Data Analytics Improve Enrollment Performance
Apr 19, 2016
How is your college using data analytics to improve enrollment performance?
Data collection around student performance has exploded in recent years, and many schools have figured out how to use the data to improve retention rates, make advising more efficient, strengthen classroom pedagogy, and offer the right services to meet student needs. But still, Jeff Ralyea, senior vice president of product management at Ellucian, sees that many campuses are lost.
“What we have found is that the schools, even if they have the data, they just don’t know where to start in terms of using the data,” Ralyea said.¹
The challenge is identify the questions you want to answer, the data you need to answer them, the best sources for the data and the processes for who captures the data, how they capture it, where they capture it and then who has access to the data for analysis, developing recommendations and reporting.
To be successful at laying all this out, you need leadership to drive this from the top down. Then you need experienced professionals and the ability to go across the institution because you are going to need to capture data from where the individual student interacts with the institution.
Let me give you an example. Most colleges have invested in CRM technology – but they limit their expenses by limiting the number of seat licenses they purchase. The folks on the phones in enrollment management have access, but the folks in advising are using the SIS system. Person A has every interaction with enrollment management captured in the CRM but once Person A becomes a student, the adviser typically starts fresh in the SIS. Any insights gained during the recruitment process is “lost” with this switch.
Now Person A, as a student, enrolls in 2 courses in their first semester. One is classroom, the other is online. The instructor for the classroom course keeps all course related data such as attendance, participation, grades in their own ‘data system’ (head, notebook, spreadsheet, other). And when Person A stops coming to class and submitting work, the instructor keeps that information to themselves until grades are submitted at the end of the term.
The traditional rationalization for this has been “Retention belongs to the faculty” but with so many adjunct faculty in the classroom these days, and the lack of training and oversight they receive, there is no process for them to share the data in a more timely manner or escalate the issue for timely and appropriate responses.
So, for example, when a student misses several classes, fails to submit a couple of assignments and fails a test – that information typically stays in the faculty members grade book/spreadsheet/head instead of a central database everyday so that a business rule/person can identify a potential problem and implement a process designed to help the student get back on track for success.
But the problem – and the opportunity – is bigger than this
The recruitment process fails to dig up a lot of really important data – the type of data that helps you lower your cost to enroll new students and improve retention and graduation rates which leads to more positive word-of-mouth which leads to referrals and higher interest…
Let me give you an example. Person A happens to be a single parent of two children under 18 years of age that live in the home. And Person A just started a new job which means there will be a lot of long days and extra hours getting up to speed. On top of that, Person A isn’t really all that organized, lacks the time management skills successful students have and isn’t much of reader or writer.
If you were to gather that information, compare it with the performance of similar students, you could [ex] identify Person A as someone that will need outreach, support and mentorship from Day 1 so you create a unique process of support for people like Person A that delivers that experience. Instead of a 50% attrition rate with this segment, you improve to 80% which leads to more positive word-of-mouth, referrals and a lower cost to enroll new students…
Or you can ignore that data, wait for Person A to receive “F” in several classes and then attempt to react and save the student.
Which approach do you think helps your institution stand out from the competition – the proactive, data-driven approach or the reactive approach?
How to Get Started
Putting together a process to become a data driven institution requires leadership from the top – because it will demand participation across the institution which typically means more/different work for everyone. If you try to make this a ‘marketing and enrollment’ initiative, you will most likely encounter less support than if you make this a “institution wide initiative as deemed by the president/chancellor”.
Then you need to bring together leaders from across the institution that will lead the charge within their areas of responsibility and authority. They will identify the insights they need – the institution needs – to make better informed decisions. These are the questions this group will walk through and the answers will drive action moving forward.
- What is it you are trying to accomplish?
- What data do you need to accomplish that objective?
- How can you collect that data (quickly, easily, affordably with an eye on quality)?
- Where will you store the data?
- Who will analyze the data and how will they analyze it?
- How are the findings and recommendations shared across the institution so that it can be used to drive decision making?
- How will you test those new hypothesis?
- How will you create and maintain a process that strives for constant improvement?
We strongly recommend that this process be facilitated by an experienced third-party so that everyone on your team are participants rather than having one positioned as the ‘leader’. We have found that having everyone as a ‘participant’ sends a clear signal to all that they are all in this together and must work together to create the solution. And a trained, experienced facilitator will be there to guide and remind your team of that.
You will then need to map processes and write down who does what, when, where, how so that you get what you need, where you need etc. This will also aid in new employee training, employee management and departmental efficiency.
The process maps and written processes, roles, responsibilities will need to be reviewed and updated at least once a year. It’s common for people to create work-arounds or find ‘better ways’ to do things – and you need to determine if they are improvements to the processes that need to be made permanent or if they are deviations that must be stopped with additional training and better over site.
Your greatest challenges will be [a] making the time to develop and manage these processes, and [b] convincing everyone that these processes are key to the institution’s success and its ability to deliver unique value to the students.
You will see turn-over. You will have people leave because “…I like to do things the way I like to do them…” That’s alright. Remember that this will be minimized by the process we outlined above because you are involving your staff in the development of the process – and this will allow most to buy into the improvements.
We live in a world of limitless opportunities and limited resources. We can only do so much no matter how much harder we work so the key to greater success is going to come to those that use data to identify opportunities that their strengths can help turn into a profitable reality.
It’s about working smarter, not harder.
Developing a way for your college to better leverage data and drive improved performance is key to your success in the near and long term. How are you going to make it happen?
¹Downloaded from http://www.educationdive.com/news/collecting-the-right-data-isnt-enough-colleges-must-know-how-to-use-it/414040/ on March 3, 2016.
Patrick McGraw is VP of Higher Educaton Marketing Services and has more than 25 years experience in market research, competitive intelligence, business intelligence including database marketing and CRM, strategic planning, brand development and management as well as operations/campaign management. His work has consistently helped his clients and employers develop and implement more efficient ways to attract and retain profitable customers, enter new markets and launch new products. His areas of focus include the education, hospitality, travel and tourism, hi-tech, telecommunications, financial services, and retail industries on both the agency and customer sides.