The four strategic planning study groups charted courses that will result in data-informed recommendations and initiatives. Over the past several months, I worked with the study group members to determine the most helpful and meaningful sets of information.
The process began with identifying the general types of data needed and best methods to collect the information. As the process evolved, a data plan was developed which included (but was not limited to):
- Developing comparison sets for benchmarking purposes based on institutions meeting a wide-ranging variety of criteria:
- enrollment size
- price of attendance
- metrics of financial health and sustainability
- size of operating budget
- size of campus
- part-time and nontraditional enrollment
- enrollment of minority and international student, socio-economic and first-generation status
- high school preparation and academic achievement levels
- enrollment of students with special interests (i.e. study abroad, riding, athletics, outdoor programs)
- Conducting literature reviews to discover best practices for:
- digital sophistication
- college selection considerations
- program development
- market positioning
- Analyzing responses from newly-developed and existing surveys and focus groups to:
- develop profiles for various groups of students
- determine expectations for and levels of satisfaction with Sweet Briar
- identify Sweet Briar’s salient features that resonate and are shared amongst Sweet Briar students, faculty and staff, parents, alumnae, and community members
The timeline for data collection, analysis, and dissemination extends through the summer, however information is being provided as it is developed for committee members’ immediate use. The study groups have already used the information in a variety of ways.
For example, I recently created a database of the 241 private, four-year, liberal arts colleges containing enrollment levels (i.e. overall and by ethnicity, age, and full-or part time status), as well as institutional characteristics such as program offerings and size of campus. I presented the information to the Expand Whom We Serve group on June 23. After reviewing the initial data, the group developed a list of five specific data queries. One of the requests is to provide them with a list of the schools that are classified as rural, are a similar size (enrollment) to Sweet Briar, and have a significant percentage of minority populations, international students, and/or adult learners.
For the Competitive Advantage study group, I created a database listing the campus acreage for each of the 241 private, four-year, liberal arts colleges. After reviewing this information, the committee is working on researching each of the institution’s web sites to examine how other colleges and universities utilize large parcels of land.
Data is being retrieved and extracted from a number of sources including:
- national and regional datasets
- publications and published research
- associations and organizations, national surveys and studies
- consultant reports
- locally-developed surveys and focus groups
Once the data is collected it is being shared on an internal web site which is restricted to committee member use. While some of the data being utilized is publicly available, the majority of the information is being obtained from sources that limit the extent to which it can be shared externally.
Examples of publicly available data sources include the:
- U.S. Census Bureau
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
- National Center for Education Statistics (NCES)
National datasets with policies limiting use and dissemination for institutional audiences are early-release data files from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), and the Common Data Set (CDS) used to complete admissions guide book publications such as U.S. News, Peterson’s, and the Princeton Review.
Associations and organizations providing information resources include the:
- Council of Independent Colleges (CIC)
- Virginia Foundation for Independent Colleges (VFIC)
- Annapolis Group
- Women’s College Coalition
- Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Education
- National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA)
- Intercollegiate Horse Show Association (IHSA)
The national surveys or studies for which Sweet Briar has been a participant includes the:
- National Study of Instructional Costs and Productivity
- Higher Education Research Institute (HERI) surveys of freshmen, the first college year, college seniors and faculty
- National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) as well as the Beginning Student Survey of Student Engagement and the Faculty Survey of Student Engagement
- Admitted Student Questionnaire (ASQ) for enrolling and non-enrolling admitted students
- Hardwick Day Comparative Alumnae Research Study
Finally locally-developed surveys and focus groups are being conducted with students, faculty and staff, alumnae, and community members.
As data mining and analysis continue over the summer, data queries and research questions continue to grow exponentially and I echo a study group committee member as she exclaimed, “Whoa! That’s a lot of data!” However, I am convinced that the increasing requests for information are a direct indicator of the degree to which refined data is informing the College’s strategic planning process. Quite frankly, this “data geek” couldn’t be more delighted!
Director of Institutional ResearchCategories: Process