Archive for Monday, April 19, 2010

KU looking to outside, data-mining company to help improve retention rates

Company would look for red flags in existing data

April 19, 2010


Kansas University could partner with a company to help the university raise its student retention rates.

KU’s most recent retention rate indicates that two years after the fall 2007 freshmen class entered, 28.7 percent of them were no longer enrolled.

Chris Haufler, chairman of KU’s ecology and evolutionary biology department, leads a task force that has outlined new strategies to improve retention rates.

“There’s a great importance for students on the very, very first few weeks at the institution,” Haufler said. “Adapting to that is pretty important. Some students do that very well and some students don’t.”

To help KU better identify those students who don’t acclimate early, Haufler said the task force will recommend to Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little that the university contract for help.

Starfish Retention Solutions, based in Arlington, Va., has been in discussions with KU. The two-and-a-half-year-old company offers colleges and universities access to computer software for an annual licensing fee, said John Plunkett, vice president of marketing and operations.

The software connects with course management software systems such as Blackboard, and provides a centralized location for professors to flag troubling behaviors, like students sleeping in class or excessive absences, Plunkett said. The software also tracks grades, and involvement at other campus activities ranging from sporting events to residence hall check-ins when students swipe their ID cards to enter.

The company has about 25 clients, including both public and private universities and community colleges, Plunkett said. He said the company typically charges from a $5,000 to $75,000 annual licensing fee, depending on the school enrollment.

The KU task force’s report has not yet been released, but will be published at the chancellor’s website after Gray-Little reviews the report and responds to it.


akhmatova 8 years, 2 months ago

The 3rd-to-last paragraph is terrifying

KU_cynic 8 years, 2 months ago

It would seem to me that "first-order effect predictors" of retention are ACT scores, high school GPAs, quality of high school, and similar markers. How about KU simply doesn't admit so many marginal students instead of wasting resources babysitting them?

Andrew Juby 8 years, 2 months ago

Because KU isn't a private institution and, by state law, has to admit any student fulfilling certain requirements. Or it could be a Regents decision, which has all of the effect of state law.

KU_cynic 8 years, 2 months ago

And so KU admits marginal students who would be better served by community colleges, many of whom waste their time and money discovering that they just don't have the sand for demanding college work.

KU is acquiring the right to set its own admission standards. All I'm saying is that it would be better to admit fewer students more selectively than waste money on pandering to marginal students.

And if f the message gets sent back to mediocre high schools that they should do a better job of preparing students for college, all the better.

Graczyk 8 years, 2 months ago

"The software also tracks grades, and involvement at other campus activities ranging from sporting events to residence hall check-ins when students swipe their ID cards to enter."

Um, no. Who is KU? Baby sitter? Warden? or an institution of higher education?

The only way I would be comfortable with this system if it was opt in. Additionally, is KU going to be able to get professors to accurately input this type of information in the system on a regular basis? Good luck getting a tenured professor to keep tabs on who is sleeping in her 400 student lecture course. This data is only as good as its inputs.

Flap Doodle 8 years, 2 months ago

"KU’s most recent retention rate indicates that two years after the fall 2007 freshmen class entered, 28.7 of them were no longer enrolled." I hope that actually meant "...two years after the fall 2007 freshmen class entered, 28.7% of them were no longer enrolled."

labmonkey 8 years, 2 months ago


h_lector got ahold of that 29th student.

Write2Know 8 years, 2 months ago

Things have really changed. Twenty years ago they didn't care at all if you dropped out after you paid tuition.

Theodoric_of_York 8 years, 2 months ago

“The 3rd-to-last paragraph is terrifying”

Yes, it is. Starfish Retention Solutions is headquartered in Arlington, VA. Well, there is no chance of an intelligence agency connection there….

So, what is going to happen with all of this data? What is the “data retention policy” of this company? Whither all these student’s information on what doors they opened in what building at what time, what classes they missed, and when, and which days they seemed “tired” in class? Perhaps this data mining company will correlate tired students with specific political events on campus the night before?

All that this technology is designed to do is to shape and transform the student to adapt to the university environment. In other words, instead of seeing how the university itself can adapt, and change, to suit the needs and desires of young students, young students will be flagged for not adapting to and adjusting to the university environment, such as it is today – with over-priced tuition, over-priced textbooks, televisions in every meeting place on campus, genetically-modified foods in the cafeterias, etc.

