Collin McKinstrie
Collin McKinstrie
Director, State/Local Government & Higher Education
March 12, 2024

The Benefits of Unified Student Data in Higher Education

The Benefits of Unified Student Data in Higher Education
  • Student data is valuable for colleges and universities, but many struggle to realize its full potential due to disconnected systems.
  • Unified student data helps institutions target best-fit students, determine financial aid eligibility, and identify at-risk students.
  • An AI-first approach to creating student golden records breaks down data silos, resulting in clean, accurate, and trustworthy student data.

In the ever-evolving higher education landscape, student data is emerging as a valuable and transformative asset for colleges and universities, helping them to enhance educational outcomes and foster a personalized approach to student success. But too often, institutions struggle to realize the true power of their student data. Legacy, siloed systems make it difficult to gain a holistic view of students, leaving recruiters, enrollment managers, and financial aid administrators with incomplete insights. And with the enrollment cliff looming large and competition for students heating up, the need for unified student data in higher education has never been more acute.

Challenges with Disconnected Student Data

From admissions and enrollment to financial aid and academic departments, student data is at the core of many decisions on campus. But when student data is distributed across a myriad of systems, silos, and departments, it's difficult to gain a holistic picture of a student across their academic journey.

Without a 360-degree view of student data (Student 360), higher education institutions struggle to:

  • Target campaigns to recruit best-fit students Determine which students qualify for financial assistance or scholarships
  • Help students who are at-risk of stopping or dropping out

As the enrollment crisis in higher education takes center stage, colleges and universities are evaluating new strategies and new approaches to help them remain competitive. But without unified student data, they will lack the insight needed to make decisions that will help their institution transform.

The Benefits of Unified Student Data in Higher Education Recruiting

When it comes to student enrollment, the past predicts the future. Under pressure to grow enrollment, college and university recruiters are re-evaluating their recruiting strategies to focus on targeting the students that are most likely to enroll. By analyzing their current student body, recruiters can unlock insights that help them pinpoint the right prospective students to target.

Student demographic data, often housed in the institution's student information system (SIS), is a good starting point when creating student golden records. But other systems, including the CRM, learning management system (LMS), financial aid management (FAM) solution, as well as numerous other systems (and spreadsheets!) on campus, contain valuable insight as well.

3 Ways Student Golden Records Benefit Colleges and Universities

A unified view of student data provides a myriad of benefits across the student lifecycle. Below are three ways institutions benefit when they create student golden records.

  1. Target campaigns to recruit best-fit students. Priority number one for recruiters is identifying the right prospects. Having 360-degree view of their students across disparate campus systems enables recruiters to easily pinpoint the characteristics of the students most likely to enroll and persist. These golden records should include not only demographic data from the SIS, but also financial considerations, interests, typical programs of study, and pain points, often captured in other applications across campus. By applying these insights to their campaigns, recruiters can identify populations of prospective students to target and connect with them using personalized messaging.
  2. Determine which students qualify for financial assistance or institutional scholarships. In the 2020-2021 academic year, over 85% of students were awarded some form of financial assistance. As the cost of tuition continues to rise, affordability becomes a major decision point for many students. By integrating financial aid data from the FAM into the Student 360 view, recruiters and enrollment managers can see what aid options are available to students and identify additional sources of funding students may not be considering such as institutional scholarships. These insights not only help students and their families navigate the complex and often confusing financial aid process. They also help recruiters and enrollment managers to provide deeper, more personalized levels of engagement with prospective students, which may, in turn, encourage them to enroll.
  3. Spot students who are at-risk of stopping or dropping out. Helping students achieve their goal of attaining a 2-year or 4-year degree is the goal of higher education institutions. But today, many students fall short of their goal, stopping out or dropping out before they graduate. With average retention rates hovering just above 75%, improving retention and graduation rates is a top priority for many institutions. But when student data is spread across multiple systems, identifying students who are potentially at-risk of dropping out isn't easy. Student golden records help institutions spot warning signs that a student may be veering off track. From an attendance log that reveals a pattern of skipping class or a grade book in the LMS that shows declining test scores, these data points, when consolidated into a Student 360 view, can highlight potential warning signs that prompt immediate intervention.

How to Create a Student 360 View

Creating a unified view of student data requires institutions to take an AI-first approach that will break down data silos once and for all. By abandoning rules-based master data management solutions in favor of AI, institutions can expedite the discovery, enrichment, and maintenance of the trustworthy student golden records recruiters need to target the right prospects, personalize outreach, and exceed enrollment goals.

Using AI, institutions benefit from:

  • The unique combination of AI with human feedback to achieve best-in-class match rates with external data, ensuring data accuracy and reliability.
  • Integration of every identifier in the system of record with human validation, creating a personalized, single view of each student. This approach ensures that interactions with prospective, admitted, and enrolled students are informed, tailored, and relevant.
  • AI-powered solutions that continuously learn and improve from machine-generated feedback, making data management more efficient and adaptive over time. This learning capability ensures that the system evolves to keep pace with the ever-evolving higher education landscape.

Watch how Tamr's AI-powered, human-refined approach seamessly creates student golden record.

While AI can handle a lot of the heavy lifting, it's not foolproof. That’s why human-refinement is critical. Humans review and refine the AI by applying their own judgment and domain expertise, enabling them to correct errors, make judgment calls on ambiguous cases, or add additional context that the AI might not have considered.

This human involvement is vital for ensuring the highest level of accuracy and reliability in student golden records. It combines the best of both worlds: AI's efficiency and scalability with human intuition and expertise.

To discover how Tamr can help your institution create a unified view of student data, please take a test run.