Using Data To Get To and Through College: Part 2

We’ve talked about how stakeholders are using data to help students get to college, but what are we doing to help students get through college once they’re already there? Luckily, some institutions are leading this charge by using data in innovative ways to help students who are already enrolled cross the finish line—and we have many lessons to learn from their work.

Third Way hosted the second of a three-part event series where we explored the opportunities and limitations of using data about student outcomes to help get more people to and through college. This event featured a conversation moderated by our own Tamara Hiler between pioneering institutional leaders and partners about how they are using data to help students complete their degrees and credentials once they’re enrolled, including Bridget Burns, Executive Director of the University Innovation Alliance, Jason DeSousa Associate Professor of Higher Education Leadership & Policy Studies at Howard University, and Gerardo de los Santos, Senior Fellow at Civitas Learning and former President and CEO of the League for Innovation in the Community College.

A key feature of the panel was to explore methods being used on campuses like predictive analytics to help track student progress and help more students make it to graduation. However, Burns cautioned that, “Predictive analytics is definitely a compelling support and technology tool, however it’s not enough. It’s 20% technology and 80% the people who use it.” Specifically, data analytics strategy fails when it’s just another report or a software platform on the shelf - leadership and staff engagement is key to making it work for the students institutions serve. Too often, we allow students to do things we would know aren’t likely to be successful if only we used predictive analytics and historical data. Most importantly, schools have to have the resources and manpower to properly use predictive analytics. De los Santos added to the conversation that, in higher education no one piece of data is “better than”, rather all are “better with” support of other important and relevant available data.

In addition, when questioning whether an increased use of data on campuses can make students feel like widgets, panelists made the case that it is actually the status quo and the lack of information that ultimately depersonalizes the educational experiences for students on campuses. Professor DeSousa mentioned that it’s actually higher education data that can inform stronger enrollment and recruitment choices and has been key to helping improve first-year retention on campuses where he’s worked.

Missed the first event in the series when K-12 and business leaders discussed the tools they are using to help students select colleges with the best outcomes? Watch the live-stream or read our recap here. Third Way’s final event in the three part data series will discuss students need for outcomes and workforce data as they are mapping their pathways to graduation and beyond.

Event Details



November 14, 2017

12:30 PM to 2:00 PM


Hall of States

444 North Capitol Street, NW

Washington, DC - 20001


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