SAS® Analytics helps U. of Oregon optimize financial aid to attract top students

School expects jump in average high school GPAs, SATs for freshmen receiving aid

Using SAS® Analytics, the University of Oregon is predicting which financial aid offerings will inspire a student with high GPA and SAT scores to enroll.

Of the $35 million in student aid the university annually distributes, a large portion is set aside for incoming freshmen. However, many who are accepted and offered financial aid do not enroll, leaving unfilled spots and undistributed aid.

"The university wanted to know if we could use our merit aid more effectively," said Jonathan Jacobs, Director of Enrollment Management Research at the University of Oregon.

Using SAS Enterprise Miner™, Jacobs examined first-year applicants who had been accepted and were eligible for merit aid, along with factors that affected enrollment.

Jacobs previously used SAS to analyze ways to improve the percentage of accepted students who enroll. He also studied the characteristics of successful students. This task was to figure out how merit aid could be tweaked to predict and positively influence enrollment rates.

Oregon administrators were concerned that GPA alone was not a sufficient indicator of high-caliber students, since grading varies from school to school. Because some students meeting GPA requirements recorded low SAT scores, Jacobs incorporated SATs into the model.

Jacobs looked at how merit aid affected decisions to attend, comparing in-state vs. out-of-state applicants. He discovered that out-of-state students, who pay substantially higher tuition, were less influenced by the amount of merit aid. For in-state students, the amount of merit aid was a key factor.

Jacobs can easily export analysis results into Excel, where he created a financial aid award simulator. When Jacobs meets with campus leaders he can show them how awards, headcount and diversity would change at differing levels of financial award.

"We can see instantly what would happen if we offered $5,000, $4,000 or $6,000," said Jacobs. "SAS allows me to dive in and model exactly what kind of aid program we can afford that will also maximize our enrollment of high-quality students."

As a result, the University of Oregon increased its top merit aid offering from $2,000 to $5,000 a year to in-state students with a 3.8 GPA and a minimum SAT score of 1,200. Aid amounts were also increased to other qualified in-state students.

SAS analytics and business intelligence software is used at more than 3,000 educational institutions worldwide for teaching, research and administration. SAS has more than three decades of experience working with educational institutions

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