University of North Texas uses SAS® analytics to increase enrollment

In volatile higher education landscape, UNT boosts student enrollment, graduation rates and efficiencies

As college and university enrollments struggle to return to pre-pandemic levels, the University of North Texas (UNT) is using software from analytics leader SAS to help enroll its largest classes ever. Supported by a culture of trust and data governance, and powerful predictive analytics, the university has also increased graduation rates, accelerated time to degree and saved significant money in increased efficiencies.

According to a study conducted by Forbes, total higher education enrollment has dropped by almost 7.5% since 2019. Fortunately, UNT was well positioned not just to weather the storm but to continue to grow. In fact, UNT has increased enrollment by 16.4% since 2018, including a 5.5% jump in 2022.

This was achieved with help from UNT Insights, a data platform built on SAS® Viya® that integrates data from across the university and provides dashboards on topics such as admissions, budgeting, degree offerings, financial aid, grades, enrollment, retention and graduation rates. Higher education analytics software from SAS is used by more than 3,000 universities around the world to improve student success and financial management and to power institutional and academic research.

UNT Insights 2.0 is managed by the university’s Data, Analytics, and Institutional Research (DAIR) group, led by Associate Vice President Jason Simon, PhD.

“The future of analytics at the University of North Texas is vibrant,” Simon says. “Building trust in data and analytics has been essential to helping our institutional leaders use data to drive better outcomes for our students.”

Analytics powers higher graduation rates, quicker degrees and increased efficiencies

UNT Insights has helped increase UNT graduation rates and speed up time to degree for first-time college students and undergraduate transfer students. For example, full-time, first-time students saw their:

  • Time to degree drop from an average of 4.6 to 4.2 years.
  • Six-year graduation rate increase 10%, from 49% to 59%, between 2012 and 2022.
  • Three-year graduation rate jump from 2.3% to 11.8% between 2012 and 2022.

Meanwhile, full-time undergraduate transfer students saw their:

  • Time to degree decrease from an average of 3.4 years to 3.2 years.
  • Six-year graduation rate climb from 62% in 2012 to 69% in 2022.
  • Two-year graduation rate increase from 14% in 2012 to 25% in 2022.

UNT has also seen significant efficiency increases that lead to real dollars. DAIR was previously processing between 1,400 and 1,600 manual requests. By empowering users with access to analytics and standard reports, those requests have decreased by about 1,000 per year. This represents hundreds of staff hours.

According to Simon, “Assuming a very conservative 60 minutes per request, this would equate to 1,000 hours of staff time. In essence, the DAIR team has created $52,000 in staffing soft costs that can be redirected and time that can be better spent serving a broader audience of users versus individual data requesters.”

UNT’s analytics journey

UNT is a Tier 1 four-year public university with nearly 45,000 students in Denton, TX. Leading up to the pandemic, UNT partnered with SAS to transition from being data-rich and insight-poor to possessing an analytics foundation and governance framework that decision-makers could trust to address student enrollment and graduation rate challenges.

Previously, fundamental issues with data management and data governance plagued the university’s analytics department, relegating data to silos and making enterprise analytics difficult. Addressing these issues meant starting from the ground up. In 2015, UNT embarked on a journey to modernize its approach to data, analytics and information resources.

UNT Insights took disparate data resources and tools and leveraged the UNT ecosystem to integrate data modeling, data governance, data training, data visualization and predictive analytics into a user-friendly application now used by more than 1,200 campus users.

According to Simon, “The savings from UNT Insights have already covered costs for the program, and then some.”

To learn more about UNT’s successful analytics journey, join the SAS webinar The Road to a Strong Data and Analytics Culture at the University of North Texas on March 29 at 1 p.m. ET. 

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The University of North Texas is using SAS to increase enrollment and graduation rates, accelerate time to degree and save money.