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Monday, May 14, 2018
Using Data Analysis to Improve College Success
Georgia State University in downtown Atlanta is the largest research university in Georgia with over 52,000 students. Founded in 1913, GSU was racially segregated until 1962 when Annette Hall, a social studies teacher, became the first African-American admitted as a student. Today, more African-American students have earned bachelor's degrees from GSU than any other nonprofit college in the country.
Given its bleak history of racial oppression, the emergence of GSU as an institution that so successfully supports black students is particularly encouraging. Georgia is home to some of the most well-known HBCUs in the nation, which were formed in response to Georgia's racial segregation in higher education.
GSU has become an interesting case study for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is its use of data analytics to track and help improve student success. Its undergraduate advising program monitors the daily progress of more than 40,000 students deemed to be at risk for not graduating. Anything from a low score on a quiz to absences from school can trigger a call from the student's counselor.
Significantly, the school offers microgrants-small stipends given to students who fall just short of tuition and other school-related costs. In that way, the school effectively serves as the sort of support system which tends to be built into the family structure of wealthier white students.
With big data driving everything from targeted advertising to the reshaping of political campaigns, it is encouraging to see it being used, as the New York Times puts it, as an innovative engine of upward mobility.
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