Using data to retain higher education students and staff

How Higher Ed is Using Data to Retain Students & Staff

The Further Team
Mar 4, 2024

In today’s competitive higher education landscape, retaining students and staff is more important than ever. With rising tuition costs and increased competition from online programs, universities and colleges must prioritize retention in order to maintain enrollment and reputation.

But how can higher ed institutions effectively retain students and staff? The answer lies in data-driven retention strategies. By utilizing retention metrics and analyzing data, higher ed institutions can identify at-risk students and staff and implement targeted interventions to improve retention rates.

In this article, we’ll explore how higher ed is using data to retain students and staff, and the impact it’s having on the industry.

The Importance of Retention in Higher Ed

Retention is a critical aspect of success for higher ed institutions. Not only does it impact enrollment and revenue, but it also affects the overall reputation and ranking of the institution.

According to a study by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, the overall six-year completion rate for first-time students at four-year institutions is only 60%. This means that 40% of students are not completing their degree within six years, resulting in lost revenue for the institution.

In addition, high staff turnover rates can also have a negative impact on the institution. Constantly hiring and training new staff members can be costly and disruptive, leading to a decrease in productivity and morale.

By prioritizing retention, higher ed institutions can improve their customer retention rate and maintain a positive reputation, leading to increased enrollment and revenue.

Utilizing Retention Metrics

In order to effectively retain students and staff, higher ed institutions must first understand their retention metrics. This includes tracking data such as enrollment rates, graduation rates, and staff turnover rates.

By analyzing this data, institutions can identify trends and patterns that may indicate at-risk students or staff. For example, if a certain program has a high dropout rate, the institution can investigate the reasons behind this and implement interventions to improve retention.

In addition, retention metrics can also help institutions track the success of their retention strategies. By regularly monitoring data, institutions can make adjustments and improvements to their strategies in order to achieve their retention goals.

Implementing Data-Driven Retention Strategies

Once retention metrics have been established, higher ed institutions can begin implementing data-driven retention strategies. These strategies involve using data to identify at-risk students and staff and implementing targeted interventions to improve retention rates.

Causes of student attrition in higher education

For example, institutions can use predictive analytics to identify students who are at risk of dropping out. By analyzing data such as grades, attendance, and engagement, institutions can identify patterns that may indicate a student is struggling and intervene before it’s too late.

Interventions can include academic support, counseling services, or financial aid assistance. By targeting interventions to specific students, institutions can improve retention rates and ensure students are successful in their academic journey.

The Impact of Data-Driven Retention Strategies

The use of data-driven retention strategies has had a significant impact on the higher ed industry. According to a study by the American Council on Education, institutions that have implemented data-driven retention strategies have seen an increase in retention rates by an average of 2-3%.

In addition, institutions have also seen an increase in graduation rates and a decrease in staff turnover rates. By utilizing data to identify at-risk students and staff, institutions can intervene and provide the necessary support to ensure success.

Real-World Examples of Data-Driven Retention Strategies

GSU Logo

One example of a higher ed institution successfully using data-driven retention strategies is Georgia State University. By implementing a predictive analytics system, the university was able to identify at-risk students and provide targeted interventions, resulting in a 21% increase in graduation rates.


Another example is the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC). By analyzing data on student engagement and success, the university was able to identify students who were at risk of dropping out and provide targeted support, resulting in a 10% increase in retention rates.

Who is Responsible for Retention in Higher Ed?

In order for data-driven retention strategies to be successful, it’s important for higher ed institutions to have a dedicated retention team. This team is responsible for analyzing retention metrics, implementing interventions, and tracking the success of retention strategies.

The retention team should consist of individuals from various departments, including admissions, academic advising, and student affairs. This ensures that all aspects of the student experience are taken into consideration when implementing retention strategies.

The Future of Data-Driven Retention in Higher Ed

As technology continues to advance, the use of data in higher ed is only going to become more prevalent. With the rise of artificial intelligence and machine learning, institutions will have even more powerful tools to analyze data and identify at-risk students and staff.

In addition, the use of data will also become more personalized. Institutions will be able to use data to create individualized retention plans for each student, taking into account their unique needs and challenges.


Retention is a critical aspect of success for higher ed institutions. By utilizing retention metrics and implementing data-driven retention strategies, institutions can improve retention rates and maintain a positive reputation.

Artificial intelligence in higher education student retention

With the use of data becoming more prevalent in higher ed, institutions must prioritize retention and invest in the necessary resources and technology to effectively retain students and staff. By doing so, they can ensure the success of their students and maintain a competitive edge in the industry.

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