The VPM Blog

Big Data, big opportunity for Higher Ed

Posted by Don Crow on Mar 18, 2013 4:50:52 AM

Author @DonCrow tackles this week’s blog post exploring where big data and higher education are finding partnerships – and a few they still need to pursue.

You would think academia would embrace big data. Talk about a potential match made in heaven – using data from admissions, career services, student services and alumni relations to create a profile of the ideal student. And by ideal student, I mean the ones who push the upper limit of your incoming freshman test scores, love their campus experience, pay on time and graduate in four years.


Very possible.

The amount of data available to Universities is staggering. On the front end, you have all the applicants – those who are accepted and those who aren’t, combined with the ones who are accepted and actually show up. From there, follow those students’ data bread crumb trails through academic success (or lack thereof) in any major course of study right through graduation.

And it doesn’t end there. Career moves, graduate schools, promotions, marriages, children, ticket purchases and yes, donations back to their alma mater can all be sifted through scientifically to start predicting who the most promising students are when they’re still one of those faceless applicants with test scores, essays and acne.

You would think academia would embrace all that data, court it, nurture it and create a marriage even Kate Upton couldn’t derail.

You would think. And you’d be wrong.

The University of Florida is dabbling in it and Arizona State University is applying it rigorously to help keep students on track to graduate and choose the best major for them, versus the one their parents picked. Austin Peay State is mining data to help direct students to the classes they stand the best chance of passing.

But who is mining all that pre, present and post graduate data to create the ideal student? What about the ideal big donor?

Once you have a profile for that ideal student, you can create an ideal marketing strategy. If you have an ideal marketing strategy, your recruitment efforts become very focused and efficient. If you have an ideal donor, you development and alumni relations team gets leaner, more efficient and well, profitable.

But aside from all that applying-business-mindedness-to-higher-ed-gobbledegook, wouldn’t it be great if higher ed used data mining towards helping students actually succeed academically?

Imagine the relief on the student loan ecosystem (including parents, grandparents and other benefactors) if getting students out of school in the best fit degree in four years appeared as seamless as firing coaches?

So the obvious question is, “why aren’t more Universities tackling this opportunity?”

My answer is simply, “I don’t know.” I can apply the data points from the Universities we partner with here at Verge Pipe Media and all signs point to:

  • They probably don’t know it exists, closely followed by….
  • They don’t like to ask for outside help (non monetary)

It’s a shame really because Big Data + Higher Ed really could = a marriage the algorithm makers at would be very envious of indeed.

Author: is Founder & CEO at Verge Pipe Media. Verge Pipe Media
assists public institutions, enterprises and the non-profit sector with Imaginative
Inbound Marketing strategies + campaigns. We also have a development team
chock full of Marvelous Mobile Migrators, poised to help transition our clients into a
mobile + social world with custom software, iOS and Android mobile apps.

Topics: higher education

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