Joint Solution Emphasizes Student in Student Success

In January 2021, we announced a strategic partnership with RNL. We share in the goal to provide a unified best-in-class consulting and AI student success solution to help colleges and universities enhance their student retention and persistence outcomes.

Fred Weiss, President and CEO at Othot, Inc., and Zach Varga, Vice President of Partner Success and Business Partnerships at Othot, Inc., have been instrumental in building the foundation for the partnership with RNL. They recently sat down to talk about the Othot RNL partnership and answer some questions. These are excerpts from the interview.

How did the Othot and RNL partnership come about?

Fred Weiss (FW): The core of where the partnership started is the question: “How best can we help customers?” We are certainly aware of each other competitively in the enrollment space, but what we recognized collectively is that a) continuously improving student success is a significant need for higher ed institutions, and b) we both had solid solutions - RNL with their consulting expertise and student surveys, and Othot with our advanced analytics. The partnership is a natural evolution of our mutual expertise in the enrollment space. When we use the term “Strategic Enrollment Management,” it is inclusive of both initial enrollment as well as retention and persistence. If you’re a VP Enrollment Management, you’re likely saying, “Let’s ensure that we are enrolling the best fit class that is likely to persist.” Both of our organizations are well-known for their enrollment solutions. We both knew that we could really help our customers if we also provided a substantive student success solution.

Zach Varga (ZV): There is a growing need in student success to hyper target individual student outcomes. The partnership between RNL and Othot emerged due to the mutual recognition of each organization's valuable products and services, how they complement each other, and most importantly, how together we can provide the best solution to solve the market's needs.

What does the partnership mean for Othot partners and RNL customers?

FW: I think that’s a great question, but there’s one more element: “What does the partnership mean for students?” I like to think that, in part, we are a business-to-business-to-consumer solution provider. What can we do as a business to help our institutional customers–also businesses–drive greater success with their consumers–the students? The Othot RNL partnership is great for students– the “success” portion of “student success.” It is also great for institutions relative to prudent financial management and helps them in the wake of the upcoming demographic cliff. We are helping our mutual customers gain greater operating efficiencies by giving them the tools to recognize where the most important places to apply resources are.

ZV: To build on what Fred said, the partnership is really about the synergy gained through the intersection of 1) invaluable motivational and behavior survey attributes of each student, 2) evaluated through an industry-leading advanced analytics platform, 3) combine with vital consulting expertise. Customers receive the best products and services from two organizations, seamlessly integrated into one solution.

What products or services were developed?

ZV: RNL brings incredible insights from the various Retention Management System (RMS) surveys they offer. Othot brings an advanced analytics platform to model student success outcomes. By themselves, they are valuable, but the exponential benefit is when you have an advanced analytics platform that is built with data from RMS surveys. It provides administration and faculty with the key information they need to guide each student to the best educational outcome.

FW: From my perspective, it is the combination of high-tech and high-touch. Typically, those terms are thought about in terms of how to combine the use of technology and human interaction to successfully guide students; in this case, as we’ve described what we've developed, we are combining high-tech and high-touch to help the institution directly.

Why do you think Student Success and Retention have become a top priority for institutions?

ZV: At the forefront, there is, and should always be, a key focus to help and guide students toward success. Ensuring students get the most out of their educational experience, successfully graduate, are positioned for post-graduate success, and achieve their desired outcomes with minimal or no debt is the ideal goal. Institutions are also facing many challenges, such as the significant cliff in college-age student populations. All these factors are driving the need to prioritize Student Success.

FW: There is no doubt that there is a financial component to this. Many states now have outcome-based funding, and the cost of retaining a student is lower than the cost of recruiting a new student. Those are – plain and simple – good stewardship of financial resources. But there’s also the issue that Zach and I both raised earlier relative to the demographic cliff that is coming in 2025. With the cliff coming, one strategy for institutions is to improve their persistence and retention rates, and the Othot RNL partnership can do just that. We address today’s challenges as well as help to future-proof our customers.

What problems does RMS + Student Success Essential address?

ZV: RMS + Student Success Essential provides a solution to optimize limited resources while focusing on the needs of each individual student. Lower retention and graduation rates are outcomes when you can’t meet the individual needs of students. Resource constraints are a common problem, and the joint solution helps you prioritize your efforts to gain the most efficiency while maximizing how you help the student. In addition, there is no longer a one size fits all approach that works for student success. Advanced analytics and individual survey results allow you to understand how to support each student and get them on a path to persist and graduate in four years.

How does RMS + Student Success Essential help higher ed institutions?

FW: I think we’ve talked about a number of these – good stewardship of financial resources, putting the “strategic” into “strategic enrollment management,” future-proofing the institution, and helping students – the true end-user – ultimately succeed.

ZV: The combined solution supports the diagnosis of the real causes driving lower student success outcomes. It helps prioritize the students through a custom attrition curve, prioritizes those who require the most support, and provides recommendations on how to intervene with each student. By using advanced analytics, institutions are recognizing populations of students that were never highlighted previously. They identify unique data points that drive poorer outcomes and are already seeing 2-3% lifts in term over term or year over year retention. To echo what Fred said – this is helping the student, the true end-user - because with the joint solution you know who needs support and the best way to support the at-risk students.

What features in RMS + Student Success Essential are each of you most excited about?

ZV: I guess I can’t provide a list 100 items long, so here are a few that rise to the top of my list:

  • Dynamic lifecycle modeling: A student's likelihood outcome isn’t static, and it should change as they progress through the first term, first year, and future years. Using a dynamic prediction for student success outcomes enables additional alerts and opportunities for intervention.
  • Explainable results and recommended actions: Knowing the expected outcome is good, knowing why is even better, and having recommendations on what to do to improve the current situation is the best. Explainable results coupled with recommendations from motivational surveys lay out the pathway toward improved outcomes for students.

What is your vision for the future of the RNL and Othot partnership?

FW: Continued innovation. That is, between the Othot team, the RNL team, and – most importantly – our partnership customers. We’ll continue to iterate and innovate on analytic and service solutions that will enable greater success for students and – thus – the institutions that serve them. I’ve been in higher education EdTech for 30+ years because of I believe in the value that higher education brings to individuals, families, communities, and society writ large. If we continue to innovate, those benefits only continue to amplify.

ZV: Our goal is to help college and university administration and faculty support their students toward the best individual outcomes. We will continue to strengthen our solutions to drive improved outcomes for Student Success.

How can partners or prospective partners express their questions about RMS + Student Success Essential?

ZV: Check out our web pages for more information on the partnership and on Student Success Essential, and current partners and institutions can contact me at or Greg Curry at