The ACCelerator: Advancing student success through customer service and accessibility

Dr. Rhodes at the ACCelerator

The ACCelerator is one of Austin Community College's (ACC) most innovative learning spaces with computer stations, academic and career coaching, learning lab tutors, study rooms, and classes. But the ACCelerator experience goes beyond the technical and academic advancements. Each visitor who steps inside is greeted with a smiling face and a warm welcome.

"The way we treat students makes a difference," says Curtiss Stevens, ACCelerator executive director. "Customer service is one of our top pride points, because we know the impact it makes. Success happens when students feel welcomed, recognized as individuals, and know that they matter to the institution."

This month, students at the Highland Campus ACCelerator were greeted by some unexpected smiling faces. ACC President/CEO, Dr. Richard Rhodes, and his wife, Kate, sat front and center at the entry desk. For more than an hour, they met with students, helped check them in, and talked to them about their backgrounds and goals.

"We've watched the ACCelerator help thousands of students overcome their biggest hurdles," says Dr. Rhodes. "What's happening here is making a dramatic difference, and it's closing equity gaps. It's exciting to see the enthusiasm these students walk in here with knowing that they're getting the support they need and the guidance to move them forward."

Excelling at Customer Service
On a recent student survey, 99 percent of students said they would recommend the ACCelerator to others and 86 percent gave the ACCelerator an overall excellent rating, which is on par with some of the top businesses known for customer service.

"We know that students who visit the ACCelerator persist at greater rates," says Stevens. "So, we turned our focus on ways to make this experience more accessible."

To help more students, ACCelerator hours expanded to midnight during peak times of the semester such as finals. In spring, Stevens says there were more than 100 students on certain nights during those late hours.

"The important thing is meeting students where they are and being there when they need us."

Increasing Attendance and Persistence
Nearly 19,000 students — a record high — visited the Highland ACCelerator in Academic Year 2018-19.

Data show those who visit seven or more times had a six percentage point increase in persistence compared to students who did not, with first-time-at-ACC students experiencing an 11 percentage point increase in persistence.

"We want to grow this model and make it accessible to more students because we see the impact it makes," says Dr. Rhodes. "The ACCelerator is about creating pathways and providing help when students need it most."

The college's second and third ACCelerator labs opened at San Gabriel and Round Rock campuses respectively in AY18-19. A fourth will open at Rio Grande Campus when renovations are complete.

To learn more about the ACCelerators, visit https://www.austincc.edu/accelerator.

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