Blog Higher Education Industry Student Retention

Understanding Trends in Undergraduate Degree Attainment



The pursuit of higher education is a critical milestone for countless individuals around the world. Whether it’s an associate degree, a bachelor’s degree, or a specialized certificate, earning an undergraduate credential opens doors to career opportunities, personal growth, and societal impact. In this blog post, we delve into the latest findings from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center’s report on undergraduate degree earners for the academic year 2022-23.


The report reveals a concerning trend: the number of undergraduate degree earners has declined for the second consecutive year. In the 2022-23 academic year, there was a 2.8% decrease, resulting in 99,200 fewer graduates compared to the previous year. This decline raises questions about the factors contributing to this downturn.

First-time completers, who represent 73.3% of all graduates, experienced a decline of 73,600 individuals. These are students who successfully complete their degree requirements for the first time. The 2.8% decrease in this group reflects broader challenges in higher education. As institutions adapt to changing demographics, economic shifts, and technological advancements, understanding the needs of first-time completers becomes crucial.

While overall degree attainment declined, there’s a silver lining: the number of students earning certificates reached a ten-year high. Certificates, often shorter and more focused than traditional degrees, provide specialized skills and knowledge. The report attributes this increase to a 6.2% rise in first-time award earners. Whether in fields like healthcare, information technology, or skilled trades, certificates offer a pathway to employment and career advancement.

Despite the surge in certificates, associate and bachelor’s degrees remain foundational. These degrees continue to be valued by employers and serve as stepping stones for further education. However, institutions must address challenges such as affordability, access, and student support to reverse the decline in degree earners.

To combat this trend, educational leaders and policymakers can consider the following strategies:

  • Strengthening Student Support and Flexibility:
    • Support systems: Enhance academic advising, tutoring, and mental health services, and establish mentorship programs to support students throughout their educational and career journeys.
    • Flexible learning options: Expand online and hybrid courses, and offer more classes during evenings and weekends to accommodate non-traditional students and those with additional responsibilities.
  • Improving Educational Pathways and College Readiness:
    • Short-term and stackable credentials: Develop certificate programs aligned with industry needs and offer credentials that can be built upon towards a degree.
    • College readiness initiatives: Collaborate with high schools to ensure students are prepared for college and offer bridge programs to ease the transition to higher education.
  • Enhancing Financial Accessibility:
    • Increase scholarship and grant awareness: Promote the availability of scholarships and grants to help reduce financial barriers for prospective students.
  • Adopting Data-Informed Strategies and Promoting Lifelong Learning:
    • Data-driven approaches: Use analytics to identify at-risk students early and tailor programs to meet diverse needs.
    • Lifelong learning culture: Encourage continuous education for adult learners and partner with businesses to support education benefits and career advancement.

The decline in undergraduate degree earners is a multifaceted issue that requires a collaborative and strategic response. By enhancing financial aid, strengthening support systems, and promoting flexible learning options, we can create a more inclusive and supportive educational environment. Additionally, by fostering a culture of lifelong learning and utilizing data-driven approaches, we can ensure that higher education remains relevant and accessible to all. As we work towards these goals, we can reverse the current trend and pave the way for a brighter future in higher education.

  1. National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. “Undergraduate Degree Earners Report: Academic Year 2022-23.” April 11, 2024. “,by%2073%2C600%20(%2D2.8%25).
  2. Weissman, Sara. “Degrees Earned Fall Again, Certificates Rise.” Inside Higher Ed, April 11. 2024.
  3. Katharine Meyer “The case for college: Promising solutions to reverse college enrollment declines.” Brookings Institution, June 5, 2023.
AI Blog Higher Education Industry

Caution: AI Approaching Higher Education



Interest in Artificial Intelligence (AI) is growing across all industries, spurred by daily advancements that showcase its potential to enhance efficiency and predict trends. Higher education institutions, faced with declining enrollments in part due to shifting demographics, are especially interested in using AI to improve their operations around student recruitment and retention. But before colleges and universities start using AI, it is crucial to consider the responsible incorporation of AI, ensuring its use enhances existing processes while mitigating potential pitfalls.

ethical considerations

Using historical data by AI introduces the risk of perpetuating existing biases, a challenge highlighted by Amazon’s reevaluation of an AI recruitment tool biased against female candidates¹. Similarly, the application of AI in risk assessments within the legal system² has faced scrutiny for racial biases. These examples underline the urgent need for comprehensive AI governance frameworks, discussed during the March 2024 Data Analytics Alliance for Higher Education meeting, that prioritize ethical data use and rigorous oversight to combat bias.

