Blog Higher Education Student Retention

How a Customer Service Approach Can Drive Student Success

How a Customer Service Approach Can Drive Student Success

I had the opportunity to attend Educause’s 2022 annual conference, which brought together IT leaders, technology professionals, and campus stakeholders in the higher education community. I was overwhelmed with the amount of excitement, ingenuity, and creativity on hand—whether in the breakout sessions, panel discussions, or hallway conversations and meetings, I came out of the conference energized and ready to tackle 2023.

But what has gotten me so excited? It’s the untapped opportunity we have to harness data to improve student retention, academic success, student financial health, student LMS engagement, and learning outcomes.

And there was one statement that kickstarted this train of thought:

During a panel discussion, one of the speakers stated that early in the semester, a large number of their students had not even been to class. Many hadn’t even been to the cafeteria.

What does this say about student success? Or their journey?

It brought me back to some ideas that have been on my mind. We need to start applying the lessons learned in other industries to our work in higher education.

I spent a big part of my career working with financial institutions. The number one topic is always customer retention: understanding a customer’s journey within the financial institution, working to retain them, and knowing the triggers that might cause them to leave.

The way to help hold on to that customer is by making your relationship more sticky, which can be accomplished by:

  • Establishing a solid relationship with that customer and helping with their financial needs
  • Cross-selling to that customer. The more services you provide, the less likely they are to leave.
  • Understanding not only the individual customer but their whole household

When I think about the word retention in higher education, I see parallels from other industries. And I see opportunities to apply those learnings in new and innovative ways using data.

I see retention as the byproduct of student success. If we better support the student’s journey from the point of enrollment, their persistence/retention is far more likely.

Having a data-first approach is essential to making this a reality. Colleges and universities that have built a solid data analytics foundation are able to better understand the student journey by stitching together data from disparate systems. This unification of data helps identify broad macro trends and also addresses student needs at the individual level. They are able to pinpoint early warning signs and begin intervention efforts to address issues before they are catastrophic.

For example, we at Datatelligent have been working with numerous colleges and universities to develop Student Success & Retention Solutions that integrate data from throughout the institution — academics, housing, student financial health, etc. — and help identify at-risk students. The solution’s dashboards are highly visual and easy to use, allowing advisors and other staff members quick and efficient access to information essential to improving student success.

These analytics dashboards empower staff to intervene at the student level and help them identify broader trends or issues. School administration is now armed with the information they need to make data-driven decisions, can spend less time cobbling together reports, and can allocate their time to improving the student experience at their schools.

Learn more about Datatelligent’s Student Success & Retention offerings and see how our clients are using this custom solution to identify and retain at-risk students. 

 Visit for more information on our higher education offerings and learn how our clients are becoming data-driven.

Blog Events & Webinars Higher Education Other

6 Takeaways from the 2022 AIR Forum Conference

6 Takeaways From The 2022 AIR Forum Conference

A team from Datatelligent ascended on Phoenix for the 2022 AIR Forum Conference, the first in-person event for us since 2019. Bringing together higher education professionals, specifically institution researchers, with data and analytics leaders, AIR Forum was well attended and full of energy. 

The conference also allowed us to reflect on the current and future state of data across the higher education space based on the sessions we attended and the meeting and discussions we had with leaders. With that, here are our top 6 takeaways from 2022 AIR Forum.  

1. It was Great to be Back in Person 

Conference attendees, myself included, were excited to see one other, to share ideas, and to catch up. AIR Forum provided opportunities for networking, brainstorming, and problem-solving.  

The coffee shop in the convention center was a regular hot-bed of connections and conversations, and it served as a good reminder that connecting face-to-face is an unparalleled experience.  Virtual conferences have proven to be extremely effective when it comes to delivering great content, but I think we can all agree that nothing replaces those spontaneous hallway discussions. It sure was  great to be back in person!  

2. Data Literacy & Maturity are Critical 

Data literacy is the ability to explore, understand, communicate and tell stories with data.  

The good news is that from the discussion we had at AIR Forum, higher education institutions truly understand that data is the ultimate differentiator and that data literacy is the key to unlocking the value of your data and technology investments.  

Understanding your institution’s data maturity in terms of your data and analytics vision, as well as your data sources and KPIs, is critical to advancing your maturity.  

We met with several leaders and discussed data maturity. Through this, we learned that there is a wide spectrum across organizations, ranging from data aware to data proficient and then further up the spectrum to data savvy and ultimately data driven. 

