The Top 5 Academic Data Points Your Institution Should Track for Student Success
Collecting and acting on course demand and student progression data is key to ensuring students can access the courses they need and promoting student success. Consider analyzing metrics such as time to degree, number of credits taken per term, and underfilled and overfilled sections.
In the US, less than half of students who matriculate at a higher education institution will actually complete their degree. While many different factors impact a student’s ability to graduate on time, some of these factors are directly impacted by institutional processes. Structural barriers to completion such as unclear degree pathways, misalignment of academic schedules with student demand, and time conflicts in academic schedules, all can lead to prolonged and discontinued studies.
Institutions must do everything within their control to remove these barriers so that students can effectively navigate their path to completion. Data analysis and data-informed action are essential to breaking down these barriers. Track these five academic data points to improve course access and completion rates for students.
Analyze time to degree data to understand roadblocks to completion
The time it takes for a student to progress from matriculation to graduation is a leading indicator of student success. Delays to graduation can decrease the likelihood that a student will graduate at all, and according to the National Student Clearing House Research Center, “can become expensive when viewed in terms of college costs, taxpayers’ subsidies, and the wages students forfeit with each additional semester of enrollment.”
Time to degree has increased for the majority of students over the last few decades. Studies have shown that students at less selective universities and those with the largest financial burden experience the greatest delays to their degree path. At a high level, time to degree data enables institutions to identify trends across and within student populations to ensure equitable outcomes for the student body. At an individual level, it allows administrators and advisors to execute individualized interventions to ensure no student falls behind.
Examine the number of credits students take per term to encourage on-time completion
Complete College America found that most students do not take enough credits each semester in order to graduate on time. Taking a full credit load each term keeps students on track to graduate, and research also shows “that students who take 15 credits do better academically and are more likely to persist.”
15 To Finish, Complete College America’s initiative to equip institutions with the resources they need to encourage students to take the correct credit number, has demonstrated strong results. With the program, the University of Hawai’i Manoa doubled the percentage of students taking 15 credits. To do this, they updated their communication strategy to change the institutional culture around what it means to be a full-time student, and challenge the belief that learners cannot manage additional course load.
Use course demand projections to proactively plan for the courses students need
Course demand projections enable administrators and academic leadership to plan course offerings based on student demand. This data also helps administrators ensure students have access to the courses they need to complete their programs of study with the right courses at the right time.
These projections should examine critical factors such as historical enrollment and where students are in their degree path, so that institutions can be proactive, instead of reactive, to student demand.
Identify overfilled and underfilled sections to increase course accessibility and maximize resources
The average campus has 70%+ of their sections overfilled (>95% fill rate) or underutilized (<70% fill rate). This ineffective resource allocation is not only a headache for students during enrollment windows, it also can ultimately contribute to students not being able to access the courses they need.
Institutions that monitor real-time enrollment data can make decisions to add sections, or consolidate sections, so that course supply and student demand are more closely aligned. Additionally, this has tremendous resource implications for the institution, as eliminating waste in the schedule can save the institutions hundreds of thousands of dollars
Inform resource allocation decisions with program contribution margin data
The contribution margin profile of departments helps institutions answer questions such as whether program expenses are aligned with demand and revenue and which courses are being offered at a negative contribution margin.
Answers to these questions support strategic resource tradeoff decisions, so that costs can be reallocated towards programming that directly impacts student outcomes.