Predictive Analytics in a World of Choices
Higher education institutions are facing a raft of issues that affect the success and longevity of the college or university. Falling numbers of high school graduates, reductions in governmental financial aid programs, increasing alternatives to a 2- or 4-year degree including technical certifications and trade school offerings, as well as online courses offered by large institutions are only some of the challenges being faced.
To address these and other issues, institutions have implemented cross-departmental teams to make recommendations, hired (or tasked existing) consultants to analyze data and offer solutions, or purchased large scale software tracking systems – all aimed at improving retention efforts. The need for such cross departmental task forces also requires that they be agile; adjusting to new information, recommendations, and insights within shortened time frames. For many colleges, however, adding significant additional cost to achieve improvements runs counter to the growing trend for greater institutional efficiencies and lower administration and operational costs.
Into these trends comes the promise of using data science methods to uncover insights currently hidden in existing data. And many current solutions – from consultants to software solutions – hype their analytics capabilities. But the truth is that in-depth and rigorous data science offerings are not as common as “advertised”. SightLine is a company founded by data scientists coming out of – and working strictly in – the higher education environment.
When presenting the predictive analytics products and services offered by SightLine, one typical reaction from prospective clients is “We already have that . . . “; where “that” is defined as consultants or data scientists or the work done by Institutional Research & Effectiveness within your institution.
Therefore, the challenge is differentiating between an institution’s current efforts, actual results from these efforts, and the results offered via external solutions, relative to cost. In other words, how long have internal teams and programs been at work and what has been their quantifiable results?
Below we compare and contrast internal efforts versus SightLine predictive analytics.
5 things SightLine is not:
- We are not a source of purchased data on students, test scores, or other data you may currently procure.
- We are not a long-term consulting engagement using outdated models and excel spreadsheets.
- We are not a Student Information System (SIS) or Learning Management System (LMS)
- We are not a Software as a Service (SaaS) solution with analytical dashboards; requiring implementation, training, and ongoing cost.
- We are not reactive (simply aggregating data) but predictive (forward looking, actionable results).
5 things SightLine is:
- We are data scientists using mathematically rigorous methodologies to provide forward-looking, predictive results; specific items you can act on and implement in the short term.
- While not consultants, we ARE consultative; we not only provide in-depth analysis, we are available – in person or via the web – to interpret and expand on what we have found.
- We are lower cost with faster results that are clearly focused on your unique institutional needs.
- We are strictly focused on higher education; we do not work in other fields.
- We utilize data science methodologies against your existing data to accurately model predictions of enrollment, retention (targeting students in trouble), and financial aid allocation across departmental boundaries; reducing data “silos” and increasing effectiveness of institutional programs.
Even if you have existing consultants or other sources of assistance, SightLine can plug in with existing solutions and fill in the gaps or answer additional questions not tackled by your current providers. SightLine can plug into existing solutions providing additional validation and refinement of results; giving you additional actionable insights.
What barriers are reduced in utilizing the “concierge analytics” services provided by SightLine?
Cost – a SightLine engagement is, on average, 6 times less expensive than a new software platform, an annual SaaS subscription, or an ongoing contract with a consulting firm. Institutions are funding predictive analytics with existing budgets, reallocation of funds from other areas, or, in some cases, by seeking grants or donations from foundations or alumni groups.
Data acquisition – the information required by SightLine comes from existing campus sources that can include enrollment, financial aid, and other metrics. SightLine has a simplified data requirements document that will allow IT and IR&E to quickly identify needed data. We also can provide support in pulling information from existing systems and will consult with your IT contacts to streamline the process.
Existing Consultants – most institutions of higher learning already have contracts with traditional consultants in the areas of recruitment, enrollment, and student success. These consultants have not evolved alongside modern analytical methods, using cumbersome excel spread sheets and standard statistical methods with long implementation periods and turnaround times. Once the models are trained, SightLine can quickly update them with new information and new outcomes in a short window of time with internal state-of-the-science data science software
Siloed information – SightLine analysis requires inputs from numerous sources, depending on the service being provided. Sometimes these data sources are managed by different individuals in different parts of the organization. Because SightLine has the ability to input these variables, it may provide an excellent opportunity to reduce data silos across the institution, pull together disparate team members to provide input and to benefit from the results. Stated another way, a SightLine engagement may reduce barriers to interdepartmental communication thereby improving institutional effectiveness.
What questions does SightLine address?
What student applicants are most likely to enroll and succeed at our university/college?
How much funding should we be allocating to individual scholarships to optimize enrollment while maintaining or increasing university revenue?
How do changes in funding allocations affect enrollment and retention rates?
What are the top factors affecting student’s enrollment decisions?
What qualities do students have that make them successful at our university and how can we better use this information?
How can we use enrollment and student success forecasts to drive admissions decisions and standards?
If your internal teams or your external consultants have been working on these issues for over 6 months and you are less than satisfied with their outcomes and results, let SightLine provide you with real, actionable recommendations, at a lower cost, and, typically, within 60 – 90 days of beginning a project.