Data analytics and student success: An update from the industry’s latest conferences


Data analytics and student success: An update from the industry’s latest conferences

In June, I represented SSC at two higher education industry conferences: the 2014 Historically Black College and University (HBCU) Student Success Summit and the Complete College America “Guided Pathways to Success” Policy Institute.

About the Conferences

This year, the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities convened their first-ever national summit on HBCU student success, bringing together senior leaders to share promising ideas and develop strategies for improving graduation outcomes at historically black institutions. I was honored to participate on a panel alongside representatives from SSC members Georgia State, Florida State, and Savannah State, as well as Florida International, to discuss how investments in data analytics and early student progress tracking are shaping student success efforts at some of the most progressive campuses in the country.

Florida State and Georgia State also presented their results at the Complete College America “Guided Pathways to Success” Policy Institute, a gathering of school leaders and system officials from CCA’s “Alliance of States.” The event spotlighted the various technologies—including SSC—institutions are adopting to support efficient student curricular navigation and reduce wasted credits.

I’d like to share several key takeaways I gathered from hearing leaders discuss the student progress tracking initiatives on their campuses.

1. Tracking the completion of critical foundational courses is becoming a widely accepted best practice.

Degree maps and “milestone course” tracking systems were under-appreciated ideas when EAB first profiled them several years ago. Robust attendance at the HBCU and CCA events is evidence of the growing interest in systems that support advising efforts by giving students a curricular framework to follow early in their careers.

2. Technology alone won’t solve the problem.

Participants at both conferences raised important questions about how student success technologies are perceived by advisors, faculty, and the students themselves, many of whom are unfamiliar with the principles behind these tools or how to use them effectively. As one participant at the CCA event quipped, “20% of the problem is addressed by technology, the other 80% needs to be addressed by the people who use it.”

Technologies like SSC can represent big changes for some schools; I’ve written in the past about the importance of effective communication and change management leadership for ensuring successful adoption. Schools that get this right will see the biggest return on their technology investments. For SSC members, your dedicated consultant can provide a wide range of templates and tools should you want additional assistance communicating the initiative to your campus.

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3. There is a growing financial imperative to increase success rates.

In the past, most institutions viewed student success primarily as an aspirational goal or moral imperative. This is beginning to change as schools think more and more about their revenue streams. Indeed, I heard several event participants speak of how the enrollment gains from student success investments are increasingly critical to their institution’s fiscal strategy.

This is especially true for schools subject to declining state funding, or those in areas of the country experiencing stagnant or declining high school populations. For these schools, we’ve developed a calculator that estimates the financial opportunity represented by improving retention rates.

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