University System of Georgia
The importance of higher education – whether at a college, university, or a technical school – to individual success and the state’s economic competitiveness is at the center of Complete College Georgia, an initiative sponsored by Governor Nathan Deal. The University System of Georgia (USG) sought to support the goals of Complete College Georgia by strengthening its efforts to recruit undergraduate students from a broad range of high schools and to provide the support services necessary to ensure successful completion of their higher education.
To strengthen their efforts, university system leaders turned to data. They already collected vast amounts of data. But what did the data actually tell them about student recruitment and enrollment patterns, the communities from which students come, how students move through college, and their chances of success in higher education?
University system leaders recognized the need for new and innovative tools and techniques for gaining greater insights into their data and using those insights to inform decision making on policy and operational matters. They also recognized the need to merge their data with data from outside sources, such as the National Student Clearinghouse and the U.S. Census Bureau.
The resulting Student Success Analytics Project brought together experts from various disciplines and created groundbreaking analytics for data-driven decisions in all 30 of the university system’s colleges and universities. The project addressed a series of defined challenges, and it transformed data to make longitudinal analysis possible. The use of data visualization extended analytic capabilities beyond more conventional reporting techniques.
In another example of the innovative approaches made possible by the project, university system leaders are now able to view the student pipeline from high schools to higher education as social networks and to identify state colleges and universities with similar recruitment and enrollment patterns. Being able to identify high schools that are only loosely affiliated with state colleges and universities leads to strategies for engaging them and thereby helps expand student access to higher education.
Data visualization illustrates patterns in how students enter and move through college. As a result, campus leaders are able to identify students in need of support services that help prevent them from dropping out of school. Further data analysis will allow university system leaders to determine the most effective dollar amounts for financial aid and scholarships and thereby promote enrollment and retention while at the same time reaching the greatest number of students possible.
Bolstered by findings from the SSAP, a system-wide policy committee was established to assess ways of eliminating barriers to enrollment as a transient student while ensuring a transient student enrolls in the right courses.
The project brought sophisticated analytic and business-intelligence capabilities to the USG’s central office and its colleges and universities, and it’s helping equalize the ability to make data-driven decisions across the entire university system. The SSAP demonstrates the power of embedding data and analytics in decision making to understand and predict student behavior, drive more effective allocation of scarce financial and human resources, and ensure better educational outcomes.