But perhaps …perhaps this is wrong…. Maybe it is time we change our way of thinking! Maybe instead of always forcing humans to adapt to the system, we should be forcing the system to adapt to humans. Perhaps the institutions to which we are beholden – our schools, our jobs, our banks, our cities, our food – should be asked to adapt to us! Perhaps humans should come first, and if, say, a work environment is too stressful, or a city’s layout is too commuter-intensive, or a credit rating algorithm is too restrictive, perhaps the system itself should change, so us humans could continue to live and evolve as we always have. Perhaps so many people are on anti-depressents, and succumb to chemical dependencies, drug addictions, and self-destructive behaviours because they are being asked to, or even forced to, adapt to a system that is anti-human. A system that goes against their very natural psychological and biological needs as human beings. Perhaps it is time that humans take center stage once again, and all our institutions, governments, corporations, and schools be forced to adapt to us, to our needs, to our biology, to our psychology!


bd 8 years, 2 months ago

The state is looking at major budget cuts and KU is hiring an out of state firm to tell us what we already know???? Who is educating who here??? Spend my tax $'s more wisely please!

Shardwurm 8 years, 2 months ago

"...wasting resources babysitting them."

Well, depending on the student, they're paying through their nose to attend the most of the resources wasted belong to the student (or parents.)

This is NOT about the student. It's about money. That's what so many of you have to get over when thinking about education. Whether it's grade school, middle school, high school, or college - IT'S ABOUT THE MONEY NOT THE STUDENT! They want retention because that is money going out the door. They don't care about the students. If they did they'd let them know that a Bachelor's in Sociology isn't worth the $80,000 the student is paying for it.

As soon as you recognize that you'll have a better understanding of how badly you're getting taken on taxes and personal funds for an education.

Alfred_W 8 years, 2 months ago

I just hope that if they undertake this operation, they do so with appropriate precautions to ensure the safety of the miners, as well as the environment.

Phillbert 8 years, 2 months ago

Will the miners use mountaintop removal and flatten Mount Oread, or will they use the secret tunnels underneath campus to get at the data?

Vinny1 8 years, 2 months ago

It comes down to a single basic fact that has already been pointed out.

Far too many marginal students are admitted. I'm from out of state. When I was looking at colleges (multiple different state universities) KU was easily the easiest to get into. The ACT score/GPA/class rank minimums are so low its almost laughable.

I would be willing to bet that most of those 28% that drop out are near the bottom of the class coming in. If KU wouldn't let these kids in, they wouldn't have a problem.

Here is my question. Why does KU care if kids like this leave? Whatever their reason is, who cares if they leave? Its not like the school is hurting for students.

sourpuss 8 years, 2 months ago

They care because this number probably has an effect on some reasonably arbitrary ranking they are looking to improve (US News or somesuch). Perhaps the data will prove interesting, but hopefully, instead of trying to "retain" these sorts of students, they will simply change admittance requirements and not let them in in the first place.

PapaB 8 years, 2 months ago

I wonder how many dropouts can be attributed to pregnancy, failing grades due to attendance, lack of money, etc. I wonder if a better presence with online classes would help. It just seems like KU is getting stuck behind with provding alternative ways to take classes and some students would keep going with such opportunities.

sourpuss 8 years, 2 months ago

KU does not cater well to non-traditional students. They want you living in the dorms, attending class M-F from 8 am to 5 pm and graduating in 4 years. They want you enrolling straight out of high school and not taking any time off. I found progressing through KU to be very difficult and there were few scholarship opportunities for non-incoming Freshmen. Online classes would help, so would evening and weekend classes. The tuition increases in the last few years are really painful. Textbook prices keep going up, etc.

Vinny1 8 years, 2 months ago

Textbook and tuition prices are going up at every school. Its not just KU.

If money is a concern, students are more than likely staying in-state, and KU has very, very cheap in-state tuition.

I have literally never heard of weekend classes. And there are plenty of night classes.
Generally if people are first degree-seeking they are not looking to take night or online classes. Those types of classes are force-fed at jucos, and there are plenty of those around.

Again, comparatively speaking, KU has relatively close to the same scholarship opportunities as other state universities for non-freshmen.

devobrun 8 years, 2 months ago

When all else baby, software.

