The Selling Point for Colleges

Cox says colleges also benefit when students use more thorough selection methods.

Consider, for example, the volume of high school graduates who get accepted to an institution but never show up. “Institutions go through all of the effort of creating a space for someone,” she explains, “and in the months between enrollment and the first day of school, the student becomes distracted and/or loses confidence in the value proposition. That’s a threat to the entire higher education system.”

By introducing scientific modeling to the selection process, Cox says vibeffect digs down into the individual motivations and behaviors of prospective students, helping them better grasp the “potential to thrive and start their higher education experience from a position of strength and the actual probability of thriving.” That, she adds, increases the probability of a positive match between an individual student and a specific campus. “Our goal is to have more students thriving and graduating and we will allow the higher education system to hold us accountable to that [mission],” Cox says.

So far, Cox says colleges and universities have responded positively to her company’s use of algorithms and scientific modeling to help students make better choices. Now, working with Zenith Education Group, vibeffect is “looking to prove that there’s a return on investment (ROI) in this for the university,” says Cox, “by getting as much data and as many examples of student success from different kinds of universities (i.e., career colleges, community colleges, online hybrid colleges).”

The company has rolled out a number of pilot projects and is looking at key measures like how many students showed up for the first day of school and how many returned for a second term more engaged (versus a control group). “Once we have the results (in February or March 2016),” Cox continues, “we’ll create a sustainable model for universities.”

Across the Education Continuum…and beyond SATs

Another company making inroads in the college and career-planning arena is Hobsons, the Arlington, Va.-based developer of Naviance. Dan Obregon, vice president of marketing, says the company takes a “holistic approach to college planning that incorporates self-awareness (on the student’s part) and then aligns that with academic plans.” At the Naviance platform’s core is the “College Power Score,” which Obregon says “helps students plan which courses they want to take in middle and high school.”

Then, based on the rigor of that course plan, the platform makes recommendations like, “Hey, it looks like you’re on track to go to a highly-selective college or university,” or, “Based on your course record, it looks like you have a fair shot at a selective college but if you step it up in a couple of key areas to increase your academic rigor you’ll be on a path to a more selective institution, if so desired.”

Along with offering guidance to individual students, the platform also helps facilitate conversations between pupils and school counselors. “With the high student-to-counselor ratio in many schools, these conversations don’t always happen,” says Obregon. “Using technology, we’ve automated that very manual, paper-based process for schools and districts, giving them early/actionable insights that they can use to handle counselors’ overwhelming caseloads.”

According to Obregon, that dialogue continues right through to the point of college enrollment, where students get advising and academic planning to ensure that they persist and ultimately graduate from college. “We’re viewing this through a continuum that spans not only what students are doing in high school, but also what steps they need to take to be successful in a post-secondary environment,” Obregon says. “Ultimately, it’s about helping students make college decisions based on a variety of factors as opposed to the standard variables like SAT scores and GPAs.”

A Groundbreaking Approach

Hawn sees real potential in a technology platform that goes beyond traditional college selection criteria that can help determine a student’s ability to thrive and succeed at a particular school. “We’re in the career school market – where everything from money to scheduling to life can get in the way,” says Hawn. “The idea that you can use technology to determine what makes one student thrive versus another is pretty groundbreaking.”

Cox says vibeffect is working on several new initiatives, all of them centered on helping students “get into the right place and the right mindset” to succeed in school. “If we can do more of this, and if we can use scientific models to reinforce our efforts – rather than the current, somewhat nebulous system that finds people making this very important decision from a position of weakness,” Cox says, “then we’re achieving our goal.”

Bridget McCrea is an editorial freelancer with eCampus News.

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