Four universities are using data analytics to improve graduation rates as shown by this graduation cap on a percent sign..

How 4 universities use analytics to improve graduation rates

Data and analytics are immensely helpful as institutions strive to improve graduation rates and help students move that tassel

Graduation. It’s that exciting time of year. All the pictures on social media and from friends – all celebrating the students’ success. It’s also a time for many universities to celebrate the strides they’ve made to improve graduation rates.

Administrators around the country are using the information gleaned from data to determine things such as, “What is the likelihood of a student dropping out?”, “What can I do to help retain students?”, “Do we have the courses, instructors and facilities in place to ensure students graduate in a timely manner?” and so much more. There are teams of analysts that work at institutions to delve into the data and investigate patterns and analyze trends to try and improve graduation rates and other areas.

Analytics can help improve graduation rates

Here are four universities using analytics to improve student success and ultimately working to improve graduation rates and help student success.

1. Using data visualization and visual statistics, the University of Idaho’s Institutional Effectiveness and Accreditation group published a range of self-service dashboards, giving staff members access to insight-rich trend data on enrollment, admissions and student performance – information to do their jobs better. For instance, academic advisers used data to understand where their interventions would have the most impact. They were able to keep more at-risk students on track for graduation.

Analytics also shed more light on financial aid considerations, helping Idaho better disperse needs-based assistance, as opposed to performance-based. These students who may never have otherwise graduated, or even attended college, are at Idaho pursuing graduation and greater life opportunities.

2. Like many schools, the University of North Texas was data-rich and insight-poor. Fundamental issues with data integrity, data management and data governance plagued the university’s analytics department, relegating data to silos and making enterprise analytics difficult. Now, more than 425 business users across the university are empowered to make decisions based on the UNT Insights program housed on the university’s enterprise-wide data and analytics platform. Armed with a single source of the truth, executives quickly gained the confidence to make policy decisions based on analytics.

The drop, fail, withdraw, incomplete (DFWI) rate is a key indicator of student success. Administrators track this metric closely, which in years past, was presented in an exhaustive 75-page Excel spreadsheet and available by single semester only. With analytics and data visualization, administrators were able to view a four-year trend for DFWI rates, exposing patterns to investigate. Policies and procedures were changed, and as a result, retention rates rose across first-time college and transfer students, putting more of those students on the path to a diploma and saving the university an estimated $450,000.

3. Faced with declining enrollment, Ohio’s Sinclair Community College turned to analytics to better understand student registration, success, and outcomes. To help students continue on the path toward graduation, the team created a degree audit report using data visualization tools that allow Sinclair’s chairs and advisers to look at students’ degree progress. They can pinpoint the students who have not been enrolled in the past year, and view them by adviser, school, major, and more. A list of students who are close to degree completion enables staff to reach out and advise them on courses to help get across the finish line.

Sinclair is also attracting more students that are more likely to graduate from college. The school created a report pertaining to College Credit Plus, a pre-college program designed to provide students the opportunity to earn high school and college credit before high school graduation. Those students graduate college at a significantly higher rate than the general community college student population.

Data visualization software allows the College Credit Plus office to look at historical enrollments and see if they differ by region, high school, course, demographics and more. Sinclair provides fact sheets to its partner high schools showing how students from those schools perform on college coursework. It’s been a competitive advantage for Sinclair to build and cultivate those relationships, which has contributed to increases of 25 to 33 percent in enrollments year-over-year from College Credit Plus partners.

4. Oklahoma State University is on its own analytics and data visualization journey. Quick and easy reporting is providing new insights into student success. For instance, department heads can see the frequency with which students in their college change majors. A bubble chart showing retention by department reveals how many students are above or below the enrollment target, by degree. Deans can easily determine which department has lower retention rates and can focus resources to boost retention and keep more students on track to graduate.

Previously, this information was in table format, making it nearly impossible to spot patterns or trends in data. Now using data visualization, OSU leaders can actually see the data, spot important trends, and make data-informed decisions faster to impact student success.

OSU is embarking on new analytics efforts, such as automating enrollment reports so they can see week over week changes by year. For recruitment, they plan to analyze applied/admitted/enrolled data by college and other demographics compared to previous years. And to better understand how their graduates perform in the workforce, they will dive deeper into career services to view graduate hiring and salary trends.

Today, education is facing greater accountability and fiercer competition for students, increasing the importance of data and analytics to create meaningful and successful student journeys. While using the insights gleaned from these analyses, educational professionals are helping to propel students on the path toward moving that tassel at graduation.

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