Technology

Higher-Ed Groups Join Forces to Promote Analytics

By / Aug 29, 2019 (gremlin/E+/Getty Images Plus)

Three higher-education associations are encouraging college and university leaders to embrace analytics as a way to improve strategic decision-making.

Three associations have joined forces to urge more colleges and universities to better use analytics. The National Association of College and University Business Officers, the Association for Institutional Research (AIR), and EDUCAUSE released a joint statement last week calling on higher-education institutions to “harness analytics for better strategic decision-making.”

The three groups have created the Change With Analytics website and are planning some upcoming events that will discuss analytics. Susan Johnston, president and CEO of NACUBO, said the goal is to get institutions to fully integrate analytics.

“I think institutions are using analytics, but I don’t believe that they are using analytics broadly or are using it as effectively as possible,” Johnston said.

In the statement, the groups recommend six guiding principles that lay the groundwork for analytics implementation:

  • Go big—make an institutional commitment to analytics
  • Analytics is a team sport—build your dream team
  • Prepare for some detours on the road to success
  • Invest what you can—you can’t afford not to
  • Analytics has real impact on real people—avoid the pitfalls
  • Tick-tock, tick-tock—the time to act is now.

While some larger schools have been able to fully integrate analytics, the use is very uneven across institutions. “It seems to me [examples] are focused on the biggest, most innovative institutions in the country,” Johnston said. “What are the mainstream institutions doing? What are most institutions doing? We would like to move the needle and have all the institutions benefit from analytics.”

The six principles are broad to allow universities to integrate those concepts in meaningful ways that will improve completion rates, campus operations, and much more. Johnston said it will also be important for schools to share data across departments.

“There is a lot of understandable, but not productive, ‘this data is my data, and you can get your data about your topic,’” Johnston said. “There is value in crossing over and looking at institution-wide uses of data.”

Johnston offered an example of how data-sharing can inform other departments. “You can take the data from food services and give it to residence life to see how new students are acclimating to their environment,” she said. “If students aren’t eating in the food services, but they are paying for that service, you might have a problem.”

The three associations came together on the issue as a way to showcase the power of collaboration. “We wanted to model what we think institutions should do,” Johnston said. “They need collaboration—a collaborative effort across the institutions.”

John O’Brien, president and CEO of EDUCAUSE, noted that light needs shining on this issue. “For a while now, our progress on institution-wide analytics initiatives has not hit its stride,” he said in a press release. “We hope this statement encourages a sense of urgency and fosters a deeper understanding of the benefits of data analytics for institutions of all kinds.”

Christine Keller, executive director and CEO of AIR, said analytics are key to all universities’ mission. “We all have a common goal—student success,” she said in the press release. “It’s time for an institution-wide commitment to the informed and ethical use of data analytics to help us reach that goal.”

Rasheeda Childress

Rasheeda Childress is an associate editor at Associations Now. She covers money and business. Email her with story ideas or news tips. More »

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