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White House Summit: Analytics Key to Success in Higher Ed

Systems that use data to track student progress could put dwindling college graduation rates back on track.

Attendees at a Dec. 4 White House summit to discuss ways of increasing higher education graduation rates devoted considerable time to how data can be used to help students reach the finish line.

Data-driven solutions are not new to higher education. But with graduation rates declining, new ideas are needed more than ever. In May, the U.S. Department of Education announced the creation of the First in the World competition, offering a pool of $75 million in grants for institutions that demonstrate new approaches to improve college readiness and reduce costs.

To further address the problem of completion, the Obama administration hosted its second White House Summit on College Opportunity, gathering leaders from higher education across the country.

Speaking to those gathered for the summit, President Barack Obama lauded Georgia State University's approach to curbing dropout rates. The system the university has developed uses predictive analytics that tracks students facing financial risks, particularly among students who are traditionally underrepresented.

The solution has resulted in more than 3,000 interventions to help students stay in school, according to a news release from the White House.

At the summit, Nancy Zimpher, chancellor of the State University of New York (SUNY), advocated a "cradle-to-career" approach of tracking student readiness levels, according to U.S. News & World Report. Zimpher's message was reflected in her general session at EDUCAUSE 2014 in October, during which she discussed how SUNY schools take a data-driven approach to "seal the leaks in the education pipeline."

Likewise, Michael Crow, president of Arizona State University, said during the summit, "We need super faculties enhanced by analytics and data," according to the Education Advisory Board.

The White House announced several initiatives to improve access and success rates, including sharing student aid information with nonprofit organizations and dedicating $10 million to college completion research over the next five years.

Dec 12 2014