What Do The Data Say? Colleges and Universities Take Action On Emerging Trends


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We recently reflected on our original research, which included new findings on part-time students, high GPA at-risk students, the value of engagement data. Our Community Insight Reports explore next-generation benchmarks and trends to empower our partner institutions and the broader higher education field. These findings were based on data from a subset of our 350+ partner institutions and eight million students included from both community colleges and four-year universities and represent the voice for underserved populations while also debunking assumptions we’ve had about student challenges. Capitalizing on this data provides opportunities for institutions to act on and illuminates a refreshed and data-inspired way to approach student success strategies.

Following the released reports, several institutions immediately responded to the learnings. We want to take a moment to spotlight the great work that transpired from their actions. And, even more importantly — the number of students impacted from their data-inspired work!

Encouragement Matters

Lone Star Community College System spreads over six different campuses and supports 85,000+ students – many of whom are part-time, many working adult and a surprisingly large population of very young learners including an expanding high school dual enrollment cohort. They saw an opportunity after reading findings from Community Insights, Issue 2, which brought attention to the fact that academic performance is not the primary risk for departure.

Using Illume, Lone Star College saw that 40% of their non-persisting, degree seeking students had GPAs over a 3.0. They found 2,568 students in the term with a GPA greater than 3.0, but had low prediction scores. This meant this group of students were performing well academically, but for reasons most likely related to life and logistics, were unlikely to persist.

Lone Star took immediate action and as next steps sent two strategic emails, using nudging best practices focused on empathy, normalizing and mattering.

These encouraging emails lead to a flood of positive student replies thanking advisors for reaching out and newly scheduled appointments to walk them through next steps in their academic journey. Lone Star College also reported that for students who received the email lead to a 9.5% (pp) increase in persistence compared to similar students who did not, 206 additional students persisted that term who wouldn’t have otherwise, and approximately $172,000 in revenue retained for the Spring term with just one email campaign.

A Nudge in the Right Direction

Harper Community College, located in Chicago’s Northwest suburbs, responded to the findings of Community Insights, Issue 3. In this report, we focused on part-time students because while there’s growing recognition of the large numbers of this population, they often aren’t the first priority with campus efforts. This is especially problematic given that retention rates for part-time students lag behind those attending full-time and are left out of policy-driven reporting and many national conversations on improving completion.

Colleges and universities are not rewarded for better serving part-time students in the same way they are rewarded for better serving full-time students, and for this reason, many times — part-time students aren’t incorporated in the student success strategies. Harper College took action on this finding and from their work, 898 additional credit hours were added. $120,000 in increased revenue was accrued and Harper College saw a 1 percentage point lift in the percent of students taking 7 or more credit hours in the Spring semester of 2018 compared to the Spring semester of 2017! For a dive into Harper College’s part-time student campaign, check out Resources to Enable Transformational Student Outreach.

Focusing on the Finish Line

In Community Insights, Issue 4, we’re taking a look at another population of underserved students – near-completers. This new research underpins the actions taken by Del Mar College to improve graduation applications — and ultimately, graduation outcomes for their students. Through Illume, they identified all students who had completed 75% of their required credits to earn a degree. To their surprise — and contrary to many assumptions, these students varied widely in their persistence probability — or persistence risk score.

Del Mar identified a communication strategy to intervene with their near completer students through tailored outreach according to their persistence probability needs. For those who had a high persistence probability, they would send a gentle email nudge reminder to cross the finish line. Other students who had lower predicted persistence scores would need greater interventions and support to see them off to graduation. Both advisors and graduation coaches proactively took action according to each student’s persistence probability score.

Del Mar achieved extraordinary gains from their student success strategy, including a 38% increase in the number of degrees awarded. Stay tuned for our Community Insights, Issue 4, where we will reveal what the newly found data says on near completers, and how Del Mar College took simple actions that would have a massive impact on their graduating class of students.


Join us to learn about the findings in our latest Community Insights report. In Issue 4, we turn our attention to “near completers” — students who are close to the finish line, but for one reason or another, leave higher education without earning a degree.


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