With the ever-changing academic landscape, there is a distinct need to ensure that both the educational and social needs of students are being met as colleges and universities plan for incoming and future classes. To achieve this, academic institutions must demonstrate flexibility in how they unpack and understand the needs of their students to ensure engagement. Direct feedback from students via surveys and focus groups is a valuable tool, but it doesn’t always tell the whole story. In order to gain a broader perspective and to discover insights and trends at a more granular level, data needs to be a part of the evaluation to drive better decision making. This includes insight into demographic, socio-economic and neighborhood trends occurring within the communities of incoming students. This aggregated data plays an integral role by helping the institution plan more robust support programs, including course placement strategies and even student mentoring, which all help to identify the changing financial needs of students. A 2016 study by the Department of Education found that a variety of student support services are related to improved outcomes including increasing the odds that a student will remain enrolled and better academic achievement.
In looking more closely at the financial needs of students, it’s often an issue of figuring out how students are going to fund their college education. Some students earn scholarships or secure student loans, and others get support from their family. The latter isn’t always easy, often requiring families to tap into their home equity. It should also be noted that although the average homeowner gained approximately $9,800 in equity during the past year according to the Homeowner Equity Report released by CoreLogic®, the data also reveal that the pandemic recession will likely lead to price declines in many areas during the next year and weaken home equity gains.
This could put a strain on families utilizing home equity to fund higher education in a time when growing student debt is already a burden for parents. Under the federal Parent PLUS program, approximately 3.6 million parents took out $96 billion outstanding loans to help finance their children’s undergraduate education.
We see that the stress of paying for tuition is a heavy burden not only on parents but also on students and can often negatively impact their studies. Colleges and universities offer many programs to assist students concerned with buckling under the weight of their tuition and studies, and strategic planning for programs can be an ongoing challenge for institutions of higher education as each incoming class may have differing needs. However, this challenge can be successfully solved when universities use solid foundational data for both internal school metrics and the external environmental metrics of their incoming student classes. For example, tracking crime statistics, economic changes, and other key socio-economic data about incoming student classes helps to ensure the school has the necessary programs in place to meet their students’ needs.
Institutions today can access robust and intelligent demographic, socio economic and neighborhood trend data to help ensure that they are offering the right programs to sustain and boost students’ educational and social needs.
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