9:50am Room B - Data-driven and student-centered: Leveraging institutional data in higher education for policy change

Seemingly neutral academic policies can have major consequences for student success. When institutional research revealed that the existing academic eligibility policy was having an outsized and negative impact on the persistence of first-generation and minoritized first-time students, The University of Arizona decided to introduce a warning semester. Rather than placing students directly onto academic probation, we sought to offer a clearer, more intentional policy and to use the warning semester as an opportunity to connect students with supports and resources to help them thrive in college. Also, by adopting principles of regression discontinuity designs—which are ideally suited to observing the impact of policies featuring a cutoff—we estimated that introducing a warning semester could lift retention among first-time students by as much as two percentage points. Indeed, we observed a one percentage point gain in retention among the first cohort of students under the new policy. This talk will focus on leveraging institutional data for coalition building in support of equity and policy change.

Dr. Sarah Kyte

Senior Research Scientist
Student Success & Retention Innovation
University of Arizona


Sarah Kyte, PhD, is leading a responsive, action-driven, and rigorous portfolio of research and partnerships focused on supporting student success. As a sociologist of education, her research takes a holistic view of the practices and policies that support student success with a focus on student persistence in college and within majors, effective strategies for bringing data-driven tools to practice, and equity for underserved groups. Her team recently won the 2021 Institutional Research Leadership Award from the National Symposium for Student Retention. Prior to joining the University of Arizona, Sarah partnered with nonprofits in higher education as a consultant, leveraging data to tell important stories about opportunity and well being for students. Dr. Kyte earned her PhD and MA in Sociology at the University of Texas at Austin where she trained in quantitative social science methods at the UT Population Research Center.