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University of South Florida Designated “Institution of the Year” by Education Dive

Student success and satisfaction has reached new heights at the University of South Florida.

Recently, the university was named an “Institution of the Year” by Washington DC based publication Education Dive for its application of predictive analytics to the student experience and in addressing the graduation rate gap between race, ethnicity and socioeconomic status.

“I’d like to think it’s the institutional commitment and dedication to student success that has allowed us to get to this point,” said Paul Dosal, the university’s vice president for student affairs & student success in an interview with Education Dive. “I think behind all of this — the analytics and the numbers — is the shift in the culture of the institution that has made all of this possible. It’s one thing to adopt high tech analytics, but it’s another thing to use it in a way that helps students on a case-by-case basis.”

The university partnered with student success company Civitas Learning to gain insight into the student experience through predictive analytics. Equipped with the Civitas platform, student support specialists could intervene to create support strategies tailored to individuals, be it advising or tutoring to help students get back on a successful path to graduation.

In 2017, USF took things a step further with a case management strategy and integrated technologies to more effectively make use of the data and orchestrate personalized student interventions.

“The University of South Florida is one of the finest examples of a university committed to the success of all students,” said Mark David Milliron, cofounder and chief learning officer at Civitas Learning. “Their willingness to move from relying on best practices to an integrated analytics platform that catalyzed some important design conversations on institutional policies and outreach practices has been inspiring to watch. These are some tough-minded, dedicated educators.”

USF’s six-year graduation rate recently reached 70%, an increase of 19% since the student success initiatives kicked off in 2009.

Additionally, the university’s first-year student retention rate now tops 90%.

But what helped the USF gain the Education Dive distinction is the fact that achievement gaps by race and ethnicity have been eliminated. Black students at USF graduate at a rate 6.2% higher than white students while Hispanic students graduate at a rate nearly 3.6% higher, a significant difference from the national trend of white students graduating at higher rates.

This achievement also earned USF recognition earlier this year by The Education Trust as the number one university in Florida and number six nationally for eliminating these gaps.

“I get a kick out of it in that the adoption of [hyper] analytics led us to develop an approach that’s a highly personalized approach,” Dosal told Education Dive. “We’re set up to identify students who are struggling at any moment in time, and then we can reach out and assist them with whatever that hurdle is.”

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