Jen Q. Public: Save our students with analytics

Digital Marketing Lead, Public Services Sector, IBM Analytics

May 7, 2015, 8:07 p.m.

Dear diary,

I received three graduation invitations this week. While I’m excited to watch these young adults receive their degrees, I can’t help but wonder if Johnny, the young man who works at the convenience store on the corner, would ever go back to college. He had such a promising future, yet he dropped out just after the first year.

In the New York Times just a couple weeks ago, David Leonhardt shared that “dropout rates typically hover around 50 percent.” That’s really high. Carly Stockwell, content director at College Factual, also shared that only 59 percent of students graduate from college. The burning question then, is what are colleges and universities doing to stem the tide—especially with student attrition costing a given institution 9.9 million dollars in lost revenues?

Unfortunately, I fear that the image I have in my head of colleges chasing students and never catching up to them is real. Why aren't more universities leveraging student data and analytics? After all, didn't Di Roberts, principal and chief executive of Brockenhurst College indicate that the institution intended to boost student recruitment and improve retention rates by 15 percent with predictive analytics?

I also read about Edinburgh’s Telford College using predictive analytics to identify students who are at risk of dropping out and prompt staff to intervene before it is too late. And the University of Arizona "is taking a closer look at how the University can use data to increase student success." If only every university and college across the globe could leverage advanced analytics to aggregate and analyze student data to identify at-risk students and constructively intervene with personalized assistance. Perhaps the drop-out rate wouldn't be so high, and Johnny would still be in college.

Until next time,

Jen Q. Public

Improve student retention with analytics.