Student Recruiting Goes Big Brother

bigbrotherWho remembers reading “Brave New World“? Anyone, Bueller?  Ok, so I guess I am showing my age.  Sobeit. Yes I had to read it in high school.  One of the few books I actually cracked without cheating on Cliff Notes. I remember feeling somewhat disturbed and creeped out, for lack of a better non-word.  Fast forward to 2011, when the Hunger Games books were published; you have yourself a modern day version of Brave New World, The Olympics, Power Rangers and Big Brother (hence the creepy image on the post).  Ok, so that is my description and may not be 100% accurate. Nonetheless, I admit watching the movies brought me back to those high school days of reading Brave New World.  Not exactly sure what linked the bridge except the obvious, “government” (entity in charge) knowing too much and using it against me or to promoting their own cause. Either way, it feels kind of creepy to say the least.

Recently released by Inside Higher Ed, 2014 In and Out List for Higher Ed lists Big Data as out and Micro-Targeting as in. Big Data certainly has been a buzz word for the past couple of years in higher ed.  Old news to successful business owners that consumer behavior matters and should drive brand, while still a new concept to the education world.  With many new softwares to track student engagement, social behaviors, and personal grit, coupled with data mining about socioeconomic background, family college history, and demographic location, colleges are recruiting with their eyes wide open.  However, compiling a list of potential students to recruit in a neatly packaged box of mixed socioeconomic levels (aka, ability to pay), academically superior, racially diverse, and internally motivated may be too good to be true.  An article released last fall, Micro-Targeting Students, discusses the ethical issues, potential threats, possible breakthroughs, and costs related to recruiting.  The article gives a good overview of data being used in the recruiting process.

Although in some cases personal data may be used inappropriately, for the most part it is public information that systems are just compiling along with algorithms to predict behaviors.  It sounds a bit intrusive or “creepy” but it’s not a new concept and shouldn’t be viewed as a threat to personal safety or privacy.  Students have become savvy shoppers and are investigating a school’s ability to meet their needs.  They are paying a high premium for an education and expect a quality product. Perhaps then it is fair for schools to investigate, research, analyze and pursue the highest quality candidate.  Turnabouts fair play. Yay? Nay? What say you?