New report on scarcity of “useful” postsecondary data details what questions higher-ed institutions should answer

questions, institutions, dataAccording to a new report, there are basic questions institutions, with access to internal data, need to be able to answer—for themselves and for prospective students and the community. It’s up to institutions, notes the report, to help combat rising college costs and stagnating rates of completion through better collection and dissemination of data.

The report, “Mapping the Postsecondary Data Domain: Problems and Possibilities,”produced by the Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP) with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, says that while seemingly straightforward questions, such as “Which students have access to which colleges,” can’t easily be answered with current data available.

“A careful mapping of federal data systems against these questions shows that while we have a solid base of understanding in some areas, we fall far short in others,” notes the report.

And though many voluntary data initiatives have arisen in recent years to help fill these gaps, the report emphasizes that there is still a ways to go before critical questions can be answered.

“Colleges and universities hold a wealth of data beyond what is reported to governmental agencies, or even to voluntary initiatives or accrediting bodies,” notes the report. “And research has shown that deliberate use of that data as part of a data-driven culture can be the impetus for substantial improvements in student outcomes.”

(Next page: 4 questions institutions must answer)


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