Student Retention

Dickinson College Integrates and Analyzes Data Using Rapid Insight

Dickinson College has implemented Rapid Insight Analytics and Data Integration software to help predict student enrollment, financial aid allocation, diversity, class size, and other operational variables using data analysis and integration applications.

"Accuracy is absolutely critical when analyzing student enrollment against the average tuition each student will pay, financial aid included," said Mike Johnson, director of institutional research. "If we miss that calculation, called the discount rate, by as little as one percent, we're talking about a half million dollars. Rapid Insight Analytics and Data Integration allow us to look at more data in more ways to get a more precise view of these figures so we can strike the right balance."

Dickinson uses Data Integration to pull data from different departments stored on different servers into one repository. "Data Integration gives me transparent sourcing, allowing me to access all of my systems including Banner, Cognos, and Recruitment Plus," said Johnson. His team uses the software's graphical interface to drag and drop icons and use arrows to connect the data sources in order to perform a number of functions, including merge, filter, cleanse, aggregate, de-dupe, flatten, append, sort, and rename.

Additionally, the college uses Rapid Insight Analytics to automate such operations as exploratory analysis, predictive modeling, profiling, automated scoring, univariate analysis, and reporting for PowerPoint presentations. The software has allowed users to complete some internal and external reports, including for the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), in hours instead of weeks. "I live by automated reports," said Johnson. "Since there is almost no opportunity for human error, I have confidence in the answers and can explain them fully in understandable terms. That confidence has helped grow our wish list of things to study."

Among those new analyses Johnson would like to conduct are a more detailed study of alumni to help the development office better prioritize whom to approach for annual giving and a more comprehensive look at common traits of the few students who leave the institution before graduation to help reduce that number.

The college, located in Carlisle, PA, has 2,353 students.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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