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Florida is one of 35 states that tie college funding to graduation rates. But a new study,“The Pell Divide,” finds a difference in graduation rates between students who receive funding assistance from Pell Grants and those who don’t. Florida International University is one that’s using predictive analytics to identify students likely to struggle, so they can receive the support they need.

This year, the state of Florida awarded FIU $73 million in extra funding for their students’ success. To earn the extra funding, public universities across Florida are graded each year on how well their students do on key measurements, like graduation rates, post-graduation employment and how much debt their students take on.

Elizabeth Bejar, senior vice president for academic affairs at FIU, stated that universities should be accountable for the graduation rates of their students, saying, “We are really focused on student success. We do take responsibility, so it is not our students who fail. When they do fail, it’s the university.”

To make sure all students were graduating on time, FIU tripled their advising staff, added tutoring math labs, created life coaches, and expanded special services for low-income students. Jacqueline Diaz, director for advising and student success, stated, “In order for a student to be retained, to stay in college, and to be successful and complete, they have to be engaged and they have to be involved.”

By using predictive analytics, advisers can reach at-risk students early. FIU identifies students who are first in their family to attend college, have unmet financial needs, had mediocre grades in high school, or may have signed up for unusually challenging courses.

The Pell Divide study will hopefully encourage a conversation about how to better serve low-income college students at a national level.

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