HEat Index, Issue 15 – Spring enrollment increases, data & retention, and AI at ASU

05/23/2024

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Although spring enrollment showed improvement, the persistent issues with the new FAFSA could jeopardize this progress. As the enrollment cliff nears, data analytics is increasingly becoming a key component of student retention strategies. Meanwhile, Arizona State University highlights their innovative partnership with OpenAI. Join us as we unpack these developments in this week’s issue and offer insights into their implications for the higher education sector. 

After reading today’s issue, use the comments section to let us know how your institution leverages data to inform your enrollment practices! 

 

Spring Enrollment is Up! 

From Spring enrollment inches up for second straight year | Inside Higher Ed   

According to a new report from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, undergraduate enrollment increased by 2.5% this spring.   

Our Thoughts 

Enrollment increases are an encouraging indicator as institutions rebound from declines linked to the pandemic. It’s no surprise that degrees in computer and information science, along with short-term credential programs, are driving this growth. These offerings attract adult learners seeking to advance their careers through further education.  

It is important to remember that, while this news is promising and builds upon the enrollment growth experienced this past fall, overall enrollment is still below pre-pandemic levels. Additionally, the challenges with the new FAFSA and its corresponding reduced completion rates may render these increases moot for the upcoming academic year. Institutional leaders should welcome this news while simultaneously planning for an uncertain future.  

 

FAFSA and Institutional Finances  

From Colleges Are Swimming in Financial Uncertainty Amid the FAFSA Mess | The Chronicle of Higher Education  

The Chronicle profiles the variety of approaches institutions are employing to cope with the FAFSA fiasco.   

Our Thoughts  

While The Department of Education may think they’ve addressed the primary problems with the new FAFSA (even while others are already raising concerns about FAFSA fiasco 2.0 this fall), the effects of those challenges continue to ripple through higher education institutions. The failures of the new FAFSA exacerbate strained institutional finances, many of which have barely recovered (if at all) from the enrollment declines of the pandemic. These financial pains are especially pronounced at small, private colleges and community colleges, which are often vulnerable to fluctuations in enrollment.   

Institutions are now forced to adapt their admissions and financial aid strategies, often without reliable data, which can impact budget planning and operational stability. Understanding these dynamics is essential for the development of responsive and effective strategies to support student enrollment and institutional sustainability. 

 

Leveraging Data for Enrollment 

From How Colleges Leverage Data to Retain Students as the Enrollment Cliff Looms | EdTech Magazine   

Curious how other institutions are using data and analytics for enrollment? This article highlights examples from a diverse set of institutions.   

Our Thoughts 

I love articles that highlight how a variety of institutions are addressing a data challenge on their campuses as I feel you get multiple perspectives in one quick read. This article does a good job of illustrating the critical role of data-driven approaches in enhancing student performance and institutional success. It highlights institutions leveraging advanced analytics to predict and address student challenges proactively, thereby improving retention and graduation rates. These efforts are especially important for institutions in states with performance-based funding models, whose state appropriations are often determined by performance on these metrics.  

Additionally, with the looming “Demographic Cliff” in 2025-2026, the ability to use data effectively to identify and support at-risk students is becoming a vital strategy for institutions to support student success and maintain financial stability. By embracing analytics tools and democratizing access to information, institutions can enable more timely interventions, ultimately preparing them to better navigate future enrollment challenges. 

 

ASU and OpenAI 

From Unpacking ASU’s OpenAI partnership and faculty concerns | Inside Higher Ed   

An inside look at Arizona State University’s (ASU) relationship with OpenAI and use of ChatGPT.   

Our Thoughts 

If you were curious about the ASU/OpenAI partnership, give this article a read. It highlights ASU’s innovative approach to integrating AI in academia through its partnership with OpenAI, the creator of ChatGPT. ASU’s approach involves soliciting proposals from both faculty and students to explore the best ways to utilize AI. This inclusive strategy helps ensure that the technology serves the diverse needs of the academic community, fostering a collaborative environment for innovation.  

This initiative not only positions ASU at the forefront of AI application in education but also exemplifies how institutions can leverage technology to enhance learning, streamline administrative tasks, and improve student outcomes. The use of AI in education is growing, with potential applications ranging from personalized tutoring to administrative efficiencies. While I’m still personally weighing the benefits of AI against its potential harms, I think it’s important to remain informed about developments in the space, especially those directly related to higher education.

Allen Taylor
Allen Taylor
Senior Solutions Ambassador at Evisions

Allen Taylor is a self-proclaimed higher education and data science nerd. He currently serves as a Senior Solutions Ambassador at Evisions and is based out of Pennsylvania. With over 20 years of higher education experience at numerous public, private, small, and large institutions, Allen has successfully lead institution-wide initiatives in areas such as student success, enrollment management, advising, and technology and has presented at national and regional conferences on his experiences. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Anthropology from Western Carolina University, a Master of Science degree in College Student Personnel from The University of Tennessee, and is currently pursuing a PhD in Teaching, Learning, and Technology from Lehigh University. When he’s trying to avoid working on his dissertation, you can find him exploring the outdoors, traveling at home and abroad, or in the kitchen trying to coax an even better loaf of bread from the oven.

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