The Ivy Coach Daily

February 2, 2022

Northeastern Plays Moneyball

Northeastern has long relied on data in admissions.

Every admissions leaders at our nation’s highly selective universities cares about the US News & World Report college rankings — irrespective of what he or she might tell you to the contrary. That’s right. No matter how loudly and how vociferously an admissions czar tells parents and students at information sessions or in interviews that they don’t even look at the rankings, you bet they look at those rankings. In fact, their jobs depend on the rankings. If a top university slips significantly over a couple of years in US News & World Report’s annual college ranking, you bet the admissions czar of that school will be a little nervous about hanging onto the top admissions post. So in light of all of the college rankings denialism out there, it’s rather refreshing if you ask us that the new leader of a university that has masterfully manipulated the US News & World Report rankings better than just about any other institution over the last several years (all top universities manipulate the rankings…just some do it better than others) has just appointed an admissions leader who is leaning into the very data-driven analytics that put the school on the map. And, yes, we are indeed speaking of Northeastern University, an institution we’ve highlighted in the past, as has Jeffrey Selingo, for their masterful manipulation, through reverse engineering, of the all-important college ranking.

Northeastern University Appoints New Admissions Leader

As the Molly Callahan writes in a News@Northeastern press release entitled “Northeastern’s New Chief Enrollment Officer Brings Data Science to the Art of Student Recruitment,” “Satyajit Dattagupta will begin his tenure as chief enrollment management officer, senior vice chancellor, and special advisor to the president in mid-June, announced Ken Henderson, chancellor and senior vice president for learning, on Wednesday. Dattagupta joins Northeastern from Tulane University in New Orleans, where he serves as senior vice president and dean of admissions for enrollment management and graduate and pre-college strategy. ’Satya brings to Northeastern a deep knowledge of the admissions and enrollment landscape, and a demonstrated record of data-informed, strategic leadership spanning 15 years,’ Henderson wrote in an email to Northeastern faculty and staff…In Dattagupta’s six years at Tulane, he built the most diverse and academically strongest classes in the university’s history, Tulane officials said in an announcement. Dattagupta credited his use of focused, data-driven enrollment and recruitment practices with such growth—practices he’s been honing since his first brush with enrollment.”

Northeastern University, the Oakland A’s of Colleges

So it’s not like Northeastern is at all hiding its strategy. Much like how Major League Baseball’s Oakland A’s, under the leadership of the pioneering Billy Beane, tried to beat the big-market teams like the New York Yankees by playing the game a little bit differently — by harnessing the power of sabermetrics to compete (a.k.a. “Moneyball”) — Northeastern is trying to do the same with the Yankees of American universities, with the Harvards and Dartmouths and Dukes of America. And Northeastern’s new leader will likely be leaning into this strategy that has proven so effective for the Boston-based institution over the last couple of decades as it has risen from 162nd in the annual ranking to an astonishing 49th. But, much like in Major League Baseball with all teams now relying on sabermetrics, all universities now rely on data-driven analytics in admissions. So will the man aptly named Dattagupta be able to boost the university’s ranking even more over the years to come? Or will Northeastern’s ranking hold steady now that every American university from sea to shining sea is relying on data-driven analytics in the science of enrollment?

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