Helping Students Graduate: DataKind Presents Work in Post-Secondary Education

Last month, we were honored to participate in the South Big Data Hub’s Education & Workforce Working Group meeting. 

The Education & Workforce Working Group is a monthly meeting for data science educators and program leaders to share insights and learn about potential resources for the implementation of their work. Participants include South Hub members across industry, academia, and government who are actively engaged in implementing programs that leverage open data in support of education and training in data science. This work aims to broaden and deepen the data science talent and workforce by building a bridge between academia and government needs. 

At the convening, we presented a case study on improving graduation rates through predictive modeling. Nearly half of all U.S. college students are at risk of leaving without earning a degree. John Jay College of Criminal Justice (JJC), in New York City, inquired how existing student data and machine learning techniques could be combined to address challenges surrounding graduation. We analyzed more than 10 years of historical student data and built a predictive model that was used to design pre-emptive interventions that improved graduation rates

For more information about our project and partnership, check out these student stories.  


The project led John Jay to create  CUSP (Completion for Upper-Division Student Program) with tremendous success. Before CUSP, 2018 projections calculated that only 54% of seniors having completed 75% of their academic credits would graduate within two years. Since launching the CUSPpilot from 2017-2020,  however, 73% of students earned their degrees in one year and 87% of students completed it by the end of the second year, equating to an additional 600 students with a bachelor’s degree. 

As DataKind aims to learn about how data science can help improve post-secondary education outcomes, part of our Economic Resilience portfolio, this partnership is key to understanding potential opportunities and impact of our work. That’s why we were excited to share our learnings with South Big Data Hub, a community convener that focuses on data innovation. 

So what’s next with our partnership with JJC? We’re delighted to continue collaborating with the team and leverage the insights and impact of the CUSP tool to develop a new tool that supports transfer students.

Across the US, four-year graduation rates for transfer students who move from community college to a senior (four-year) institution are poor. To address the factors that contribute to this, we’ll team up with JJC once again and collaborate on a complementary solution to the CUSP graduation tool. 

Transfer students may have difficulty  graduating due to a host of factors, and this tool will be designed  so that academic and financial counselors can identify transfer students who have defined risk characteristics and provide direct support that  helps ensure their academic success. 

Thanks to South Big Data Hub and Renata Rawlings-Goss, Education & Workforce Working Group Chair, for having us! We’re thrilled to continue this impactful work with JJC, and we hope to continue to exchange learnings on using data  to support higher education.

To watch the full presentation at the South Big Data Hub’s Education & Workforce Working Group meeting, check out the video below. 

Images above courtesy of Arpi Pap / John Jay College.

Join us in advancing the use of data science to support causes that can help make the world a better place. 

As always, thank you for your support of this critical work! 

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