A comparative analysis of machine learning techniques for student retention management

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216 Scopus citations


Student retention is an essential part of many enrollment management systems. It affects university rankings, school reputation, and financial wellbeing. Student retention has become one of the most important priorities for decision makers in higher education institutions. Improving student retention starts with a thorough understanding of the reasons behind the attrition. Such an understanding is the basis for accurately predicting at-risk students and appropriately intervening to retain them. In this study, using five years of institutional data along with several data mining techniques (both individuals as well as ensembles), we developed analytical models to predict and to explain the reasons behind freshmen student attrition. The comparative analyses results showed that the ensembles performed better than individual models, while the balanced dataset produced better prediction results than the unbalanced dataset. The sensitivity analysis of the models revealed that the educational and financial variables are among the most important predictors of the phenomenon.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)498-506
Number of pages9
JournalDecision Support Systems
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 May 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Classification
  • Machine learning
  • Prediction
  • Retention management
  • Sensitivity analysis
  • Student attrition


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