Institutional Analytics Blog

4 ways schools see ROI with Academic Performance Solutions

By Tyler Richardett

Our Academic Performance Solution (APS) technology was created and continues to evolve with the goal of removing barriers limiting academic leaders' ability to make informed, effective, and timely decisions.

Our members share that APS has been transformational in mobilizing academic leaders to discover where data can be a useful tool in conversations around resource planning. The following are four key ways in which members have seen tangible returns on their investment in APS.

1. Identify and act on opportunities to consolidate course sections

Our research has found that colleges and universities often offer more sections than needed to meet student demand. We recommend an optimal course fill rate of 80%—which ensures the class is sufficiently full but not at risk for becoming a bottleneck course, (where student demand exceeds capacity). Based on this optimal fill rate, APS analysis has revealed that 39% of course sections are underfilled, with up to as many as 19% of all sections less than half full. As a result, up to 7% of all sections offered could potentially be consolidated while still meeting student demand.

How one university saved $900,000 in instructional costs with a new class size policy

With the analyses in APS, members can easily identify significant resource reallocation opportunities—better matching course offerings to student demand. For example, regional comprehensive colleges and universities have an average of 119 potential section-collapse opportunities. And although not all courses can be consolidated (due to personnel, accreditation factors, time of day, etc.) and not all collapsible sections are taught by adjunct instructors, APS still predicts significant savings even for schools that only act on a portion of those opportunities.

Assuming that just half of the collapsible sections identified are actually consolidated, this still reveals more than $150,000 in savings at regional comprehensive institutions—in the form of unproductive adjunct salaries and potential course releases for tenured instructors.

Sample ROI calculation

2. Intentionally and strategically target course completion efforts

APS analysis indicates that 12% of lower division student credit hours are unproductive, due to low completion rates concentrated in a small share of total courses. These tend to be large class-size courses with high rates of students earning a D grade, failing, or withdrawing (DFW). By identifying courses with the most unproductive student credit hours, APS helps colleges and universities target these low-hanging opportunities to improve course completion rates—significantly reducing operational costs and better supporting student progress.

By targeting just 1% of unproductive courses at very large research institutions and aiming to improve completion rates by just 3 percentage points, leaders could help 460 additional students move forward in their degree, reduce the likelihood of bottleneck courses, and save an additional $300,000 in productive instructional costs.

3. Find growth opportunities among existing programs

To help achieve growth goals, many colleges and universities choose to launch new and often less conventional academic programs. However, hastily launching new programs can lead to profitless growth—when a school grows faculty, instructional resources, and perhaps even enrollment, but not the bottom line.

But with the enrollment trends, section fill rate data, and custom cohort benchmarks provided by APS, members can avoid sinking millions of dollars into the start-up costs of launching a brand-new program, and instead invest those resources in recruiting students for existing programs with high, unrealized growth potential.

APS also gives members a clear view of which departments to prioritize for which resources. For example, St. Ambrose University added 2.5 new faculty lines in high-demand departments, rather than replacing five retired faculty lines in other, lower-demand departments—ultimately yielding more than $400,000 in savings.

4. Redirect institutional research resources toward other strategic priorities

Comparable internal approaches to joining data systems to provide actionable insights to decision-makers would be resource intensive to build. APS offers the benefits of scale, freeing up the resources for institutional research departments to focus on other strategic priorities. During the same departmental review period, St. Ambrose University also saved more than 700 hours' worth of manual data collection and analysis with the help of APS.

Or, as the chief business officer at another member institution said,

"I did the math. We could potentially do some of this ourselves, but asking EAB to do the work gives us benchmarks that we couldn’t ever get, and frees up our I.R. folks to work on other projects for our deans."

Through these four key areas, it’s clear to see how APS supports colleges and universities by highlighting opportunities to optimize resource use—putting students and instructional staff at the center while saving institutions numerous dollars and hours.

See how St. Ambrose University saved 700 hours and $446k

By partnering with EAB’s Academic Performance Solutions, SAU was able to power data-driven decisions—using key department-level metrics to inform resource requests and make distribution choices.

Watch How They Did It


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