AI “Hallucinations” and Misinformation
The phenomenon of AI “hallucinations”³ — baseless but authoritative assertions made by AI systems — has raised significant concerns regarding the use of tools like ChatGPT. Examples such as Google’s Bard AI misrepresenting facts about the James Webb Space Telescope⁴ and Microsoft’s Bing chatbot displaying unpredictable behavior and professing “love” for a New York Times columnist⁵ highlight the risk of misinformation. These incidents reinforce the importance of strong training data curation to mitigate the spread of misinformation in educational settings.

The deployment of AI in analyzing large datasets accentuates privacy and security concerns, particularly around the potential for de-anonymization. AI’s ability to infer sensitive personal information from non-sensitive data⁶ introduces new data protection challenges. Therefore, adopting AI technology requires robust privacy safeguards, including secure platform designs and ethical data handling practices.

A foundational principle for effective AI utilization is the term “Garbage in, garbage out,” emphasizing the critical role of data quality. Higher education institutions often rely on data from student information systems (SIS) and learning management systems (LMS) to train AI models. However, these sources frequently contain incomplete or inaccurate data, potentially leading to unreliable AI outputs.

To navigate these challenges and lay the groundwork for effective AI implementations, the use of a Unified Data Platform (UDP) is vital. A UDP consolidates and harmonizes data from diverse systems, ensuring AI models are trained on high-quality, comprehensive datasets. Key characteristics of an effective UDP include:
  • Centralized Data: Aggregates data from various institutional systems and external sources, providing a complete data ecosystem for accurate AI analysis.
  • Scalability: Offers a scalable infrastructure to accommodate increasing data volumes and complex AI use cases.
  • Robust Security Measures: Incorporates advanced security features to protect sensitive data, ensuring privacy and compliance with data protection laws.
  • AI-Ready Infrastructure: Facilitates the deployment of AI by ensuring the platform and tools are primed for AI applications, supporting advanced analytics, and making data AI-ready.

In response to growing inquiries from our higher education customers interested in AI, Datatelligent recommends that customers consider its Datatelligent Platform for Higher Education, which leverages a UDP to develop standard analytic solutions that most colleges and universities need. Karl Oder, one of the Chief Architects of the platform, talked about what we are doing with the platform. “We’re busy creating several AI prototypes with our partner, Snowflake, using the AI-Ready tools they provide.”

In addition to getting your data “AI-ready” by establishing a UDP, schools should also spend time prepping for the AI Project⁷, starting with selecting the right use case. For higher education institutions, Datatelligent has developed prototypes on our platform that can accelerate this process, including:

  • Admissions and enrollment – predictive factors that will influence admissions and student enrollment projections
  • Student success and retention – identifying student success characteristics and predicting students at risk of leaving.
  • Graduation and program success – predictive factors driving graduation rates and overall program success.

Integrating AI in higher education calls for a balanced, thoughtful approach that acknowledges AI’s transformative potential alongside its challenges. By addressing issues of bias, misinformation, privacy, and ethical governance through strategic planning, institutions can harness AI to enhance educational outcomes and operational efficiency. Central to this endeavor is establishing a Unified Data Platform, ensuring data integrity, and laying a solid foundation for the responsible use of AI technologies.

