How AI Can Help Identify and Support Struggling Students


A survey from education firm EAB showed that almost two-thirds (62 percent) of university student success staff believe AI could help them identify students who need support—and 69 percent of staff say they have used AI in their work over the past year. However, only around 20 percent of respondents said their institution is collecting information about how student success teams are using the technology.

“EAB’s survey shows that student success professionals are turning to AI to better support their students, even if their institutions are not encouraging them to do so proactively,” said EAB Director of Strategic Research, Tara Zirkel. “Advisors and counselors want university leaders to provide training and help them put institutional guardrails around their AI efforts to ensure they use the technology responsibly.”

Moreover, 61 percent of respondents would like to be able to dedicate at least some work time to experimenting with AI technology, and the same percentage would like the opportunity to learn from peers who are using AI. Still, 71 percent of respondents say their institution never or rarely encourages student success teams to share what they are learning about AI with their peers.

Along with a desire for greater adoption of AI, student success professionals also expressed the need to exercise caution. Sixty-three percent of respondents said they feared AI might introduce errors in communication that could negatively impact students. Fifty-four percent worry that AI-generated content might contain more bias than content generated solely by university staff.

EAB’s report, “From Caution to Curiosity: Success Staff Weigh In On AI’s Role in the Future of Student Support,” also contains recommendations for helping universities develop a strategy to foster responsible adoption of AI across the institution. Those recommendations include the following objectives:

Centralize Institutional AI Efforts: Make AI a strategic priority by developing a cross-functional team that collects AI best practices and evaluates enterprise systems that use AI to help scale student support efforts.

Develop AI Collaboration Spaces: Create dedicated time for AI professional development and promote peer-to-peer sharing of strategies and best practices.

Debate How to Do AI “Right”: Openly address lingering staff concerns about AI risks and share examples of tested AI use cases.

“EAB has invested significant time and effort in finding the right way to incorporate AI tools into our Navigate360 and Starfish student recruitment and retention systems,” Zirkel added. “We know that AI can help improve student outcomes, and we are excited to partner with university leaders to ensure their teams have the right technology and AI capabilities to help more students persist and graduate.”

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Kevin Hogan

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