Today’s college students want more. More than a degree.
Yet, many within the higher education community are having a
hard time pinpointing exactly what students want, need, or expect
from their school experience.
This doesn’t have to be a head scratcher.
Here, we explore why the “unknown” can be a big problem for
schools. In this blog we will share creative ways educational
communities can get answers. That way you can innovate using “known”
insights about students who have already graduated.
Knowledge gaps are a problem. Probably
the biggest unknown centers on the continued declines in college
enrollment. It’s easy to blame the COVID-19 pandemic. However,
blaming the pandemic could be a mistake given recent
mind shifts on the value of a college degree. So, what’s changed
from the student perspective and how can schools positively influence
their college decisions?
Here's another one: online learning versus on-campus
learning. Which do students prefer, or is a hybrid model a better
approach? How do the long-term outcomes of each mode differ?
Student involvement is another. One study
shows highly involved students are three-times more likely considered
for jobs and 18 percent more career-ready compared to uninvolved
students. So, what actions can schools take to boost student
involvement and improve their outcomes?
These unknowns relate to every-day issues impacting the
student experience. This can range from academic rigor and financial
aid to on-campus childcare, student housing, and everything in
The point is, there are so many unknowns… so many questions,
lost in the echo chamber. If schools want to deliver a better higher
education experience and move in the same direction as their
students—versus getting left behind—they can’t assume anything. To
close these and other knowledge gaps, they need answers.
Ask the hard questions. Earlier this
Higher Education published what comes close to a case study. The
article focuses on Tennessee higher education and how the state is
trying to problem-solve its way out of the low enrollment conundrum.
Among several programs and measures the state has
implemented, its higher education stakeholders are committed to
coming together and asking hard questions. “How do we tweak the
services we’re already offering? What can we do bigger and better
now? How do we improve the communication and messaging for the
services we do have available?”
According to a stakeholder quoted in the article, “Sometimes
difficult situations cause you to think creatively, and the end result
of that is innovation.”
Ability to innovate is the future of higher
education. In a hyper-connected world where labor
markets, economies, and social sentiment can make a 180-degree turn
in a matter of days or weeks, schools need the ability to innovate.
To creatively rethink old problems and tackle new ones. To deftly
resolve in-play challenges and crises as they happen in real-time.
To intelligently align with the changing wants and needs of students.
What does that look like? From a practical standpoint,
innovation might involve:
- Improving, expanding or
creating entirely new academic offerings and
programs. Think: adding a hands-on technology
facility to further strengthen and differentiate an existing
- Bridging known and
unknown gaps in student services and outcomes.
This might include addressing short- and long-term minority
inequities like access to education and income disparities.
- Building new partner relationships and
student engagement paths with community employers.
This could mean creating an aviation program in a
logistics-heavy region with a high demand for pilots.
So, how can schools acquire the forward-looking insights
they need to innovate and elevate the student experience? By
peering into the future.
Look to those who've “been there, done
that.” What better place to look for insight into the
current student experience than from graduates who’ve already
“been there, done that?”
Not only have these “ex-students” participated in the higher
education experience, but they are also putting their education to
work. This includes achieving—or exceeding—post-graduate goals like:
- buying homes
- earning high-income
- leading companies
- creating start-ups
- starting families.
Yet, in some cases, they’re also hitting stumbling blocks
and returning to college. Changing careers. Exiting the workforce.
Defaulting on student loans.
This is where “Graduate
Outcomes” data from Equifax becomes invaluable. Schools can
expertly analyze and model countless features, attributes, indicators,
and outcomes associated with the student experience by using
unique economic capacity data on
graduates—including detailed insights pertaining to their current:
- and property.
These are known facts, far more accurate and authoritative
than self-provided data acquired through graduate surveys, etc.
Specifically, schools uncover hidden strengths and
vulnerabilities in their academic offerings, student experiences,
and outcomes by experimenting within a secure, cloud-based
environment, mixing, and matching specific Graduate Outcome data
sets with their existing student and graduate data. Whatever the
curiosity, data scientists, research teams and other users within
the schools can explore and expose unknown gaps and gain greater
insight and clarity around known gaps.
For example, a community college recently used Graduate
Outcomes data to discover a distinct $5,000 pay equity gap between
minority and non-minority graduates. Knowing this, it can now take
steps to adjust its academic framework, student services, and
community partnerships with employers to help bridge that gap.
This forward-looking data resource is a game-changer for the
higher education community. With Graduate Outcomes data, schools
finally have a data-backed tool that can help reduce the “unknowns.”
This will provide true visibility into what’s working and what’s not
in the student experience. In turn, this can empower schools to move
forward with certainty—instead of working off assumptions—so they
can better align themselves with the evolving wants and needs of
Explore how to access Graduate Outcomes via the Snowflake
Data Cloud here.
Or, learn how to connect to Graduate Outcomes directly from Equifax here.