A recently obtained access-to-information request reveals that Memorial University of Newfoundland (MUN) spent over $2 million on software and an app called Navigate by American-based company EAB.
The terms of membership for EAB’s Student Success Collaborative – Campus and Mobile (SSC-Campus and Mobile) began on June 30th, 2017 and will end on June 29th, 2022. The letter of agreement was signed by the Senior Director of EAB, a division of The Advisory Board Company and the Provost and Vice-President (Academic) of MUN Noreen Golfman.
MUN paid a one-time project initiation fee of $107,000 USD along with an annual $267,000 USD in service fees.
In addition, MUN also pays $7,500 USD each year to offset travel and other similar administrative expenses for EAB.
Total: $1,479,500 USD
The salary cost information by MUN associated with Navigate is as follows:
Converted to USD = $192,287.72
Total amount spent by MUN spent on EAB program: $1,671,787.72 USD
Total amount converted to CAD: $2,017,162.35
Institutions are becoming more dependent on outside services. The purchase of this software appears to be an attempt by MUN administrators to make MUN like universities in the United States and increasingly continue the imposition of the private corporate model.
The university should instead find reasonably priced software systems that are not data mining companies with for-profit motives.
Understandably, the university may need data management software. However, the costs of EAB seem excessively expensive. The EAB company currently providing data software to MUN is for-profit. Companies like EAB are implicated in the age of surveillance capitalism. The university should instead find reasonably priced software systems that are not data mining companies with for-profit motives.
EAB state that they “partner with education leaders, practitioners, and staff to accelerate progress and drive results.” EAB describes itself as data enthusiasts, researchers, and technologists.
They describe their app as “Navigate, our Student Success Management System, is an enterprise-level technology that links administrators, advisors, deans, faculty, other staff, and students in a Coordinated Care Network designed to help community colleges and universities proactively manage student retention and success to deliver a return on education.”
The Navigate app seems pointless as several of its fancy functions do not allow students to do new things. It just changes how things are done, like scheduling an appointment on the app instead of by email. In some cases, the app makes it worse for students who were satisfied and do not want to download and use yet another app. It is forcing students into using technology that tracks them.
The software seems to worsen the issue of students being viewed as mere numbers. It further decreases students having a human face. Students are just numbers that need to be improved to boost the reputations of institutions and so senior administrators can build their resumes.
Administrators at MUN have fought for tuition increases for many years.
EAB states that their Student Success Management software helps universities “go beyond first-year retention to help students graduate in less time.” This statement reinforces the idea that universities act as for-profit businesses that try to get as many students through as fast as possible to increase revenue. Administrators at MUN have fought for tuition increases for many years.
EAB state that they help universities find and enroll “the right students.” They follow that by saying, “In an era where student demographics, behaviours, and even levels of participation in education are fluctuating, it’s harder than ever before to find, engage, and enroll your best-fit students.”
Regarding universities finding “best-fit students,” EAB states, “Apply predictive analytics across your enrollment pipeline to increase class size, grow tuition revenue, and shape your incoming class.”
The EAB software has what they call “smart student profiles” that provide institutions with the “most important, actionable” information on students to maximize time during academic advising conversations.
The software offers what EAB calls “Predictive Analytics.” They claim that this helps the university understand “both cohort-level and individual student risk.” EAB ingests 8+ years of the university’s historical data.
They have another feature, “Population Health Analytics,” that “track student risk, academic performance, and progress of students in their current term to drive targeted intervention campaigns for distinct student populations.”
Another feature is “Historical Trend Analytics” that EAB states, “Identify longer-term trends of success, risk, and failure within your courses, program migration patterns, and graduation rates to inform schoolwide or program-level initiatives such as course sequencing or program and resource optimization.”
In addition to the software, SSC-Campus and Mobile also comes with training and coaching such as onsite orientation sessions, guided training for academic advisors on functionality and features, and sharing what they call “best practices” and “super-user tips.” It also gives the institution access to over 360+ “best practices from dozens of publications sharing the most innovative student success ideas.” University administrators gain access to EAB’s National meetings in which new student success strategies are shared.
Matt Barter is a third-year student in the Humanities and Social Sciences Faculty at Memorial University of Newfoundland, majoring in Political Science with a minor in Sociology. He enjoys reading thought-provoking articles, walks in nature, and volunteering in the community.