Building a comprehensive model to enrollment management
- Use a “try-it” approach to analytics
- Use predictive models on potential students prior to engagement
- Cloud computing makes analytics accessible to colleges and universities
Patty Patria, vice president of Information Technology at Becker College, says, “We use analytics to help us more accurately forecast and target new student enrollment as well as improve retention.” In the past, Patria says her institution built homegrown dashboards in Microsoft Excel based on data extracted from their recruitment and student information systems.
“Last year, we for the first time tried to create a predictive analytics model to help us forecast which students would be an ideal fit for Becker by leveraging a small team of in-house personnel.”
“It didn’t work out so well,” Patria admits. “Our predictive model wasn’t all that accurate, but that’s OK. We have the philosophy that it’s OK to try and fail as long as it doesn’t negatively impact business.” Rather than staying with something that doesn’t work, this year Becker College is taking a different approach.
Patria explains, “Instead of just focusing on the predictive models, we are looking at a comprehensive approach to enrollment management. Again, we formed a small team comprised of enrollment, marketing, and IT staff to evaluate multiple options, and then develop a new strategy.
This year, our goal is to work with vendors that are experts in this space to help us run predictive models on potential students prior to us engaging them so that we have a better sense of which lead would actually turn into a student who enrolls. We’re also trying to use marketing analytics and social media marketing to come up with new mechanisms by which we can target the prospective students that we’ve analyzed to see if the outcomes increase the number of students who enroll.”
Patria’s “let’s try it” approach to analytics seems to work well with the evolving nature of technology and the capabilities available to institutions today. “The technology for analytics changes drastically, so you must continually make sure that you’re refreshing that technology.”
For example, one application the college used last year required a lot of hand-coding, which can be time consuming. The tools it uses today are much different. “Artificial intelligence engines that used to require coding now have drag-and-drop functionality in a graphical user interface; that makes generating predictive models much easier. You don’t necessarily need the detail-oriented programmer skill set,” she explains. “I think it’s important to stay on top of the evolution of the tools in this market because they’re changing so rapidly. This approach can change the way you run your analytics.”
Cloud computing has also helped make analytics accessible to more colleges and universities. “The cloud is helping institutions expand the way they interact with data,” she says. “Many larger schools have their own custom-built data warehouses and dashboards, but those tools require a large staff, which in turn equates to a large budget. For smaller schools with tighter budgets, they haven’t been able to get into the data warehouse market yet because the costs were either too high or because the tools weren’t available.”
"As we move more to the cloud, the whole data warehouse market seems to be changing, as well. It used to take anywhere from 12 to 24 months to set up the data warehouse. Nobody has the appetite to wait that long anymore. Technology advances will enable more smaller institutions to access real data warehouse and dashboarding tools," Patria says.
The use of cutting-edge analytics and cloud computing technologies is paying off for smaller schools. "Our enrollment has increased every year for the past five years, so I would say that we're in a better position than a lot of other small private colleges," Patria says. "I think we're in that position because we continually look at the analytics, make decisions, and then make adjustments based on those decisions."
PATTY PATRIA, Vice President for Information Technology, Becker College
Patty Patria is the vice president for Information Technology at Becker College. She has more than 20 years of experience in the IT industry, more than 15 of which are in higher education. She is responsible for providing strategic leadership in long- and short-term planning; managing administrative and academic technology; overseeing the Becker libraries; and overseeing the management of computer networks, servers, and personal computers. Patty also oversees information security and compliance requirements for the College.