Copley Retention Systems Raises $1.5M From Mark Cuban, USA Funds to...


Copley Retention Systems Raises $1.5M From Mark Cuban, USA Funds to Boost Student Success

By Tony Wan     Jul 10, 2015

Copley Retention Systems Raises $1.5M From Mark Cuban, USA Funds to Boost Student Success

Mark Cuban hopes colleges have an easier time retaining students than he did with DeAndre Jordan.

The Dallas Mavericks owner has teamed up with Tom DiBenedetto, a limited partner in the Boston Red Sox, and USA Funds to invest $1.5 million in Copley Retention Services. The Weston, FL-based company offers an early warning system that alerts college officials about students who may not be on track to graduate. Other participants in the A1 round include Bob Dowdell, Steve Fireng, Jack Larson and Educated Ventures LLC.

One in three college freshmen don’t return for their sophomore year. It’s a sombering statistic not just for students, but also for universities that miss out on tuition dollars.

Educators and technologists believe the digital footprints that students create while in school can offer a glimpse into their academic well-being—and alert officials of those who are at risk of dropping out. But too often, pulling this data can be as painful as pulling teeth, says Edward Gilmore, the company’s chief technology officer. “If you’re not looking into that data, you’re missing out on signals on who’s at risk,” he tells EdSurge.

Founded in 2011, Copley Retention Systems offers a platform that connects with different tools used by colleges—including student information systems and learning management systems such as Canvas—and analyzes a combination of over 20 data points to flag students who may be at risk of dropping out.

There’s no single indicator of student success, says Gilmore. “Every school is different in terms of what they want to monitor,” which could include a combination of financial aid, GPA, test scores and other information. Because of this, he says the company customizes reports and dashboards to show data that each school believes is most valuable. Counselors will receive automated notifications about students who may need more attention, and can schedule virtual meetings.

Gilmore hesitates to claim that Copley can currently predict success or dropouts: “Our first step is to pull back the veil and help institutions understand what data they have.”

The company isn’t disclosing the number of schools it has worked with, only that it is “in public universities, community colleges, private colleges and proprietary schools,” says president and co-founder, Keith Clougherty. The metrics he’s watching most closely are the number of counselor-student interventions, the dropout rate and the course completion rate. “Dropouts usually happen one course at a time,” he observes.

According to his brother Edward Clougherty, who serves as the company’s VP of Retention Services, Copley’s modest growth strategy “is based upon Mark Cuban’s specific directive to us to grow our client school list slower in order to identify and help every student, instead of rapid growth and failing to identify and bring resources to each student in need.”

Forecasting student success is a hot business, and the industry has seen major consolidations this year. In February, Starfish Retention Solutions and GradesFirst have been acquired, respectively, by Hobsons and Education Advisory Board, two companies trying to move the needle on college completion rates. Earlier this week, Uversity was bought by TargetX, both of which provide data analytics to help colleges boost student recruitment and retention. Learning management systems like Desire2Learn also boast their own student success tools.

This need is also increasingly felt at the K-12 level, with startups like LearnSprout building early warning systems that tap into student information systems for signs that can help elementary and high school students stay on track.

Keeping students in school is a paramount priority, and these tools can free up valuable time for overburdened counselors. According to a 2011 survey, there are anywhere from 233 to 600 students for every college advisor. The ratio is equally worrisome in high schools, at nearly 500 to 1.

“We want to see more students engaged in class and graduate,” says Gilmore. “It’s about providing the right tools to advisors to make that happen.” The company currently has 20 employees, and is looking to hire an additional 10 with the new funds.

Editor's note: We've corrected the story to include Educated Ventures as an investor.

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