This past week, the SightLine team presented at the Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education (NASPA) joint conferences; Closing the Achievement Gap: Student Success in Higher Education Conference and the Symposium on Collegiate Financial Well-Being. These synchronous conferences brought together professionals ranging from Deans of Students to Directors of Financial Wellness and Budgeting Teams, creating a unique opportunity for what seemed a surprisingly rare conversation about student success and financial aid strategies.
It became clear to us that most student success teams rarely, if ever, communicate with financial aid offices, particularly regarding at-risk students. The conversations between student intervention specialists and financial aid directors at this conference may have been some of the first productive conversations regarding a holistic approach to student success.
If students are at-risk of dropping out due to financial factors, shouldn’t the financial aid office be involved in the conversation alongside student success teams?
Some campuses have a designated financial wellness coach planted in the student success offices but this position is frequently focusing on personal student finances, rather than strategies for Universities to deploy financial aid to maximize student success. Our research at SightLine has shown that factors that are controllable by University financial offices, such as aid distribution and pricing, can influence student retention and ultimately success.
At SightLine, we are using big data predictive analytics to help universities proactively allocate financial aid to help at-risk students succeed. The methods are student centric, highly granular, and are uniquely tailored to each Universities student population. This is in sharp contrast to other more established traditional education consultancies who fail to identify specific students that are at risk or even more importantly those that may be on the bubble and more likely to respond favorably to individualized intervention strategies.
The key is to improve intra-departmental collaboration and communication across departments, which also means strong data sharing and use of state of the art integrative predictive analyses customized to each University. Data is frequently siloed and not easily accessible to those outside a given silo. SightLine specializes in integration of data across University environments to provide actionable information that accounts for the interrelationships between recruitment, price, aid allocation, achievement, and intervention strategies all of which must be finely tuned to maximize student success.
Identifying at-risk students is a complex process where there is no silver bullet variable—every university is uniquely complex. But this is where SightLine’s highly granular university specific methods excel in helping Universities to manage student success at the individual student level, with institution wide strategies. SightLine analyzes the full picture at each University, including combined assessments of enrollment data, demographics, progress towards degree completion, financial aid allocation, pricing strategies and university engagement.
The conversations that took place at these combined conferences were an eye opener reinforcing our confidence in the need for the SightLine approach to helping Universities break down institutional silos in efforts to navigate a changing environment where recruiting is increasingly competitive and public financial support of Universities is declining.