Timothy Renick

WGL 2021-Timothy Renick
Courtesy of Ben Rollins
  • Title
    Executive Director
  • Affiliation
    National Institute for Student Success, Georgia State

Too often, people who worked hard to get to college don’t end up getting through it. The reasons are myriad—financial, bureaucratic, logistical, and more—but the result is a tragic, all-too-familiar story of American inequality: Those most likely to be derailed are low-income and first-generation students, often from underrepresented communities of color.

Confronted by Georgia State’s yawning achievement gaps—a little over a decade ago, graduation rates for African American and Hispanic students at the 50,000-plus-student school were barely above 20%—Renick, who is also a religious studies professor, turned to technology. Using big data and predictive analytics that Renick helped deploy, GSU preemptively targets students with financial aid and adviser interventions. With chatbots, it responds to student questions immediately and when they tend to come in (after midnight). The results have been staggering: Graduation rates at the school have increased 70% overall and are now equal across demographic groups. And for the past six years, GSU has graduated more Black students than any school in the U.S. The Boston Consulting Group found that GSU got a financial return on its investment, too (retaining students is good business). Renick, whose playbook has already been adopted by institutions in South Africa, New Zealand, and across the U.S., now leads an institute focused on sharing it more widely.