Student Success in Higher Education
Using Data Analytics to Drive Retention Strategies
University of Southern Mississippi
The University of Southern Mississippi (USM), established in 1910, is a Carnegie R1 research institution and one of the nation’s leading research universities, serving over 10,600 undergraduate and 3,400 graduate students, both online and in-person.
A perennial challenge for leadership was having ready access to accurate, shared data on student success, financial health of academic programs, and other critical metrics. Like every institution, USM needed data analytics to determine whether their tactics for driving student success and program productivity translated into tangible results.
How USM Uses the Data
As with many institutions, USM’s Institutional Research (IR) office was small. The university also lacked the staff and resources within IT to build a data warehouse or gather the extensive analytics from across the university necessary for deeper insights. Since information is trapped in silos, departments would sometimes disagree about their different datasets, often leading to confusion. With access to data-fed dashboards at their fingertips, Deans can now make stronger, more informed arguments based on metrics such as student credit hours, degree production, and graduation rates.
Optimizing Academic Programming
Making decisions about academic programs is a complex process for every university, with leaders from different departments advocating for investment in various programs and institutions striving to balance cost and revenue centers in the institutional profile. By leveraging the HelioCampus platform, USM leaders were able to cut through this confusion and optimize their programming to meet the needs of students more effectively.
Strategic Enrollment Management
With increased expectations from students and their families, enrollment management in higher ed is much more complicated than even five years ago. It requires responding to questions about the value of a college education, meeting the needs of diverse student bodies, and delivering sophisticated online options. Today, USM can leverage the HelioCampus data to provide crucial insights to find the best ways to support students with unmet financial needs.
Building a Data Culture
While USM’s partnership with HelioCampus resulted in a data platform that helps university leaders make more informed decisions, the relationship was about more than technology. USM was able to build a culture that embraces data transparency and consistency to drive decision making, strategically allocating precious dollars where they will have the most impact.