Universities look toward data to stabilize enrollment numbers

Data mining could be one way Kansas officials address a decline in student retention.
Data mining could be one way Kansas officials address a decline in student retention.

University of Kansas officials are considering working with a data-mining company to pinpoint strategies to keep students enrolled after a recent report showed that 28.7 percent of freshmen from the fall 2007 semester have left the campus.

Five months after University Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little formed a task force that would examine ways to increase student retention and graduation rates, task force members say they might enlist the help of Virginia-based data mining company Starfish Retention Solutions, which works with 14 four-year colleges, seven two-year campuses, and two K-12 school systems.

Starfish’s retention program helps campus decision makers weed out data that identify at-risk students with consistently low grades and spotty attendance records who are not engaged in campus activities.

The system connects to a campus’s course management system—Blackboard, for instance—and raises real-time online flags for students who fall below a certain grade or involvement “threshold” designated by the university, according to the Starfish web site. Faculty members can review these alerts through the school’s Starfish education technology portal.

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Denny Carter

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