  1. Dastin, Jeffrey. “Insight – Amazon Scraps Secret AI Recruiting Tool that Showed Bias against Women.” Reuters, August 10, 2018.
  2. Angwin, Julia , Surya Mattu, and Lauren Kirchner. “Machine Bias.” Pro Publica, May 23, 2016.
  3. “What Are AI Hallucinations?” IBM.Com. February 1, 2024.
  4. Mihalcik, Carrie. “Google ChatGPT Rival Bard Flubs Fact About NASA’s Webb Space Telescope.” CNET, February 9, 2023.
  5. McMillan, Malcolm. “Bing ChatGPT Goes off the Deep End — And the Latest Examples Are Very Disturbing.” Tom’s Guide, February 17, 2023.
  6. Ahmed, Hafiz. “Challenges of AI and Data Privacy—And How to Solve Them.” @ISACA 32, (2021).
  7. Sassi, Steve. “AI Project Prep for Higher Education.” Datatelligent.Ai. March 26, 2024.
Blog Higher Education Industry

Rappelling the Enrollment Cliff



Higher education enrollment in the United States has been declining since 2010, a trend aggravated by the pandemic, resulting in a staggering 15% drop and the loss of 3 million students nationwide over a little more than a decade.1 Educators expected college students to come back once the pandemic lifted. Unfortunately, this has not happened due to a variety of reasons including students questioning the high cost and overall value of college to pending demographic shifts referred to as the Enrollment Cliff. 

 A Cliff? Yes, a decline in birthrates during the 2008 Great Recession equates to an estimated 15% drop (roughly 576,000 students) of 18-year-olds eligible to enroll in college starting in the Fall of 2025.  As an article in Best Colleges put it, “The enrollment cliff poses a Darwinian threat to higher education, allowing only the wealthiest and market savviest to survive.” 2


How can schools address this shortfall in available prospective students? In their analysis, Best Colleges identified characteristics of schools that are successfully navigating the Enrollment Cliff: 

  • Possess a deep understanding of their student body.
  • Excel in fostering student success.
  • Demonstrate adeptness in identifying and attracting students who are best suited for their programs.
  • Remain attuned to emerging trends and popular programs among their students. 2

Those who know their students best will have the best data about their students. It’s only common sense.

In a recent webinar with Datatelligent, Cowley College shared how they are grabbing the rope and rappelling gear in preparation for the cliff: they built a data-driven culture and started making data-informed decisions about their enrollment, retention, and student success. 
“We were already seeing a lot of these challenges in enrollment and retention a few years ago, students questioning the value of Higher Education, poor management of our internal resources, and staffing challenges,” said Stefani Jones, Director of Student Enrollment and Success at Cowley College. “We asked ourselves, ‘how do we do what we need to do with what we have?'” 
Seeing these trends, Cowley knew they needed to understand their students, and what types of students enrolled and thrived at Cowley. They also needed insight into the effectiveness of their marketing and recruitment strategies and activities. Like many institutions, the data about their students was scattered across different systems and compiled into spreadsheets and inadequate reports. They lacked the data insights they needed to make meaningful decisions to overcome enrollment challenges.  
“It was difficult to tell what was working,” said Jones. “Whether it was marketing strategies or recruitment efforts, we couldn’t see if any of it related to an increase in student applications. We were doing everything manual and requesting reports we then had to compile.”


The team at Cowley, partnering with Datatelligent, built a platform that unifies their Data and provides Analytic Solutions. Using the Enrollment and Admissions Trends Solution, Jones states Cowley can see and act on the following:

  • Track marketing and recruitment efforts and tie to enrollment trends. “We can see when we get an uptick in applications and tie it back to activities in the past two-week period to identify if our efforts are working.” 
  • Identify which undergraduate programs are trending. “We can now identify programs of study that are a hotter trend this year or in the upcoming semester. This allows us to work with Academics and help them to grow and move resources to the programs where we see student interest. “
  • Insight into performance of high school partners. “We can finally see which high school partners are doing well and converting into enrolled students and identify which high school partners we need to get into a little more and provide additional services.”
Once marketers and recruiters have successfully attracted and enrolled students, it is critical that schools do everything they can to retain and help their students succeed. This is a key component to becoming a Data-Driven Culture. Leveraging the Student at Risk Solution, Jones explains how Cowley College has improved the student experience and increased retention by making real-time, data-informed decisions:
  • Identify Students at Risk – based on a set of risk factors tailored to the trends and circumstances of your students, programs, and region or state. “We didn’t have in place the risk factors that advisors could act on and reach out to students proactively and see how they can help. Now we do. This helps in our retention efforts.” 
  • Real-time information about student and program performance – This allows you to quickly identify opportunities to improve the student experience. “At the end of the semester I would collect all the information advisors and Department chairs wanted to provide me about students and programs, and I would capture it all on spreadsheets. Everything was extremely manual.”
  • Provide targeted, proactive intervention – “Prior to bringing our data and analytics to one platform, advisors would have to go to multiple tools to get the information on their students. Now it’s all in one place and very useful to the advisors and us.”

