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Achieving the Dream: Data & Analytics Summit focuses on community colleges

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Community colleges, prized for helping meet workforce demands, are turning to data and analytics to improve student achievement. The inaugural Data and Analytics Summit, sponsored by Achieving the Dream and SAS, recently attracted nearly 200 representatives from about 80 community colleges to deepen understanding of data as a strategic asset to improve student outcomes.

At the summit, analytics experts and community and technical college leaders discussed how analytics helps colleges nationwide share, analyze and visualize data. They also discussed how analytics can be used to improve student engagement and outcomes, analyze workforce data and advance institutional research, all with the goal of putting students on a path to rewarding careers.

Karen A. Stout, president and CEO of Achieving the Dream, and Jim Goodnight, CEO of analytics software provider SAS, headlined the summit.

“Achieving the Dream network colleges owe much of their success in strengthening student achievement to their use of data,” said Stout. “As analytics software becomes more sophisticated and easier to use, its potential to drive even more student success is skyrocketing.”

In her keynote, Data Drives Destiny, Stout described how an analytical ecosystem can position colleges to compete and serve students most effectively into the future.

Goodnight emphasized how analytics can help community colleges increase the talent pool in high-demand areas such as STEM (science, technology, engineering and math).

“There are too few students entering the STEM fields,” said Goodnight. “That includes analytics and data science. Community colleges play a key role in filling these skills gaps by adapting to employer talent needs and offering relevant curriculum.”

Summit participant Wake Tech offered the nation’s first associate’s degree in business analytics. The degree offers a pathway for women and underserved populations into STEM-related educational programs, and opens the door to some of today’s most in-demand and rewarding careers. Tanya Scott, director of Business Analytics at Wake Tech, profiled the success of the program and how an analytics curriculum at the community college level can prepare the workforce of the future.

“There is tremendous innovation taking place at community colleges at a time when their role in the education ecosystem is particularly critical,” Scott said. “Learners of all ages are seeking valuable experience and education, at an affordable price, to build or enhance careers. Companies like SAS and their customers are clamoring for analytics talent, and Wake Tech is answering the call.”

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