Improving Student Retention through Cohort Analysis

In education, student retention is critical.  One private college that I did consulting for that was based on quarters, had most students join at the time of the quarter.  But, in order to give students more chances to join throughout the year, they started offering some introductory classes that could run on a half-quarter, where students wouldn’t take as many classes, but they would need to finish them quicker.   One of the administrators wanted to know if students who were starting their college experience in half-quarter classes were succeeding equally well as those who started on a normal quarter.

By downloading student enrollment data into Excel, the total length of student enrollments were calculated for those whose cohort started on a regular quarter, and those who started on half-quarters.  The data showed a clear difference that was not only statistically significant, but also consistent: students who started on the half-quarters had a higher prevalence of dropping out, and on average would drop out more quickly than those who started on a full-quarter cycle.  While there was going to be action taken on this data, unfortunately due to issues with the parent company, Heald College closed down before action could be taken.


College student retention was analyzed between cohorts of students that either first enrolled in a shorter term compared to those who enrolled in a regular length term. The data clearly showed that students who started in the shorter length term generally were more likely to drop out than those who started on a full-length term, giving the college administration actionable data.


Heald College


Ed Data Work
Knowledge Driven Education