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Colleges and universities are under intense pressure to maintain enrollment, increase student retention and ensure student success. Predictive analytics can play a crucial role in these efforts at institutions of any size, by providing actionable data that can drive more effective strategic decision-making.

In just three years, enrollment at Lone Star Community College grew by about 50 percent. The six-campus system, located in the north Houston metro area, now has more than 95,000 students and has experienced explosive data growth, as well—from 40 terabytes to 1.6 petabytes.


Colleges and universities are under intense pressure to boost retention and completion rates, and national research has shown that students who are highly engaged on campus are more apt to graduate. By using student data and predictive analytics effectively, institutions can improve retention rates by identifying students needing early intervention and proactively helping them succeed.

When a school hears from the FBI, the news is not likely to be good. Two years ago, FBI agents informed Maricopa County Community College District administrators that data from the 10-college system in Arizona had been posted on the internet. With a possible data breach underway, the system’s website was shut down immediately and school officials began to investigate.

When Barry University officials discovered their network had become infected with malware that was making callbacks to a command center in Russia in 2013, an external security contractor was hired to conduct a forensic analysis of the incident, and intrusion prevention detection software was purchased to monitor the system.

The University of Michigan’s very decentralized campus means it has multiple IT departments, numerous technologies and plenty of cloud applications. “We basically use everything you can think of when it comes to the cloud,” says Don Welch, chief information security officer. “Colleges here have their own relationships with providers, and their own strategies with information storage. So it’s a big task to set central policies, but it’s important to take on that role.”

“Security is always a top concern. Other highly regulated industries—such as financial services, insurance and healthcare—have mandatory government regulations to guide them, but it is often unclear to higher ed which data can or cannot be stored in the cloud. I’ve seen universities adopt a hybrid

Web analytics by itself won’t do everything a school might want, says Alan Etkins, a research and analytics associate at consultancy Ruffalo Noel Levitz. “It will give you counts, it may give you hypotheses, but it won’t give you full understanding [of metrics].” He recommends that those serious about web analytics integrate tools to enhance the data.

Survey tools, for example, provide deeper insights, he says. A few that Etkin likes are: •

An analysis of web traffic to Arizona State’s landing page for internationals informed choices about its redesign—including the seven languages other than English a visitor can view it in.

Students at Arizona State University today have access to a service-oriented financial assistance website that provides guidance on college planning. It offers cost calculators, links to scholarships and budget planning, and easy access to financial aid office staff. It’s an approach that works—and the result of using analytics to unearth a treasure trove of website insight.


Your institution collects a wealth of data regarding admissions, financial aid and student success factors. All of these data provide a holistic view of your prospective and current students. But, are you using this actionable intelligence to create and deploy personal and productive messages?