We'll form a committee to study the possibility of forming a task force, whose efforts will be to write a paper that will advise the chancellor on how to form a committee to resolve the ambiguities in the data. The chancellor will appoint an advisory board of liberal arts professors, community leaders, business partners, software specialists, and at-risk students. They will meet a coupla times a month to review action items like more data collection and prettier graphical presentations of the data. It will become a university institution.

The student attrition will not be changed by more than 5.

Lets have a meeting.

devobrun 8 years, 2 months ago

Big, that's exactly what my computer model said, too. I wrote it at 4:00.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 8 years, 2 months ago

It is amazing to me that I did not see any comments about an athletic department that recruits "students" who can bounce a ball and hit a net better than anyone else, clearly obvious talents for admission to an academic institution!

It grates on me a whole lot that "students" like Aldrich and Henry are recruited as "students" with the known and stated intention that they will move on to the NBA in a year or two, not a BA or MBA and that the coach and faculty condones this situation. In my opinion, these "students" should be required to sign an agreement that if they do not finish and bolt for a professional sports league, they should be required to refund all the expenses that the school has wasted on them in their fraudulant intentions to attend an academic institution and graduate.

But then selling highly over priced season tickets to fans seems more important than the stated purpose of an academic institution, that is to educate people for the life after the parties and beer and college hi-jinks.

anitliars 8 years, 2 months ago

Either we want a university system that makes graduation likely or we do not.

The private for profit colleges are flocking to Kansas, and making huge profits. Their model is one built upon student success. They tutor, craft classes around student schedules, even go pick up a student without a ride. Despite paying much higher fees, their students are motivated to graduate. And the for profit colleges do anything it takes to make sure the student shows up for classes, learns and graduates. They don't make money otherwise. Maybe that IS baby-sitting and maybe we don't want our tax dollars spent for such efforts. But if private schools can (a) make money and (b) turn out graduates at a high perecentage, and all for a tuition fee that is 3x what it costs to attend a public school, why aren't our universities looking to the private sector for ideas?

kujayhawk 8 years, 2 months ago

Great idea frwent, those undergraduate degrees are worth so much more than a 3 year guaranteed rookie contract (if taken in the first round) in the NBA. If fortune 500 companies were picking off KU b-school students after 1,2 or 3 years, KU would be using it as a marketing tool. Do you realize how much money KU makes off these student athletes( free advertising, increased enrollment, licensing, etc.)? And before you get all high and mighty about this "academic institution," maybe you should remind the professors of that who are just there for research purposes and don't make the time of day for their students.

Alexander Neighbors 8 years, 2 months ago

Here is an idea ! use that $75,000 and help the students with it. Establish places they can go to to get help academically. $75,000 and an empty building on campus could be turned into a place called the Birds Nest open 24/7 (w/ computers) make sure all students know about it. it is a place where 25+ students work for between $9.50 to $13.50 an hour for 20 hours a week each their jobs is to provide academic support to fellow students ( like a mentor program ). I can guarantee if something like that was around it would be used. It would be way more effective than paying a company in Va, $75,000 to Track students activities.

It would also provide jobs to the LOCAL student population.

bearded_gnome 8 years, 2 months ago

ad to "beer and party money" for indicator: "condom money."

at least for XY students.

sourpuss is right about later entry/nontraditional students who very well could make it at KU but the institution just doesn't support their efforts. the disabled students services [or whatever you call it] is a joke. the whole "student success" thingy is generally makework without much actual benefit run by people without actual experience or training in what they're supposed to be doing.

devobrun 8 years, 2 months ago

Maybe better funding for Bert Nash and the KU equivalent.
Whattya bet that some of those 28.7% got drunk, blew a test. Then they went out and got drunk because they blew a test. Then they got depressed because of the blown test and didn't work harder, but got drunk instead. Alcohol being a depressant, they got more depressed and blew another test.............

Never fixed the problem, got drunk, got depressed, left school.

Joined the Army, got drunk, didn't have to take much of a test, got drunk, went to Iraq and couldn't get drunk. Grew up, came back to school. It worked out in the long run, and the country got served in the mean time.

28.7% huh? How many of those were newbie freshmen and how many were 24 year-olds?

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