Artificial Intelligence and College and University Recruitment, Admission, Progression and Retention
In a previous artificial on AI and its potential impact on higher education I cited a report, Artificial Intelligence Market in the United States Education Sector, that listed an expected 47.5 percent AI increase in U.S. education from 2017 to 2020.
Many of the articles written about the potential impact of AI on higher education focus on the teaching and learning tasks that will be disrupted by the fourth Industrial Revolution, the digital revolution. This article will examine the potential impact of AI on recruitment, admission, progression and retention of college and university students as well as some of the potential pitfalls of AI on college administration.
Imagine an admission office and staff that were able to answer the thousands of inquiries received during the normal admission cycle. Imagine a potential applicant, receiving on a regular basis, interactive website materials and answers to common admission questions asked within hours after making a request for information. Imagine an admission office with the ability to customize the process from inquiry to application to acceptance to enrollment for each potential student. Imagine an admission office that can predict which applicants are most likely to enroll, allowing admission staff to focus on this cohort of potential students.
What we are imagining is an admission process that has the capacity to personalize the college application process without adding extra staff or departments. We are imagining administrative functions that have the potential to be both cost effective and efficient. We are imagining an admission office with fewer publications, fewer trips to different states or countries, and fewer staff doing routine admission tasks.
Imagine student success and retention deans able to identify, before enrollment and during the critical first semester, students who are most likely to experience academic difficulty. Imagine algorithms that enable deans and counselors to create effective tutoring and retention intervention techniques.
What we are imaging is a college or university that will improve its financial bottom line by retaining more students. What we are imagining is a school that has reduced the pressure on the “front end,” the admission office, to enroll additional students to replace the students who withdrew.
The implications for a school’s financial bottom line, are obvious.
What about the potential pitfalls of AI on college admission and retention? Pascal Fung, director of the Center for Artificial Intelligence Research at Hong Kong’s University of Science and Technology cautions: “A high level of ethical principles cannot be integrated into algorithms.”
In 2015 Bill Gates, Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking warned about the potential negative impact of AI in making ethical decisions. In recruiting students, for example, AI information could be used to limit or control the number of students from a particular state, region, or country who are admitted not because of academic ability but because of other considerations like ethnicity or ability to pay tuition and school fees.
While computers excel at accumulating knowledge, computation and pattern recognition, they cannot replace human administrators. The data is only as good as the data sources. And we should remember that students are more than just data sets. Overreliance on AI research and applicability in the recruitment and retention of students is neither a wise nor creative administrative decision.
While there is a great amount of information on the potential of AI to reduce or eliminate jobs currently performed by humans, I believe admission and retention functions will change, not disappear. Admission and retention staff may perform different administrative tasks based on AI data.
In a July 8, 2018 article in The New York Times, Erik Byrnjolfssin, an economist at MIT and Tom Mitchell, a Carnegie Mellon computer scientist, wrote that jobs, in their opinion, will be partly automated rather than disappear altogether.
I agree with this opinion as it relates to the future of AI in recruitment, admission, progression and retention plans and programs. I also believe that administrators charged with the responsibility of enrolling and graduating students cannot ignore the role AI will play in the future.