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Southern Methodist, Time reported, found that students who applied early for admissions, visited campus, joined a fraternity or sorority or took an above average course load were more likely to finish. Using these and other markers, the school now looks for isolated and at risk students, intervening to help them get on track.

Major colleges are using highly sophisticated data analysis to find students in danger of not finishing their degrees and getting them turned around before they waste time and money, Time magazine reports.

The system, now used by schools like Southern Methodist University and Georgia State, creates profiles that predict success or failure.

Southern Methodist, Time reported, found that students who applied early for admissions, visited campus, joined a fraternity or sorority or took an above average course load were more likely to finish. Using these and other markers, the school now looks for isolated and at risk students, intervening to help them get on track.

Georgia State determined that 85 percent of Political Science students who get an A or a B in their first Poli Sci course will earn degrees, but just 25 percent of those who get a C will do so.

“What we used to do, and what other universities do, is let the C student go along until it was too late to help them,” Timothy Renick, Georgia State’s vice president for enrollment management and student success, told Time. “Now we have a flag that goes off as soon as we spot a C in the first course.”

College students who begin, acquire debt, waste time and never graduate are getting increased attention of late. The Hechinger Report noted last month that six-year graduation rates are down since the recession ended.

Hechinger found that 55 percent of students who began in 2008 finished their degrees within six years, down from 56.1 percent in its last report.

“Getting more students to enroll is only the first step to increasing the number of Americans with a postsecondary credential,” said Doug Shapiro, executive research director for the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center to Hechinger. “We also need to do more to help them stay enrolled to the finish line.”

And Complete College America released a report last month as well noting that the notion of a four-year bachelor's degree has officially become a myth, and that six years has increasingly become the norm.

"Establishing graduation benchmarks of three and six years for associate and bachelor’s degrees respectively signals an acceptance of the status quo and alleviates the pressure to change," the CCA report stated. "Using these metrics may improve the numbers, but it is costing students and their parents billions of extra dollars — $15,933 more in cost of attendance for every extra year of a public two-year college and $22,826 for every extra year at a public four-year college."

The good news, CCA reported, is that an alliance of 35 state governments has joined to combat this slippage, engineering new ways to streamline majors and eliminate superfluous classes or distractions that slow students down.

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