3. There’s a Severe Data Staffing Challenge… and Options 

We can all agree that it’s difficult trying to find the right talent for the job, regardless of the job. But when you add in the need for specialized data skills, the challenge becomes even more cumbersome. On top of that, as we potentially head into a global recession, the outlook becomes grim. 

It’s not surprising that we heard from several higher education leaders who said they were actively looking to get creative and “future-proof” their workforce in the face of: 

  • Not being able to hire due to a shortage of data workers  
  • Declining retention due to employee turnover  
  • Economic uncertainty in the face of a possible recession 
  • Inability to keep good talent due to the high demand for highly skilled data workers

One way to circumvent the hiring challenge was to actually not hire directly. Instead of hiring, leading higher education institutions that are looking to reduce risk while also increasing efficiency are turning to Datatelligent’s Data Analytics as Service (DAaaS) model, an alternative option to staffing and building your data team. 

For the cost of just one senior data architect, with our DAaaS model, you can get a whole team to support your data needs—from solutions, strategy, to detailed expertise. We bring use of our leading-edge solutions to help grow your business—all under one unique subscription as a service solution. 

4. Virtualization was Everywhere 

For institutions looking for a new way to combine data from different sources that make it easier to access, understand and share across your organization, conference attendees didn’t have to look far. Virtualization was everywhere. 

There were several sessions about virtualization and how to easily connect to data stored anywhere, in any format. Our technology partner, Tableau, was on hand at AIR Forum sharing how they can help institutions quickly perform ad hoc analyses that reveal hidden opportunities using drag and drop functionality to create interactive dashboards with advanced visual analytics. If you have questions about virtualization, let me know. I can help.  

5. The Future for Data Inclusion & Equity is Now 

For data solutions to be relevant and sustainable, they must be designed in collaboration with the communities they are intended to represent and support.  

We are seeing organizations be intentional about their data. From what we saw at AIR Forum and the meetings that we continue to have, I think that higher education institutions are on the precipice of ensuring data is more inclusive, representative, and effective. In fact, viewing data as a strategic asset and committing to an organizational culture of data inclusion can lead to discussions about policies and how higher education institutions can and should invest in their communities into the future.   

6. Student Recruitment, Retention & Success was a Hot Topic 

Did you attend our session at AIR Forum? Titled “How Tableau Can You Go? Increasing Data Access for Decision-Making,” our own Larry Blackburn, Chief Solutions Officer, was joined by Deborah Phelps, Executive Director of Institutional Effectiveness at Cowley College during a session at AIR Forum. They shared how Cowley College has dramatically improved student recruitment and retention by successfully evaluating and reimagining their data analytics infrastructure to become a more data-driven organization. They also reviewed Cowley’s implementation of Tableau, a data visualization application.  

If you missed our session at AIR Forum and would like a copy of the presentation slides, just email me. I’d also be happy to review the presentation with you detailing what we did to improve student success at Cowley College. 

Blog Higher Education Student 360 Student Retention

The Intersection of DEI, Data & Student Enrollment

The Intersection of DEI, Data & Student Enrollment

All data are not created equal. To be actionable, and to have a chance of influencing behavior, information needs to be legible to the intended audience. 

Many higher institutions have all the right diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) data points at their fingertips, but what they lack is the clarity behind what the data means and the decisions they need to make based on the data. Student information sitting passively in a myriad of databases is a far cry from actionable DEI insights.

Equity can’t be explained away by rhetoric—it’s about the numbers. Whether or not you believe equity is framed and defined by ownership or diversity, it is definitely quantifiable. Therefore, it’s essential to present diversity data in an easy-to-understand, customizable scorecard or dashboard that is relevant to its intended users. The data presentation should allow for easy comparisons between units and across time periods.

Enter Datatelligent. We understand that finding and enrolling the right students is more challenging than ever, which makes each stage of the enrollment journey even more critical. 


Datatelligent is participating in several upcoming sessions about the intersection of DEI and data, including:

The sessions will review strategies for evaluating the effectiveness of your DEI data across student recruitment and enrollment initiatives. They will also feature a demo of Datatelligent’s DEI Student Outreach Solution Engine that gives higher education leaders a 360⁰ view of the student data, including:

  • Insights into DEI-related recruitment opportunities for high school students
  • Interactive map of counties highlighted by special population indicators and current college attendees
  • Key demographic data (poverty levels, single female households, disability, unemployment rates, etc.)
  • High schools per county displayed with student body demographic details

In order to advance DEI, you must drive progress through your data. Insight into your student data—from its racial and cultural makeup to geographical recruitment reach—is key to understanding your students’ experiences and the change that needs to happen. 

