College Raptor takes on big data challenges with Tippie Analytics Cooperative

Bill Staib is many things. He’s a serial entrepreneur and patent holder whose previous business was acquired by Dow Jones. He’s a seasoned C-Suite executive who holds multiple degrees from Stanford University. He has also been involved in data science since before it was called ‘data science.’ In fact, he once built a neural network that the National Society of Professional Engineers recognized as one of the six most outstanding engineering achievements in the United States.

So where does a man like Staib turn in order to stay current with business analytics and to work with the discipline’s top talent? The Tippie Analytics Cooperative at the University of Iowa College of Business.

"I have a background in data mining, but right now I’m running a business. The Tippie Analytics Cooperative is a great way for me to leverage my time and work with a team of people that will keep me up to date."

 “We have a small team,” he says. “And we want to build and scale efficiently. On top of that, I want to stay current. I have a background in data mining, but right now I’m running a business. The Tippie Analytics Cooperative is a great way for me to leverage my time and work with a team of people that will keep me up to date.”

This year he succeeded on all fronts. College Raptor, Staib’s EdTech startup, engaged the Tippie Analytics Cooperative to work on a particularly thorny problem related to their work.

College Raptor’s mission is twofold: On the one hand they help college seekers discover and identify schools they can afford and at which they can thrive. On the other, they help recruiting departments maximize the ROI of their marketing dollars by identifying candidates that are likely to accept offers, be good fits, and excel on campus. 

To do this, College Raptor evaluates all sorts of demographic, cultural, educational, and financial information for each student. It runs this complex profile information against hundreds of thousands of proprietary models of the financial aid practices of all US colleges. The end result recommends schools that are good fits for its student-users. For admissions departments, it identifies students they should focus their recruiting efforts on.

It takes a lot of skill and sophistication to do this well, as it requires analyzing massive amounts of data. Often it’s noisy, sometimes it has gaps. But the analysts from the Tippie Analytics Cooperative were up to the challenge. Through their work they were able to build predictive models adept at working around data gaps and that could better predict college fit scores for each student.

"The work that Tippie’s analysts provided will help us build a better product."

“The work that Tippie’s analysts provided will help us build a better product,” says Staib. In fact, the success of this project will likely lead to more opportunities for Tippie students and graduates to work with College Raptor going forward.

“One of the things we’ve been talking about is bringing in some student interns or even full time employees directly out of this program. They could join our company and help us apply and develop these models in the immediate future.”

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