February 10, 2017
Ensuring students stay on track to graduate in four years is a major emphasis for universities across the country. As one of the largest public flagship universities in the country, UT Austin has earned recognition as a national leader, not only in increasing graduation rates, but doing it on a large scale.
Setting New Records in Student Success (2016)
- 60.9% - Increased 4-year graduation rates to 60.9%, from 51%, in just 4 years
- 8,646 - Largest incoming class in UT history (FTIC)
- 85.2 % - Persistence rate of students continuing after three years
The value of these efforts is clear. Timely graduation minimizes student loan debt, produces more attractive graduates for employers, introduces students into the workforce sooner and expands the enrollment pipeline so the university can increase access to even more students.
How does UT Austin identify barriers, at-risk students, and design programming to best serve these diverse groups of students? The answer — strategic use of data. Data mining allows the university to identify trends, barriers and craft policy. The university then uses the massive data available to develop predictive modeling and build platforms to put resources where they can help the most.
Identifying Students with Data
Predictive Analytics — UT Austin uses a predictive analytics model of 12 key factors based on over ten years of historical data to predict how likely a student is to graduate in four years. The predicted four-year graduation rate is used when a student arrives as a freshmen so that the university is able to identify the support programs best suited for each student in order to help them succeed when they arrive.
360 Connections — A key factor in a student’s success at a university is their sense of belonging. Helping students find and establish their community is critical in order to have reliable support when adversity arises. A variety of data is employed to place over 8,000 incoming students in small communities of 20 students, called 360 Connections, which every first-year student is required to participate in.
Student Program Database —Having a broad perspective of what programs an individual student participates in across campus was a major challenge for a large decentralized campus like UT Austin. This information can help administrators insure that every student is in a community, identify issues and intervene early on, and help students avoid problems proactively. In response, the university developed the Student Program Database, a tool that provides administrators across colleges and schools with data to understand the full scope of involvement of all their students.
Advanced Advising through Data
Interactive Degree Audit — This tool provides students, advisors, and university administrators with a snapshot of where a student is on their progress to their degree. The IDA provides immediate feedback for students to then work with their advisors to get back on track by selecting the courses they need for the coming semesters. The tool can also help students explore course offerings and the impact that future course selections might have on timely graduation.
Progress to Degree — Advisors play an important role in helping students navigate their path to timely gradation. On a campus with over 40,000 undergraduates, the challenge for advisors can be identifying which students are falling behind. To address this, the university developed the Progress to Degree dashboard, allowing advisors to know the exact percentage calculation for a student’s progress towards their degree, and proactively reach out to help students that are off track.
Post-Matriculation Assessment — A student's likelihood of timely graduation can vary over the course of their academic path. Based on data, the university can identify key indicators of a change in progress. For example, if a student scores a lower grade in a gateway course, it in turn impacts the likelihood of their graduating on time. With this data, academic advisors can identify students earlier that are more likely to get off track to graduate and help students make positive changes.
Course Availability and Data
Course Availability Analysis - A big challenge large universities like UT Austin face is making sure the right courses are available for students to stay on track to graduate, and ensure those courses have enough seats to accommodate the students that need them. This is especially true for UT Austin because of the varying size of it’s incoming class due to the state-mandated admissions processes. This year, the university conducted statistical forecasts for seats needed for the largest incoming freshmen class in UT Austin history to ensure every student had a full schedule of courses. The effort paid off with over 99% of freshmen leaving orientation registered for a full-time course load.
Registration Slotting – As an additional incentive for students to stay on track, registration times are assigned based on how close students are to graduation. This means the students who are closest to graduation have priority to register first and get into the classes they need to finish on time.
To learn more about student success efforts at UT Austin, visit studentsuccess.utexas.edu.