Student Success Insights Blog

What's the buzz around the "Murky Middle"?

by Ed Venit

It's been a busy few months for the Student Success Collaborative (SSC) in the higher education media, so I wanted to take a moment to quickly summarize the coverage for anyone who missed it.

We feel honored to be sharing our collective work with the broader higher education community, and we're excited to see the enthusiasm surrounding SSC's data-driven approach to student success.

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Inside Higher Ed

In September, Inside Higher Ed wrote a feature story and hosted a subsequent podcast profiling the latest insights from our ongoing exploration of the "Murky Middle," the sizeable but often overlooked group of students who manage to complete their first year with a GPA between 2.0 and 3.0 but still stand a good chance of dropping out before completing their degree. With more than 100 members in the Collaborative, we've amassed an incredible data set to power ongoing research on a subset of students that could help schools make meaningful progress on their graduation rates.

For example, we now know that murky middle students often display several terms of declining GPA prior to departure, which typically occurs at some point during the sophomore or junior years.

These students have different needs than at-risk first-year students, and thus common first year retention initiatives may not be sufficient to support them. Analytics platforms like SSC are ideally positioned to help schools proactively identify and intervene with these students and hopefully change their fate.



Campus Technology

A few weeks prior to this, Campus Technology ran a story on the promise of big data, profiling SSC and Southern Illinois University (SIU). SIU was one of the first members of SSC, and this article explores how SIU is reshaping its approach to advising around the SSC platform. SIU previously shared that SSC helped improve Fall 2013 to Spring 2014 retention by 3.6%.

Learn more about SIU's partnership with SSC

By partnering with SSC, SIU enabled more strategic student interventions, better decision making at all levels, and nearly half a million in additional tuition revenue from Fall 2013 to Spring 2014. Read the case study.



Just the beginning

I am excited because our understanding of the best approach to improving graduation outcomes grows in lockstep with the growth of SSC. The more data we have, and the more schools contribute practices to the Collaborative, the greater impact we can make. My hope is that we finally have the opportunity to channel our collective knowledge and work together to make a dent in this longstanding national problem.

Read more about the Murky Middle

Our white paper takes a closer look at five insights from our exploration of the "Murky Middle" student population and outlines nine of our preliminary findings. Read the white paper.


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