UCSD looks to big data for a big push to on-time completion

Institution wants to offer 'the academic equivalent of preventive medicine'

University of California at San Diego (UCSD) is looking to boost its four-year graduation rate with a predictive analytics program, Carl Strausheim writes for Inside Higher Ed.

The institution's four-year completion rate sat below several other system universities at 57% in 2008, according to data from the federal government. Administrators hope the Time to Degree Early Warning System will help change that. The system will look at historical and current student data to predict which individuals may be at risk of taking longer than four years to graduate.

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"We want to be able to identify students who are doing fine but are probably going to have troubles later on," says Douglas Easterly, dean of academic advising at UCSD's John Muir College.

At first, the system will only look at factors such as GPA and completed credits, but administrators say they hope to add more and offer "the academic equivalent of preventive medicine."

"We want to be able to identify students who are doing fine but are probably going to have troubles later on," says Douglas Easterly, dean of academic advising at UCSD's John Muir College. At first, the system will only look at factors such as GPA and completed credits, but administrators say they hope to add more and offer "the academic equivalent of preventive medicine."

"Our hope is—and this may sound paradoxical—by automating a lot of the screening, we can move students toward more personalized one-on-one attention," Easterly says.

Many universities have implemented predictive analytics to free up adviser time. Some students may only need 10 minutes with their academic adviser, but when students show markers of veering from their graduation paths, advisers can carve out more time and connect those individuals with resources.

John Muir College has just one adviser for every 600 students, so such a system can help target their efforts to those who need it most. 

"UCSD is at the beginning of a journey," EAB's Ed Venit told Straumsheim. After fully rolling out the predictive system, the institution needs to look at what infrastructure it needs to connect students with appropriate services (Straumsheim, Inside Higher Ed, 3/23).


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