Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Raising the Stakes and Broadening the Scope of Analytics (1)

As we’ve noted in previous blogs, it’s no secret that improving student retention and success is the “killer app” for action analytics on campus. Investments in analytics that improve admissions yield, student progress from freshmen to sophomore year, and degree completion statistics provide a health ROI/VOI for institutions. They also improve institutional scores on comparative statistics that are used by evaluators in calculating institutional rankings and by prospective students in evaluating colleges and universities.

When these tools and practices are applied to “at risk” or “underserved” students to improve student success, they also improve both institutional and national statistics on student success. This contributes toward the elimination of the “achievement gap” for underserved students that is a major target of national organizations such as the NAtional Association of System Heads (NASH).

Not surprisingly, the most advanced and mature examples of analytics on campuses today reflect these priorities: 1) predictive modeling to shape institutional policies and practices; 2) strategic enrollment management supported by predictive modeling and admissions pipeline management; 3) real-time analysis of current student success and engagement, using dynamic viewing, drill down, and alerts/interventions for at-risk students; and 4) active use of dashboards dealing with student progress and success – in the context of other important institutional variables.

Many of the best practices in this first generation of academic/action analytics can be reviewed in the two articles we cited in earlier blogs, Action Analytics http://www.strategicinitiatives.com/documents/action_analytics_educause.pdf and Academic Analytics (http://www.educause.edu/EDUCAUSE+Review/EDUCAUSEReviewMagazineVolume42/AcademicAnalyticsANewToolforaN/161749).

The economic recession has been a perfect storm, devastating both institutional finances and student/family finances. This has created several immediate imperatives for institutional enrollment management officers: 1) finding adequate financial aid support for students in the new context, 2) creatively packaging financial aid and coaxing nervous students, 3) engaging admitted and continuing students to maximize the likelihood they will enroll in the fall, and 4) fretting about the myriad of the things that can go wrong for students enrolled during a diminished resource environment – institutional and family- and finding solutions.

This is heavy lifting. This week’s edition of The Chronicle of Higher Education contains examples from Lawrence University, Clark University, Michigan Technological University, Alleghany University and others, where inventive administrators have addressed one particular challenge, “summer melt” - the percentage of students who have paid deposits who do not show up for enrollment.

Looking beyond current challenges, the economic perfect storm has brought into sharper focus some longer-term imperatives – and opportunities. These will require a broader range of analytics than the first gen, “killer app” analytics focusing on student success. Many of them involve “raising the stakes” by exploring fundamental changes in the elements of higher education’s/institutional value propositions. These elements include: 1) outcomes, 2) the experiences through which they are achieved, and 3) cost/price.

In tomorrow’s blog, we will explore several of these broader issues and the analytics needed to support them:

• Reducing the total cost of learning for learners and their families;

• Increasing the number of college graduates and enhancing America’s competitiveness;

• Re-establishing financial sustainability for institutions; and

• Creating new mechanisms, structures, and networks for perpetual learning and competence building.

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