By Katherine Mangan
With a test coming up in his toughest subject, economics, Keaton Knight was verging on panic. The Indiana State University student considered himself a lousy test-taker in the best of circumstances, so it was time for a strategy session with his academic coach—who lives in Nashville.
At their appointed time, Jason Broyles, whose employer, a coaching company called InsideTrack, has a contract with Indiana State, called Mr. Knight. He advised the student to breathe deeply, not linger too long over tough questions, and read the prompts slowly and thoroughly. They discussed Mr. Knight’s approach of carving out study time in the library to avoid distractions and scheduling his job, in a hardware store, so it didn’t interfere with classes. After a rough start during the last academic year, Mr. Knight’s grades improved, and he passed the course.
“My relationship with Jason was awesome,” Mr. Knight, now a 20-year-old sophomore, says of his twice-monthly sessions. “Lots of times, I would have been lost without him.”
The growing number of colleges that hire private coaching companies, or provide coaching on their own, are counting on such personal relationships to improve retention and completion rates. The push for measurable results is intensifying around the country as some state lawmakers tie part of their college allocations to completion rates and foundations pour more money into finding solutions to the nation’s dropout crisis.