Using Predictive Analytics to Assist in Managing Higher Education

There has been a lot of less-than-positive press in headlines recently about the Higher Education market as a whole. In fact, these types of articles seem increasingly easy to find these days. Please feel free to follow the links provided below to view a few articles that illustrate this point.

From CNN.com:  “41% of college grads overqualified for what they do”

From Forbes.com:  “More Evidence On The Student Debt Crisis: Average Grad’s Loan Jumps To $27,000”

From Time.com: “Why Is College Enrollment Dropping?”

From CNN.com:  “Tuition at public colleges rises 4.8%”

Though this might seem like a clear-cut case of mismanagement, you need to ask yourself a few questions to get the whole picture:

  •  If you are a 4 year university, what was the impact 2 year colleges had on your enrollment 10 years ago?

  •  10 years ago, to what extent did “for profit” universities affect your enrollment numbers?

  • What was the impact to your enrollment 5 years ago from free online course offerings, such as those offered by Harvard, Princeton, and Michigan, among other notables?

Because of unforeseen, and possibly ignored, external pressures, there have been dramatic changes in the past few decades in several different business sectors. The manufacturing sector experienced increased pressures as a result of globalization, which forced them to improve or shut their doors. In the financial sector, as a result of deregulation, banks either got better or got acquired. Finally, I think we all know what Walmart did to the retail sector.Higher Education

So since this has happened to virtually every other sector, it makes sense that we would see some dramatic changes happening in the Higher Education market in the coming years. I for one think that it has already begun. So how will these institutions ‘evolve’? How will colleges and universities define themselves in the future, change their mission statements, and implement surrounding strategies that enable them to achieve their goals?

In order to succeed, the members of the Higher Education industry need to take note of what successful organizations in other sectors that have seen upheaval did to not only survive, but thrive. I can assure you of one thing: successful organizations leverage every asset available to them to the fullest extent.

I often start out my presentations with the following question. As a result of a new accounting regulation, if you were now required to list the information that you have stored in your systems as an asset on your balance sheet, what value would you put on it? Imagine if you were sitting on top of 15 years of data that, if effectively leveraged, could tell you a great deal about your student population, your faculty, your financial condition, human resources, grounds and maintenance, campus security, and numerous other topics crucial to your school’s survival. Wouldn’t you want to have that information at your fingertips?

Change has also come to the way we view and use this asset we call data, and how we turn it into useful information for decision making purposes. Reporting describes how you did in the past, telling you how many students applied, how many students were admitted, what the enrollment numbers were for last semester, what the retention rate was, how many students graduated, and numerous other facts of that nature. The results reported are then typically analyzed to determine what was driving good or bad performance. Until someone invents a time machine, you just have to live with what has happened.

While reporting historical events is useful, I do not believe it is using this data asset to its fullest possible extent. There are ways to achieve an even greater ROI on the data asset. It is my belief that predictive analytics will play a much more prevalent role in the way we use data and convert it into useful information. Imagine using proven algorithms against all of that great historical data to detect patterns that are currently hidden and predict what is likely to happen. With this information, you can create the future you choose. You can use it in decision making to align or realign resources, invest or not invest in programs, specifically target constituents that have a high probability of giving, attract the right kind of student, predict which students are likely to drop out or not pay their bill on time, and staff campus security where and when incidents are most likely to occur. These are only a few examples of the foresight that predictive analytics can grant the Higher Education industry.

The questions that can be asked and answered using predictive analytics may surprise you. Leveraging the data that you already own and applying proven predictive analytics techniques to it will be a differentiator amongst institutions going forward. All you need to do is start with a question and then understand how to mine for the information nuggets hidden in the data.

Ironside Group Predictive Practice

Ironside Group consultants have worked with a broad cross section of customers on predictive analytics projects. The Ironside Group offers a wide range of predictive modeling products and services adapted to the needs and resources of organizations of all sizes and industries. We can work with in-house teams to create and maintain predictive and data mining models or manage predictive analytics services on behalf of the client. These solutions can be implemented using the client’s own computational resources or deployed into an analytical cloud platform provided by the Ironside Group.

We can also train your in-house professionals in the usage and applications of IBM SPSS software and predictive modeling methodologies, tailoring the curriculum to your specific needs. Also, our unmatched experience with IBM Cognos business intelligence means we are capable of delivering the results of your SPSS predictive analytics and data mining efforts to the entire organization in a clear, concise, and actionable format.

Below is a summary of a typical engagement that we are working on with a very large public university:

 “We are offering our comprehensive package of services in Predictive Analytics. We evaluated and estimated the hardware and software needs of the client. In addition we are offering a comprehensive training program for IBM SPSS Statistics and IBM SPSS Modeler, focused on the different levels of skills and experience of the clients’ team of statisticians, modelers, and analysts. Finally, we propose to provide the Advancement Department of this University with Predictive Analytics consultancy services that will cover all the modeling and data mining solutions to maximize the sustainable flow of giving from Alumni and Friends. While we provide our consulting services, we will transfer our tools and know-how to the client’s professional team.”

If your institution may not have the professional and/or equipment resources to run a predictive analytics system, we can fill the role of the professional team and deliver the predictive analytics capabilities as a service, including a whole or partial cloud solution.

 Change is coming, are you leveraging all of assets you already own to its fullest extent to prepare for the future?