By mining the [student] data, the university is able to spend its limited funds on students who have the potential to do the most with the extra dollars. Georgia State calls them “structured interventions”: Find a problem, comb the numbers to figure out a solution, test the idea on a small group of students, and either tweak it or expand it if it works.
Advanced data mining and analysis certainly has potential to improve the student debt situation, much as it has the potential to improve many other aspects of our lives. If there are inefficiencies to be found, that’s “cash on the table” that we can pick up.But we shouldn’t expect any miracles from Big Data. The Chronicle piece is titled “How a Little Data Can Solve One of Higher Education’s Biggest Problems”; this is surely an overstatement.The core problem of student debt is structural. Tuition at all universities is far higher than it should be; the real question is how it got so high, and what we can do to lower it. Universities and political leaders should focus as much of their attention as possible on figuring out how to deliver the $10,000 bachelor’s degree, for example.[Ball and chain image courtesy of Shutterstock]