Dec 12 2017
Data Analytics

4 Ways Data Empowers Universities Beyond Retention

From targeted recruiting to more effective fundraising, higher education institutions find more uses for business intelligence solutions.

In the past few years, data analytics in higher education has emerged not only as a business tool but also as a means to facilitate student success. For universities across the country, tools like Microsoft Power BI and Splunk Enterprise 6.5.1 help educators make sure that students are staying on track.

With access to huge data sets and the software capable of processing them, higher education institutions can now identify at-risk students before they fail. By providing just-in-time interventions to these students, universities are also increasing their retention rates and, ultimately, their bottom line.

But with new software emerging constantly, data analytics can improve other aspects of university business as well.

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1. Data Streamlines the Fundraising Process

Technology-driven fundraising has huge potential for higher education. With increasing pressure on gift officers to boost productivity and bring in donations, data analytics technologies can help to better target potential donors.

Development officers can also leverage data to create automated, personalized outreach: choosing the timing of contacts based on whether or not data indicate donors might be interested in donating at a particular time.

Together, these data-driven strategies can reduce the time it takes for a gift officer to approach a donor who is likely to provide support, thus increasing productivity.

2. Demographic Data Informs Admissions Practices

While using data to retain at-risk students is a big win for universities, it can also help institutions reach out to students who are at risk of not making it to campus at all. Saint Louis University used demographic data to identify teenagers in the region who might not be aware of their post-secondary options.

Using data algorithms that examine demographic data, institutions can also tailor marketing materials to students so that messaging is a better fit.

And, by analyzing the demographics of previous graduating classes, universities can see not only which types of students have had the most success, but also where the institution might be lacking diversity.

With this kind of data mining, universities can revamp marketing initiatives and recruiting strategies. They can also gain insight into the behaviors of students as they start the college application process.

3. Data Helps Leaders Understand Their Students Better

In 2009, Georgia State University revamped its mission statement to say the institution would “become a national model for undergraduate education by demonstrating that students from all backgrounds can achieve academic and career success at high rates.”

Data was a major driver in working to make good on this proposed mission. After demographic data revealed that more than half of its student body came from low-income households, Georgia State worked to provide appropriate support to these students.

By understanding the unique makeup of the student population, higher ed institutions can ensure that programs and services meet the needs of their students.

4. Data-Driven Surveillance Keeps Campuses Safe

At the University of Tulsa, adding more video cameras around campus gave a boost to safety, but it also increased the amount of time that safety officers had to spend analyzing video footage. Data analytics software proved to be an effective way to streamline and shorten this process.

Now, the university’s safety officers simply enter the parameters of the desired search and the analytics software does the digging for them. Currently, only a minority of colleges report using analytics-enabled security systems, but experts believe analytics solutions will become a bigger part of the strategy to keep campuses safe.

The one-two punch of data-driven surveillance and the smart Internet of Things technologies that automate monitoring will make it easier for campus police to thwart crime in real-time.

Data Analytics Modernizes Universities Holistically

Today’s higher ed institutions face shrinking budgets and IT staffs tasked with doing more with less. When choosing a tech tool, leaders must know that the efficacy of the tool is enough to justify the investment.

For data analytics solutions, this justification can sometimes seem like a no-brainer. Having a better understanding of your student population leads to more success. By keeping those students safe, you’ll increase the likelihood that they’ll have a positive college experience, and they might even become a future donor.

With an investment in a data analytics tool, university leaders are unlocking the potential to holistically make their campuses a better place.

This article is part of EdTech: Focus on Higher Education’s UniversITy blog series.

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