New Hunt Institute Policy Brief Highlights Innovative Higher Education Data Initiatives

March 11, 2020

Durham, N.C. –  Many of the groundbreaking student success initiatives emerging at institutions of higher education (IHEs) have something in common: they involve leveraging data in new, unique ways. The increasing sophistication of IHE data systems allows postsecondary leaders to reimagine and strengthen traditional strategies for supporting students – such as helping them pick courses or preventing them from dropping out.

For state policymakers interested in making progress toward postsecondary attainment goals, it is important to understand the current landscape of data-driven student interventions and the implications that these efforts can have on student success. When IHE leaders employ these initiatives thoughtfully, including by establishing robust student data privacy and security protections, they can help greater numbers of students attain high-quality certificates and degrees.

The third and final installment of The Hunt Institute’s policy brief series, “Attainment for All: Postsecondary Pathways,” highlights the great potential of higher education data initiatives – as well as important considerations that state and IHE leaders must take into account to ensure that data is used in ways that are equitable, ethical, safe, and sustainable. The brief specifically describes how state policymakers can create alignment between higher education data use and education policy goals, and how the availability of linked student-level data can enhance the effectiveness of these efforts.

“Innovative data use is the foundation of efforts across the country to help higher education students succeed, and state leaders should understand how these initiatives can be used to move the needle on education policy goals,” said The Hunt Institute’s President & CEO Dr. Javaid Siddiqi. “With the right support and guidance in place at the state level, data-driven student interventions can raise attainment rates while also narrowing equity gaps.”

The brief highlights two recent examples of holistic, scalable approaches to using student data. The Momentum Year initiative at the University System of Georgia, which every system IHE leader implemented for the freshman class of Fall 2019, provides a framework to focus supportive interventions at crucial points during a student’s first year of study. And the Finish First NC tool, first developed at Wake Technical Community College and currently being scaled to all 58 community colleges in North Carolina, shows that data-driven tools can be tailored to the specific needs of different IHEs and have major impacts at minimal costs.

The “Attainment for All” series highlights scalable state-level strategies to boost postsecondary attainment rates among specific student subpopulations including recent high school graduates, first-generation students and adult learners. The first policy brief was released in September 2019 and focused on the early college high school model; the second brief was released in January 2020 and highlighted reverse transfer policy initiatives. The entire series will be featured in a webinar later this spring.

About the Hunt Institute

An affiliate of the Duke University Sanford School of Public Policy, The Hunt Institute is a recognized leader in the movement to transform public education. Marshaling expertise from a nationwide partner network since it was established in 2001, The Institute brings together people and resources that help build and nurture visionary leadership and mobilize strategic action for greater educational outcomes and student success. For more information, please visit:

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