How Data Analytics Transform Operations and Strategic Growth in Higher Education


A successful data strategy enables higher education institutions to identify trends and drive informed, strategic decisions to achieve their business goals more effectively. Inherently, we know this because we experience it every day as companies sell us products and services based on our buying habits, location, demographics, online activity, and more.

Data is an asset that is increasingly driving value and growth in modern organizations. And like any asset, it requires strategy and management. Unfortunately, many institutions don’t understand the value of their data assets, or how to level that data in order to increase their value in the marketplace, resulting in missed opportunities for growth, innovation, and more.

Understanding The Challenges And Obstacles of Implementing Advanced Analytics in Higher Education

college students walking down the stairs to classHigher education institutions are complex, multi-faceted organizations. As a result, data silos are pervasive and act as strong impediments to enhancing informed decision-making capabilities. These silos continue to plague institutions as highly customized enterprise systems lag behind technology advances embraced by other sectors.

Throughout higher education institutions, there is often little incentive and much reluctance to share data. As a result, many schools tend to lack good data hygiene – that is, formal policies for how to share data across departments and established rules for who can access such data. Compounding this reality, many organizations struggle with disparate legacy systems that don’t communicate with one another. These challenges can seem overwhelming, but strategic growth and operational improvement are possible when leaders endeavor to implement changes.

Many institutions exclusively rely on analytics in one specific area such as compliance. Compliance data is typically reported to accrediting bodies or government agencies like the National Center for Education Statistics, which collects surveys from thousands of institutions annually for the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System Unfortunately, this external compliance data often fails to help institutions make data-based decisions about their internal operations.

These obstacles are challenging to overcome, but with the right strategy and leadership, institutions will realize the value of implementing a data strategy and achieving desired outcomes.

If Modern Systems Are Vehicles For Success, Data Is The Fuel

young college students using laptops to organize and present ideasHigher education is steeped in tradition –– the caps and gowns worn at graduation date back to the 12th century. But 21st-century colleges require 21st-century solutions. Today, data is the fuel that powers modern systems. How, then, can higher education benefit from data analytics?

Enable Bespoke, Personalized Student Experiences

Every student is unique, and higher education institutions need to customize their experience for each student. Colleges and universities that leverage data analytics have demonstrated the payoff of crafting bespoke student experiences.

Take Gannon University, for example. In 2017, Gannon implemented a data analytics plan to boost student retention. By identifying at-risk students, even before first-year orientation, Gannon administrators can offer additional services.

At-risk students received personalized attention from advisors. The university stacked incoming learners’ first-year schedules with classes where students demonstrated strengths rather than courses in their weaker subjects. The plan paid off. From 2017-2021, Gannon boosted its overall retention rate from 80% to 84%.

Institutions already have the infrastructure to help at-risk students. They’ve invested in student advising, which has been shown to translate into academic success. Data analytics enhances administrators’ ability to identify students who would benefit from personalized attention before their grades drop.

Boost Student Retention And Completion Rates

Data analytics has a strong track record in growing student retention, and its applications stretch far beyond student advising.

stressed college student hunched over their deskAt the University of Kentucky, the institution identified first-year students at risk of dropping out due to of financial hardship. The university then created targeted institutional grants for these students, significantly increasing the group’s retention rate.

That single data-driven change translated into a 4% higher overall first-year retention rate from 2016-2020.

Similarly, predictive analytics can identify undergraduates at risk of not completing their degree. Schools can provide targeted resources for these students, boosting their degree completion rates.

Improve Faculty Productivity And Research

Higher education institutions can also strengthen their academic reputations by utilizing data analytics to improve faculty productivity and research. A comprehensive approach can track departmental workloads, help departments distribute resources, and measure long-term faculty trends. This data can help institutions retain faculty and attract high-quality hires.

Fuel Innovation And Data-Informed Solutions Year After Year

Analytics can fuel innovation. Improving student retention rates, identifying better ways to utilize classroom space, and tracking enrollment rates not only make institutions stronger, but it also drives positive change.

Investing in data-informed solutions pays dividends for years. Colleges and universities that make data-backed decisions give themselves a valuable edge in a competitive marketplace.

Meet With Hartman To Learn How Advanced Data Analytics Can Transform Your Higher Education Institution

Colleges and universities that leverage advanced analytics are able to make data-driven decisions that yield many benefits, ranging from improved enrollment retention rates to increased faculty productivity. Hartman Executive Advisors works with higher education institutions across the country to develop and execute a data strategy that aligns with the unique needs of each college and university. Reach out to learn more or schedule an appointment to get started today.


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