Building a culture of analytics empowers university to lead as an educational enterprise
Cloud-based analytical data warehouse provides easy access and single version of the truth.
Enhanced student and enterprise success
via institutional use of data and analytics
From enrollment to graduation, the University of Texas at Arlington uses SAS Analytics for Education on Amazon Web Services to aid in analysis supporting student success and campus strategic decision making
Universities resemble their corporate counterparts in many ways. For starters, both must find ways to differentiate their services to win and retain business. So why shouldn’t universities apply enterprise- level analytics to streamline operations and improve the customer experience, as in the corporate world?
Many do, including the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA). With more than 60,000 students, UTA is a Research I university in the University of Texas system. Previously, through its institutional research office, it fulfilled basic reporting requirements, but more advanced analytics capability could only be found in pockets scattered across various departments.
This eventually became a challenge. UTA’s antiquated systems and 15-year-old code couldn’t handle the increasing requests for data and insight across the university – costing it time and money.
“Like so many enterprises today, we had data across the university, but we were practically using only about 1% of it for visioning or decision making,” says Pete Smith, Chief Analytics Officer and Professor at UTA. “We knew we needed to approach data science as an enterprise rather than individual pockets of capacity to make better use of our data to empower administrators and ultimately benefit students.”
The efficiencies we’ve gained – and the way we’re embracing a culture of analytics – will have a profound impact on the future of the university as we continue to explore AI and fully realize the power of data. Pete Smith Chief Analytics Officer and Professor UTA
Evolving beyond external reporting
UTA contracted for SAS Analytics for Education, a solution that uniquely combines data visualizations, advanced analytics and data governance and management to provide enterprise-level insights in key areas for higher education. The solution bundles SAS software and consulting, and for UTA, is delivered on Amazon Web Services (AWS).
One of the first areas UTA wanted to explore was student success. Understanding which students are most successful helps UTA improve recruitment efforts, retention and the student experience. To accomplish this, UTA performs advanced modeling on data previously used only for operations.
“UTA uses SAS services to fulfill our state and federal reporting requirements as well as do deeper analysis,” says James Stewart, Executive Director of University Analytics at UTA.
By analyzing data from admissions, demographics and financial aid, Stewart and his team can help constituents on campus such as deans and department chairs better see how future enrollment trends might affect staffing and growth, helping them schedule classes and budget more accurately – all part of a broader effort to implement data science and artificial intelligence (AI) across the university.
This holistic approach to analytics starts with good data governance and management. Previously, data was kept in silos, often making it hard for UTA decision makers to get their hands on it. With SAS Analytics for Education, university data is now collected in a cloud-based data warehouse, providing easy access and a single version of the truth.
“The ability for every administrator on campus to work with the same set of gold-standard data brings efficiency to administrative discussions and budget planning, which is crucial,” Stewart says.
“A culture of analytics is growing every day at UTA,” Smith says, as constituents across campus rely on data, reports and analytics. Today, all vice presidents on the business side and all academic deans who oversee colleges and schools at UTA have greater access to the data to make both strategic and operational decisions.
“They’re making decisions every day about enrollment, class staffing and more to ensure student success,” Stewart says. “Now when a senior leader at UTA has his or her staff meetings, pretty much everyone has their laptops open, ready to pull info at a moment’s notice.”
Cloud offers antidote to busy IT
Like most universities, UTA’s IT department faced a significant list of enterprise priorities within limited resources. Deploying data in the cloud provided cost savings and efficiency, as well as the levels of security needed around the data.
“Standing up new tools and systems can take time,” Smith says. “And the university would have needed to hire additional people to create this capability on site. Just the economies of efficiency and the ability to scale up and down quickly within the cloud made it the obvious choice.”
UTA – Facts & Figures
students representing every US state and 100+ countries
faculty and staff
in gross product and 216,544 jobs statewide show the impact of UTA
Promoting a culture of analytics for a brighter future
What’s next on the horizon? UTA plans to apply advanced analytics, AI and machine learning to a variety of use cases on campus – processes such as recruiting potential students who are interested in a particular career, such as nursing, and projecting enrollment and graduation rates. Additionally, student success processes are obvious case studies for modeling and other advanced analytical techniques.
“The efficiencies we’ve gained – and the way we’re embracing a culture of analytics – will have a profound impact on the future of the university as we continue to explore AI and fully realize the power of data,” Smith says. “Bringing together our people, processes and data into a single platform has been very beneficial to the university. Now we move on to the continuing, daily work of building a culture of analytics based on this critical foundation.”