By Dorian Thomas

What is Predictive Analytics?  

We’ve all heard about artificial intelligence, predictive analytics and other forms of technology being the way of the future, but what does that mean for your institutions? Let’s get technical for a second. Predictive analytics encompasses a variety of statistical techniques from predictive modeling, machine learning, and data mining that analyze current and historical facts to make predictions about the future or otherwise unknown events. 

For higher education institutions, this list of unknown events and questions can include those around enrollment, fundraising, marketing, advancement, and arguably most important, student success. Tech-savvy institutions can look to predictive analytics to help them find the trends and statistically significant data to help answer some of these questions. Because using predictive analytics for student success involves looking at past and current student data to predict future student performance, it can help students stay on track to graduate and alert them (and their faculty advisors and support team) when they’re falling behind. 

How Can Predictive Analytics Help in Higher Ed? 

Higher Education Institutions are under increasing pressure to retain their students, while federal and state officials demand that those who enter these public institutions— especially students from underrepresented groups— earn a degree. There has been a shift in focus, for most states, on what is considered success. Now, we’re looking at the number of students who earn their degrees instead of how many enroll. The financial burden of paying for college has also significantly increased in recent years. Students and their families are also becoming more anxious to cross the degree finish line. The ideas of student retention and degree completion are quickly becoming some of the most crucial impacts on an institution’s bottom line.  

The financial crisis isn’t just for the students. As recruiting and educating students becomes increasingly expensive, colleges hope to balance the resources they use to recruit students with revenue generated when those students are retained – and this is where predictive analytics tools may be able to help. 

The Higher Ed Use Case 

To gain a competitive advantage on recruiting and maintaining students, institutions have begun analyzing demographic and performance data to predict whether a student will enroll at an institution and if they will stay on track with their courses or require additional support to ensure they don’t fall behind. Analyzing past student data to predict what current and prospective students might do has helped institutions meet their annual enrollment and revenue goals, with more targeted recruiting and more strategic use of institutional aid. Predictive analytics has also allowed colleges to better tailor their advising services and personalize learning to improve student outcomes as well as institutional efficiencies.   

What Tools Are Available?  

I’m a huge believer in the transformational value that Salesforce can have on higher education. Using one platform to handle your student, alumni, fundraising and advancement data empowers your institution to focus on what really matters while connecting your data in one simple location.   

One tool that works incredibly well with Salesforce is Einstein Analytics. This is an application that can automatically analyze billions of data combinations to surface predictive insights and prescriptive recommendations for colleges and universities. It can help you turn your data into actions by unlocking new opportunities from within your data that leads to smarter and more effective constituent interactions.  

One Georgia based university is looking into Salesforce’s Einstein Analytics to lessen the burden on faculty at the time of student enrollment, while making prospective students feel as if they are already a part of the college or university family. The goal is to have Einstein analyze their data and help predict the next set of probable questions that prospective students will have based on their demographics, geographical location, educational track, ACT/SAT scores, GPA’s, etc. that could encompass thousands of lines of data and aggregate data.  This can be accomplished with Einstein Analytics because it delivers a portfolio of contextually relevant, self-service analytics apps that empower the user to explore data and uncover insights into student behaviors based on previous data that has been collected in-house. Enrollment can then proactively forward answers to the historically relevant questions that the students may ask based upon previous student interactions.  

You can have the opportunity to be a part of the future by using tools like Einstein Analytics. Predictive analytics and artificial intelligence aren’t just for science fiction films anymore. The impact this tool and others within Salesforce ecosystem can have on your institutional efficiency and student success are limitless.  You can gain a competitive edge in the battle for top students and help detect the early warning signs of students in danger of aborting the application phase or even falling behind in their academic careers. Make game changing impact on your university and student experience by pairing these tools with a CRM that connects your advancement, student and alumni data together to get a 360-degree view of your students.  

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Dorian Thomas

Dorian Thomas

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