SEM Research: Make better decisions with data
Randall Langston, Vice President for Enrollment Management at Texas Woman’s University (TWU), is a big believer in the effectiveness of well-utilized data.
“Our success at Brockport-SUNY [Langston’s previous institution] helped us increase enrollment,” he said. “We ended up with record enrollment, a record number of first-time students, and record number of transfer students -- all achieved in an environment where students were leaving the state.”
The College at Brockport’s exemplary work earned them the top enrollment management award in predictive analytics and CRM across the entire 64-school SUNY system.
Enrollment managers work in a data-driven environment, so it’s important to understand what data to use, why it’s important, and how to operationalize initiatives built on big data and analytics.
“We worked closely with Institutional Research [IR],” Langston said. “With the volume of data we had, we had to start segmenting and prioritizing to make more granular decisions.”
Starting in 2012, he was working with faculty to develop Excel spreadsheets to understand the data, but the ability to manipulate and dive into the data was limited. “That’s when I sought out a partnership between Enrollment Management and IR. We ended up hiring IR staff member with dotted line relationship to me in Enrollment. IR reported directly to the provost, but that person had a direct line to me and he was able to help drive a data-inclusive agenda within IR.”
They used data to do predictive modeling on a student behavior to predict which students are mostly likely to enroll.
“Using predictive modeling we looked at multiple previous years’ enrollment and broke down students by major, geography, test scores, campus visit, and so on, and run a model that allowed us to look at different predictive variables and analyze their likelihood of enrollment,” Langston said. “And we were able to test the model based on the previous year to see if it worked out. This helped us make strategic decisions around marketing and recruitment. For example, a student with a one percent likelihood of attending, we may not send out a viewbook but send something scaled down.”
They were also able to do the same for financial aid leveraging, predicting the impacts of increasing tuition or financial aid on enrollment.
From warehousing to dashboards: Accessing data
Previously, data was stored in files and files of Excel spreadsheets, which can be overwhelming to work with. After several years of data warehousing, the institution moved to develop dashboards for data. This was about a five-year process, Langston said -- and that’s just for enrollment.
“Using a software product, we amalgamated all of our data output in a way that allows user to access and manipulate it with a click of the mouse,” Langston said. “It’s an easy way to look at or create on-demand reports, and it’s dealing with almost real-time data.”
The institution is now working on creating dashboards for data on admissions, financial aid, housing, student life, finance, and administration.
Beyond the dashboard
Langston joined TWU at the beginning of the summer, and the institution, he says, is “right on the cusp” of data-driven decision making, with very skilled IR professionals and strong campus backing.
“We already have a very strong foundation here,” Langston said. “What’s next is really to start integrating some of that warehousing work into some of our dashboarding, which is already up and running.”
Big data can also be integrated to improve decisions making regarding:
- Econometrics, to determine the elasticity of demand models for financial aid leveraging
- Retention, to find the right students for good yield.
- Improve outcomes, to increase graduation rates, find at-risk students and better support them.
“Utilizing big data is an incredible strategic decision-making tool,” Langston said.
Langston will share the how, what and why of these initiatives at his AACRAO SEM Conference poster session “Utilization of Big Data in Higher Education and Enrollment Management.”
Langston’s research selected for NSC-sponsored track at SEM
Langston will also present his original research “Case studies on successful implementation of financial aid to better inform strategic allocation efforts,” as part of the SEM Conference Research Track, sponsored by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.
Other selected research sessions include:
- “High Impact Practices: Mapping Student Perspective to Institutional Priorities” by Natasha Cook, University of Guelph. (Read about this research here.)
- “Introduction to the Higher Education Demand Index (HEDI),” by Nathan Grawe at Carleton College.
- “Adult College Student Choice: Individual and Institutional Factors that Influence Students” by Christin Shatzer at Lipscomb University.
Langston featured in 2017 SEMQ Special Issue
In conjunction with the 2017 AACRAO SEM Conference in Phoenix, check out this special edition of Strategic Enrollment Management Quarterly (SEMQ), including core SEM concepts such as:
- Strategic Enrollment Management for Chief Enrollment-Officers: Practical Use of Statistical and Mathematical Data in Forecasting First Year and Transfer College Enrollment, by Randall Langston, Robert Wyant, and Jamie Schei
- Insiders/Outsiders? Market Signaling and Student Identity in College Choice, by Gabriel R. Serna
- Organizational Assessment to Improve College Student Persistence, by John M. Braxton and Clay H. W. Francis
- SEM and the Student Journey: The Role of Strategic Enrollment Management in Student Engagement, by Stanley E. Henderson
- Developing and Implementing a SEM Plan--One University's Journey, by Kyle Baillie and Jody Gordon