In the face of the Enrollment Cliff and the changing landscape of higher education, institutions must adopt a data-driven approach to navigate these challenges effectively. Cowley College’s proactive stance demonstrates the importance of understanding students, tracking trends, and making real-time, data-informed decisions. By unifying data and leveraging analytics, institutions can attract, retain, and foster student success amidst ongoing uncertainty. Embracing this mindset will be crucial for institutions to emerge as leaders in higher education’s evolving landscape.


1. National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. Current Term Enrollment Estimates: Fall 2023 Expanded Edition. National Student Clearinghouse. January 24, 2024. Accessed February 29, 2024. 

2. Drozdowski MJ, Earnest D. Looming Enrollment Cliff Poses Serious Threat to Colleges. Published January 27, 2023. Accessed February 29, 2024. 


Blog Other

Interns Get Big Experience with Big Data

We have all been there—immersed in the theoretical while in college but finding it difficult to envision how to transfer those skills to an actual on-the-job setting. You may also feel nervous about whether you will enjoy or be overwhelmed once you do land a new job. This is where internships can help. Students can get a taste for their chosen profession and gain a better understanding for the day-to-day activities of a particular industry. They can also make valuable contributions to the employer and the industry at large.

For us at Datatelligent, our internship program has been tremendously successful. Not only have we had the opportunity to work with highly motivated and talented students, but we have been able to introduce them to the field of data analytics and cultivate tomorrow’s professionals.  

Our interns have been critical to our success. Since the start of our company, we have always relied on interns to support both our marketing and sales activities and solution development. We have found that they are quick learners and hard workers who always deliver quality outcomes. The rapid growth of Datatelligent is directly related to the value our interns have provided to us – we would not be where we are without them.

But why hear it just from me. Here is what our current and former interns have to say about their experiences working with Datatelligent in data analytics:

“I am hoping to continue working with Datatelligent throughout my senior year in college. I want to continue this Data Analytics journey and see where it can take me. I have enjoyed every minute of it, and I am looking forward to the future.  I would have never imagined being able to turn data alive by creating interactive dashboards to help you better visualize your data. Now I find myself questioning everything I see, ‘Could I build a dashboard for that?’”  
Uriel Nunez, Dominican University – Degree program: Computer Science  

“I found out about Datatelligent through a professor and had been searching for some time. Next thing you know I am now working at Datatelligent as a Solutions Engineer working with some of the best people you can look for in an internship.”
Mathew Molloy, Dominican University – Degree program: Computer Science

“While working and being a student during a pandemic, I appreciated that I was able to integrate what I was learning into my work and use my internship as an extension of my virtual classroom. My internship was (and continues to be) flexible with my schedule. Data analytics is much more visual and interactive than I previously thought. Our team creates dashboards that have so many colors and ways to explore the data that’s displayed. It makes it much easier to understand and to make decisions based on that data.”
Alyssa Pincuspy, Northern Illinois University – Degree program: Double major in Marketing & Communications and a certificate in Professional Selling

“I plan on helping achieve the goals and tasks of the company. It’s a small team, but I really enjoy working with everyone, and I hope that my work creates an impact. One thing I’ve learned is to hone my communication skills. I’m not shy but learning to communicate constantly with my team and it’s something that I’m improving on.” 
Alexis Aquino, Dominican University – Degree program: Computer Science

To learn more about Datatelligent and our work in the data analytics space, or to reach out about future internship opportunities, visit

Steve Wightkin, Chief Operating Officer, Datatelligent

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