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News & Media

The Power of Numbers: Public Higher Ed Institutions Detail How They’re Increasing Student Success through the Effective Use of Data

March 15, 2017

Washington, DC – As colleges and universities across the country seek to better utilize data to improve student success, 14 leading public higher education institutions today detailed through a series of case studies how they are driving progress on campus through the effective use of student-level data. The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) and the Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP) organized the case studies to demonstrate the importance of student-level data in the development and implementation of programs and strategies to improve student learning and increase degree completion.

“The short case studies are powerful examples of how data from the National Student Clearinghouse, the Student Achievement Measure (SAM), or state longitudinal data systems can have a direct impact on student success,” said Christine Keller, APLU’s vice president of research and policy analysis.  “The case studies underscore how the absence of a federal student-level data system limits campus decision-making and demonstrates what more would be possible with more complete national data. The need for a more flexible and accurate national system is particularly important with today’s more diverse and mobile students.”

The institutions and systems featured in the data profiles represent a variety of institution types and geographic regions, including research universities, regional state universities, urban-serving institutions, a historically black institution, and Hispanic-serving institutions.  The case studies feature Colorado State University, Florida International University, Georgia State University, Miami Dade College, Middle Tennessee State University, Morgan State University, Ohio University, Temple University, the Tennessee Board of Regents, University at Buffalo, University of Michigan, University of South Florida, University of Texas at El Paso, and the University of Texas System. 

“Campus leaders across the country use data every day to directly improve student outcomes,” said IHEP President Michelle Asha Cooper. “These fourteen case studies provide compelling evidence that institutions can serve their students well when they have the necessary data to drive change.”

Institutions’ use of more sophisticated data comes at a time when student bodies are continuing to evolve and shift away from being mostly traditional, first-time, full-time students who just graduated high school.  More than a quarter of college students are between the ages of 22 and 29 and another fifth are 30 or older.  Additionally, more than 25 percent of college students have children.  Two thirds of community college students attend part-time.  And approximately 70 percent of students work while in school.  The need to better understand the progress, roadblocks, and paths to success for these students is critical.

Each case study describes how the institution or system turned student data into actionable information and tools that improved student decisions and outcomes.  Colorado State University and Miami Dade College focused on creating a campus culture of data use and institutional improvement by strengthening data quality, aligning data systems, and educating the campus community on how to collectively use the information to support students and their success.

The University of Texas System partnered with the Texas Workforce Commission to create seekUT™, a free, online tool where students can compare expected earnings and loan debt by field of study to make better choices about majors and careers. Similarly, the University of Michigan designed and implemented a digital coaching platform, ECoach, which provides personalized assistance for students in large classes – allowing them to learn best practices and avoid common pitfalls.  

Florida International University, the Tennessee Board of Regents, and Georgia State University regularly utilize data to diagnose barriers to student progress and to implement targeted advising interventions that have resulted in improved course completion rates in science and math along with higher graduation rates for low-income and minority students.  Morgan State University has experienced record increases in annual retention rates for students over the last five years through the combination early intervention strategies, systematic tracking and monitoring of student progress, and academic coaching and mentoring.

Middle Tennessee State University, Ohio University, the University of South Florida, and the University of Texas at El Paso emphasize that student success is everyone’s responsibility.  Those institutions combine student data with analytical tools to deliver critical information to faculty, staff, and the students themselves so students can receive the resources, support, and guidance they need to achieve their goals.  As a result, larger proportions of students complete courses successfully and remain enrolled, achievement gaps are narrowing among students from different backgrounds, and greater numbers of students are earning their degrees.

Temple leveraged student performance data to implement and evaluate an alternative test-optional admission process in an effort to better align its admissions process with its ongoing commitment to access and affordability.  The result was a more equitable admissions process with similar, and in some cases, improved student outcomes.  And the University at Buffalo focused on integrating systems and processes to reduce time to degree and raise four-year graduation rates, successfully increasing the proportion of students who completed a degree in four years by more than 20 percentage points.

The case studies can be found at http://aplu.org/Data4Students and on social media under the hashtag #Data4Students.

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