USF nets Institution of the Year award from D.C. publication

University of South Florida undergraduates gather at the USF Sun Dome in Tampa for the fall commencement ceremony last December.  LUIS SANTANA | Times
University of South Florida undergraduates gather at the USF Sun Dome in Tampa for the fall commencement ceremony last December. LUIS SANTANA | Times
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For its use of data to help students stay in college and graduate on time, the University of South Florida was named higher education's "institution of the year" by a D.C.-based education publication.

The honor comes as USF celebrates its erasure of the achievement gap by race and ethnicity. While white students typically graduate at higher rates across the nation, USF's black and Hispanic students actually post higher rates. (Black students graduate at a rate 6.2 percent higher than white students. Hispanic students' rate is 3.2  percent higher than whites'.)

USF has its sights set on eliminating the achievement gap by socioeconomic status. Currently, students who get federal Pell grants are trailing close behind their non-Pell peers, at 69.7 percent versus 71.2 percent.

USF's six-year graduation rate also reached a milestone recently, hitting the 70 percent mark that Florida officials count as a measure of preeminence. That's many miles and 19 percentage points away from where USF sat in 2009, when school leaders kicked off the push to use data.

USF hired Civitas Learning, which helps school officials crunch numbers and spot red flags when students may be veering off path. The data goes far beyond bad exam grades, encompassing student engagement and other markers that can identify troubled students early on. Then, a specialized team works to match those students with the help they may need, from counseling to tutoring to financial aid.

PREVIOUSLY: Inside the metrics machine: USF uses big data to find, and help, overburdened students

It's this push that Education Dive highlighted in its "institution of the  year" writeup.

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