How Florida Atlantic University Uses Student Data to Eliminate Equity Gaps

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Florida Atlantic University (FAU) leveraged its data analytics to dramatically increase first-year retention, improve completion, and eliminate equity gaps in the categories of race, ethnicity, and income.

FAU Loses Performance Based Funding

When the state of Florida introduced performance-based funding, FAU ranked second-to-last. Only 66% of the university’s first-year students progressed to their second year with a GPA of 2.0, or higher and six-year graduation rates were as low as 40%. As a result, FAU lost 7 million dollars in educational support. 

Motivated to become the country’s fastest-improving public research university for their diverse student body, FAU got to work on addressing student needs, improving outcomes, and meeting new state standards. Their objective was to radically improve student success outcomes by equipping the entire institution with intelligence and actionable insights. FAU partnered with Civitas Learning to build a robust analytics infrastructure and data culture.

FAU Builds a Data Analytics Infrastructure and Culture

Leaders recognized that they needed a multi-faceted approach to create a data analytics infrastructure and culture on their campus. This realization led to several cross-functional teams, including a strategic workgroup, central data governance team, student engagement team, and student success networks. Together these teams used data to understand student experiences and the effectiveness of student success practices and initiatives. This integration of data analytics across their campus allowed FAU to take data-activated, coordinated action to help their students succeed.

First, FAU created a centralized team to review data and strengthen metric improvement strategies. This Strategic Workgroup for Ascending to the Top (SWAT) broke down long-existing silos, ensured accountability, and advocated for sustained interventions. This diverse, multi-level strategic team of administrators, budget analysts, IR programmers, faculty, and support services met weekly to review data, evaluate student success initiatives, and design sustained interventions to improve outcomes. Success required more than having the right tools. It depended on having the right people at the table and a concentrated effort to take action.

FAU Builds a Data Analytics Infrastructure & Culture

“By staying relentlessly focused on the data, we’ve been able to ensure that our student success campaigns are always grounded in equity—even if the insights sometimes lead us to uncomfortable conclusions about what’s working for our students.”

— Dr. James Capp
Assistant Provost for Academic Operations & Planning
Florida Atlantic University

FAU formed a Civitas Data Governance Team (CDGT) to work closely with the core team, SWAT, to turn insights into action. The CDGT ensured campus teams had student-level, timely intelligence they needed to coordinate action and improve student success outcomes. Centralized data governance meant using real-time student data analytics to optimize programs and allocate resources to the most beneficial interventions for their students. It empowered student success teams to move away from often-too-late reactions to at-risk students. This real-time visibility into student needs allowed student success professionals to engage with students early when challenges were manageable, and mistakes were still salvageable. 

To improve the quality of their student outreach, FAU also created a student engagement or “nudge” team. This team of professionals from advising, financial aid, the registrar, and even campus marketing used data analytics to design thoughtful, relevant outreach campaigns and improve student communication. Student data revealed insights that enabled lead advisors to send more personalized nudges, scaling timely and effective outreach to their students. The registrar and student services team used short-cycle analytics to coordinate student outreach and better understand the effectiveness of communication campaigns. 

To deliver a seamless advising experience, FAU established team-based Success Networks. These teams composed of an assigned academic advisor, career counselor, and financial aid counselor used data to deliver personalized support. This approach enabled FAU to ease a student’s ability to schedule an appointment. The team eased their workload and streamlined their internal processes by moving their notes and records from a disparate, siloed system to a centralized one. 

The Success Networks also integrated predictive analytics to improve their ability to identify students who needed support—knowing which students were predicted least likely to persist equipped the Success Networks with the ability to intervene proactively. This shared understanding of real-time student risk and access to centralized information enabled the network to take coordinated action to connect students to the resources they needed to succeed. 


Read more about how Florida Atlantic University leverages the Civitas Learning Student Impact Platform to remove barriers to equitable student outcomes.

Before data analytics provided FAU with clarity about their student’s actual experiences, narratives and myths informed many of their student success practices and programs. Resulting, far too often, in their teams delivering interventions and support to students too late. They learned that continuous improvement of student success relied on inclusive data-informed strategies, organizational change, and coordinated outreach across the university to address the needs of their students. 

Real-time visibility into their student data revealed that applying best practices and the latest higher ed trends was often not impactful for FAU’s diverse student population. Their shift in approach led to the creation of initiatives and actions tailored to meet the needs of their students- including step-by-step roadmaps for all students, a more flexible Bachelor of general studies, progressive academic grants, and more. By looking closer at their programs and policies, FAU realized they could remove barriers they didn’t see before, improve equity and eliminate their student achievement gap.

Transition to Data-Activated Student Impact Strategies Lead to Dramatic Improvements

FAU’s shift to data-activated Student Impact Strategies using the Civitas Learning® Student Impact Platform led to improvements across multiple key success indicators. First-year retention for students with a 2.0 or higher surged by 14.5 percentage points. Graduation rates improved, with four-year graduation rates improving by 18% and six-year graduation rates improving by 11%. And most impressively, FAU’s efforts eliminated achievement gaps by race, ethnicity, and income.

And as a result, within two years — and against all odds and expectations — FAU ranked at the very top of the performance funding model. FAU reclaimed $7 million in lost funding by achieving this and was awarded additional dollars to continue their student success work.

FAU’s close look at their programs and policies impact on their students empowered them to remove barriers they didn’t see before. FAU’s partnership with Civitas Learning unleashed the true power and potential of the university’s student impact data. Together, they created a data analytics infrastructure and data culture that equipped the entire university to understand their student’s journeys better and provide precise interventions to help them succeed.   

And as a result, within two years — and against all odds and expectations — FAU ranked at the very top of the performance funding model. FAU reclaimed $7 million in lost funding by achieving this and was awarded additional dollars to continue their student success work.


Ready to create more equitable student outcomes at your college or university? Schedule a conversation with us to learn how partnering with Civitas Learning can help your institution reach its student success goals.

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