How Colleges Can Use Data Analytics to Improve Student Retention and Graduation Rates

Unlike K-12 schools, colleges and universities have not traditionally placed a huge focus on student retention and graduation. Students who couldn’t make it in college dropped out and colleges could easily fill their spot. But today’s higher education landscape is changing. There is more pressure on colleges and universities to keep students in school and ensure they graduate.

This has left colleges scrambling to find new ways they can better serve students. One method many schools are trying? Using data analytics to improve retention and graduation rates.

Data analytics can be used in a variety of ways. First, they can help colleges find patterns among students who are failing courses. Colleges can figure out whether there’s a particular subset of students that are more likely to fail. First generation college students, minorities, or female students may all be more likely to struggle in college. By determining if these groups are falling behind, colleges can figure out their next steps to help these students.

Colleges can also use data analytics to find the courses that are most challenging for students. It may be a particular department, professor, or type of course that is causing a disproportionate number of students to fail and ultimately drop out.

Keeping data on individual students can also help target struggling students. Data analytics can reveal exactly what students struggle with. This can be accomplished by tagging assignment types or course types and measuring where a student performs the worst.

Sharing this data with students and professors can also be a powerful tool for improving outcomes. Once it’s clear what a student, or a group of students, is struggling with, interventions can be used. Professors who find that many students fail a particular course may offer more tutoring or additional resources. Students who learn that they struggle with a particular skill, such as writing, can seek out help with that specific skill.

Now that more colleges and universities are working harder to retain students and increase graduation rates, it’s time to start looking for the best ways to do this. Data analytics will bring colleges into the 21st century and allow them to better target and serve students who are at risk of failing or even dropping out of school altogether.

How does your institution use data analytics to target students and increase achievement? Do you think data analytics are a necessary tool?


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