Last week, the Institute for Higher Education Policy partnered with the Association for Institutional Research (AIR) and the American Council on Education (ACE) to host Leadership in Enhancing Postsecondary Data Policy and Analytics to Improve Student Outcomes, a half-day data policy summit. Over 70 institutional leaders and policy influencers shared successes, challenges, and opportunities for data-use to shape policies aimed at improving student outcomes.
IHEP has long-championed the use of high-quality postsecondary data to improve student outcomes and drive policy decisions. The summit featured institutional voices and explored the importance of data-informed decision-making. Participants also shared their take on data policy discussions happening at the federal and state levels.
Each attendee acknowledged that while we do have a great deal of data, we don’t always have good information.
Here are a few key insights from the conversation:
- Effective data use is about relationships – across campus offices, among institutions, and with the policy community – as much as it is about crunching numbers. As a community, we must work together to advance student success. We must share our data-use successes and lessons with others.
- Institutional context shapes how data is infused into decision-making. Each campus is different. Some institutional researchers empower their presidents, provosts, and deans to “speak data,” rather than limiting this expertise to only the institutional research (IR) office, while others ensure that the IR director is a cabinet-level position engaged in all leadership conversations.
- State and federal policymakers want to hear how institutions use data to support student success. Data-use stories are impactful, especially when key policy-making opportunities emerge, such as the Higher Education Act reauthorization.
The summit also included a robust conversation about the College Transparency Act and the role that a federal student-level data network can play in answering critical questions about our students. Questions such as:
- What are national completion rates for part-time and transfer students of color?
- Which students go on to succeed in the workforce?
- How do college access, affordability, and completion vary by race, ethnicity, and income?
Participants discussed the ways this legislation might address many of our national data infrastructure challenges, the importance of strong privacy and security protections, and its potential impact on institutional reporting and analytics.
Over the past several years, college leaders have shared how thoughtful data-use informs efforts to improve student success, and how federal and state data policies shape their work. In 2016, IHEP released Leading With Data, which detailed many of those lessons.
IHEP will continue celebrating institutional leaders who use data to increase access, promote success, and narrow equity gaps. And we’ll work with institutions, states, and lawmakers to advance data-informed policies that help all students succeed.