Contact Datatelligent today to start fully tapping your DEI data.

Blog Data Analytics as a Service Higher Education Tableau

Save Clients Time and Budget with Tableau Prep

From a technical standpoint, data analytics work can be challenging and time consuming. Whether it’s combining different data sources, blending disparate systems, or filling in missing gaps, it can be a migraine-inducing task.

But what if we have been overlooking a tool that can make our job easier and deliver a more stream-line experience for our engineers? At Datatelligent, we have become adept at utilizing Tableau Prep, a Tableau module that can seamlessly clean and combine data from different sources in a highly visual interface. It eliminates the need to write code to connect to data sources and cleanse data. It’s included in the standard Tableau subscription, so it is a budget-friendly option as well.

We have successfully utilized Tableau Prep with numerous Datatelligent clients from the higher education, retail, and the business-to-business sectors. Our knowledge and experience has helped us access our customer’s data in a direct, visual way to ensure a deeper understanding and gives us the ability to act quickly and with confidence. We can deliver our projects quicker and without the usual data management headaches – all with no need to write code, saving countless man hours and improving performance.

Not only is our use of Tableau Prep a huge time and budget saver, but also it allows us to see immediate results. We see the results instantly with each action. This gives us the flexibility to immediately fix errors or try new processes without the need to write new code.

If you’d like to see how Datatelligent supports clients with its Data Analytics as a Service (DAaaS) approach and specifically how we have successfully leveraged Tableau Prep to help clients big and small, visit

Blog Higher Education Student 360 Student Retention Students at Risk

Can Community Colleges Survive the Pandemic?

There is no shortage of adjectives to describe 2020 and 2021: catastrophic, heart-wrenching, impossible, irritating, devastating. Whether we are applying it to our own personal experiences or to the broader world around us, no one can dispute that the COVID pandemic has created an environment of change and disruption.

This has been felt profoundly throughout our educational system. Schools have had to reinvent how they operate, and nowhere has this been more disruptive than in the community colleges space. While COVID has created headaches and difficulties throughout the higher education landscape, community colleges have experienced the brunt of the COVID-related fallout.


Colleges and universities had already been experiencing issues related to the cost of higher education and the student loan crisis. Schools have seen costs explode while revenues decline. In addition to the significant investments schools have made to transition to online learning environments — from training, course development, and technology improvements — they have also had to invest in infrastructure improvements to address other COVID-related issues (more space for in-person education, air filtration systems, etc.).

All this is occurring while many current and prospective students are questioning the value of higher education. Many have opted to delay a return to school until after the pandemic. Some question the cost relative to their online learning experiences. Schools have lost additional revenue as many students have not returned to on-campus living, sporting and other events have been canceled, state and federal funding may not be available, and alumni have not contributed as generously as in the past.

This list does not even touch on the additional COVID fallout — anxiety, vaccine availability, variants, etc.

So why has this hit the community college sector harder?

Unlike other economic downturns where community colleges have seen their enrollment numbers climb, the COVID pandemic has produced the opposite result. Community colleges have seen enrollment and retention numbers take a significant hit compared to other higher education institutions, especially for first-year students, where they see a nearly 20% drop.

Students at community colleges have also reported greater barriers to enroll and stay in school:

  • Job uncertainty — Many students rely on income from full- or part-time jobs that either disappeared or were severely hampered during the pandemic.
  • Family demands — This was especially difficult during the stay-at-home order when students found it disruptive to take online classes while also balancing family/childcare responsibilities.
  • Technology hurdles — Many students reported limited or no access to the technology required to complete online learning. Reliable broadband technology, as well as access to a computer or tablet, was a significant barrier to the new normal.
  • Limited emotional connection — Community colleges have historically had a more difficult time creating a sense of camaraderie and engagement compared to other colleges and universities. The transition to online learning has only exacerbated this sense of disconnect.
Will they be able to recover? Yes.

The answer is data. Community colleges are sitting on a patchwork of information that can be harnessed to help them answer key questions and pivot to meet challenges more effectively. Whether it be diving into enrollment metrics to help them improve existing programs or identify new opportunities; working with faculty and students to proactively seek out students that are struggling and develop programs to improve retention; or better forecasting for budget needs, especially when revenue targets and funding sources are shifting — this can all be addressed

by collecting and mining the data within these colleges.

And that is what we at Datatelligent can help with. We have partnered with colleges and universities throughout the country to develop data solutions to help them use their data to navigate these difficult times.

To learn more about our work with community colleges, visit:

by Steve Wightkin, Chief Operating Officer, Datatelligent

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