunteer mentors due to the unsustainable amount of time and staff that would require. 

“CoPilot has made the day-to-day data management process for our organization so much simpler.”

Matthew Otero, tnAchieves Director of Data Management

When searching for a solution, scalability was an important quality for their new system to possess. Also, it was important for the system to make day-to-day tasks easier to manage rather than take time away from staff to focus on program-related work or direct work with their students. tnAchieves wanted a platform that would allow for multiple users, email personalization, real-time data tracking, advanced reporting functionality, forms for easy data collection, security, and mentor pairing automation. “Many of our team members are scattered in different places, CoPilot is in many ways the glue that allows us to function efficiently and see/make changes in real-time,” remarks Otero.

Mentor Matching

Every year, tnAchieves serves a new cohort of 60,000+ high school students from different backgrounds and different counties within the state. CoPilot developed a solution that not only streamlined student data tracking but also helped introduce a new process for managing an extremely cumbersome and large scale mentor-mentee matching process. The College Forward and CoPilot team developed a custom mentor assignment feature that automatically assigns students to mentors based on the complex matching criteria within the tnAchieves program model. This matching tool analyzes information provided by both volunteer mentors and students with regards to which county they lived in, their gender and their high school preference. The system then used this information to match students with mentors that best suited them based on these criteria.

 

Prior to the release of our custom-built mentor pairing tool within CoPilot, tnAchieves was forced to establish over 50,000 mentor-mentee assignments by way of a highly manual and tedious process. This typically required 4-6 employees working full time over the course of two months. The drawbacks of this process left tnAchieves vulnerable to data entry errors, delays in launching services, and difficulties managing downstream variations in programming. Now, with the use of CoPilot, their program is able to replicate this high-volume mentor matching process in a matter of 24 hours, successfully and efficiently pairing over 9,000 mentors with 60,000 students each year. 

The CoPilot/College Forward team is with you from your initial talks until well beyond implementation and migration. They have tailored our experience to what best suits our organizational needs.

Matthew Otero, tnAchieves Director of Data Management

Outcome

With the CoPilot custom-built mentor pairing tool, tnAchieves can successfully and efficiently match over 9,000 mentors with 60,000 students each year in just one day.