How many dollars does it take to save a student?

Identifying students on the brink of dropping out is difficult. Even more difficult is implementing methods to prevent student attrition. There is no silver bullet or one-size-fits-all solution. Still, institutions are forced to maximize the efficiency of each dollar spent given tightening budgets and more data-focused approaches to education efficacy.

Here at Upswing, we work to demonstrate clear returns on investment (ROI) for our partner schools. Every time a student drops out, a school loses thousands of dollars in tuition and other student fees. The factors that contribute to attrition are as diverse as the students themselves. But with high quality online tutoring and academic support, we see consistent improvements in students’ academic performance.

Improved grades result in money saved for colleges. Thus, we can estimate how efficient a service is at improving matriculation by roughly calculating ROI for each academic year:

  • ∑ (salvaged tuition — service contract cost)/service contract cost; From i->n, where n is student population who used Upswing at each school.

We can further relate this ROI to the break-even point. This is an estimate of the number of students whose tuition needs to be salvaged:

  • Annual service contract cost/average tuition cost for the academic year

Many administrators are surprised when we tell them that given Upswing’s low costs, a vast majority of our schools will reach this break-even point after obviating attrition for <4% of students.

Here, we show comparisons of the break-even point to our estimates of aided students for a few of our schools. (Numbers for each school are multiplied by a constant to obfuscate actual values while keeping ROI the same).

Then, based on the previous estimation of ROI, the percentages for each of these schools are as follows:

The ROI in this sample population ranges from ~12–150%. Thanks to the efficacy of our tutoring model, >90% of our schools fall in this range after a year of usage.

Even without including the compounding effects of tuition losses from attrition, we consistently estimate positive ROI for the vast majority of our partners. However, although it only takes a handful of students to bring a positive ROI for most schools, it takes high-quality tutors and ample support to make those students successful. As industry-leading retention experts, Upswing’s focus is student success. Through tailored software, professional tutoring support, and data analytics, we provide our partner schools the tools and insights they need to help their students succeed. If you’d like to find out more about how partnering with Upswing can deliver a positive ROI for your school’s retention efforts, get in touch with us at

Originally published at

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