The University of Arizona is now tracking the swipes of freshman students' ID cards to better gauge which students will dropout.

The burden of student loans isn’t only felt by college graduates. College dropouts face a unique challenge – high debt burdens coupled with an inability to secure a higher-paying job because they don’t have a degree.

Meanwhile, one university is attempting to predict which students are most likely to quit their studies so advisers can step in to help. The University of Arizona is tracking the swipes of freshman students’ ID cards, following their behavior and using the findings as knowledge to lower the dropout rate, Gizmodo reported.

Every enrolled student at the university is given a CatCard student ID that can be used at hundreds of locations including residence halls and the student union, which includes a hair salon, movie theater, and more.

Researchers have used the data collected over three years and compared students’ time at school with about 800 data points, including academic performance.

“Of all the students who drop out at the end of the first year … we're able to do a prediction at the end of the first 12 weeks of the semester with 85 to 90 percent recall," according to Sudha Ram, a professor of management information systems at the school. “Out of the 2,000 students who drop out, we are able to identify 1,800 of them.”

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The university also uses the data collected to intervene with students identified as likely to drop out, in an effort to keep them engaged in school.

The university said the collected data is kept anonymous, an important point for those with privacy concerns. Students can’t be personally identified by their names or ID numbers. And when students are a dropout risk, only the student’s adviser is informed.

Dropouts Left With Debt and No Degree

College dropout rates are a big problem and reflect the challenges for the students who do so. About 45 percent of students who enter college don’t obtain a degree, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. Of the students who don’t finish their degree, the most common reason for not finishing studies is financial hardship, The Daily Tar Heel reported.

What these students who do not finish their degree have is massive debt. And college dropouts are four times as likely to default on loan payments versus graduates, according to a study by non-partisan think tank Education Sector.

As of the 2015-2016 fiscal year, 3.9 million undergraduate dropouts also had federal student loans. Sixty-four percent of dropouts had attended public universities, according to The Daily Tar Heel.

Image Copyright © Ken Lund