Computer Data

Institutions' Use of Data and Analytics for Student Success: Results From a Landscape Analysis

Supporting the Profession Assessment, Evaluation, and Research Enrollment Management Orientation, Transition and Retention Technology Mid-Level Senior Level
April 10, 2018 Darlena Jones, Ph.D. D. Christopher Brooks Alexis Wesaw Dr. Amelia Parnell

NASPA-Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education, the Association for Institutional Research (AIR), and EDUCAUSE have conducted a national landscape analysis to examine how institutional research (IR), student affairs, and information technology (IT) professionals are working together to support students. 

The three higher education associations jointly developed and launched a national survey of their memberships to identify trends in the types of student success data projects that institutions conduct, the structures in place for sharing data among multiple users, the level of coordination across functions, and how institutions are using data to inform interventions and program delivery. This report reflects responses from nearly 1,000 IR, student affairs, and IT professionals across public, private, two- and four-year institutions across the United States and concludes with four recommendations for improving and executing an institution-wide, data-informed strategy for student success.

As higher education institutions in the United States strive to maximize their use of resources to better support students, it is now even more critical for professionals to make data-informed decisions. Currently, most institutions are gathering an abundance of data from multiple sources, which provides a good opportunity for functional units, divisions, and departments to share timely and relevant data and to collaboratively deliver programs and services. Three of many integral units involved in data-informed strategies are institutional research (IR), student affairs, and information technology (IT). Thus, three higher education membership associations— the Association for Institutional Research (AIR), NASPA–Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education, and EDUCAUSE—partnered to conduct a survey that examined the current landscape of higher education’s use of data and analytics for student success.

This report describes a variety of challenges and opportunities regarding institutions’ readiness to expand data use across functions. The results include distinctions by size and sector of institution as well as by professional role. Among the many findings that highlight how IT, IR, and student affairs divisions are engaged in collaborative data-oriented work, three are especially relevant to this discussion:

  • Although primary data-oriented roles and responsibilities for IR, IT, and student affairs are somewhat siloed, these units are contributing to institutionwide goals of improving student success.
  • Most institutions are investing in data and analytics projects, but few are measuring the resulting costs.
  • For most institutions, first-year students are the main focus of multiple student success studies.

The research identified four core areas for institutions to consider when conducting student success studies. As institutional leaders evaluate their current governance structures, policies, and procedures for executing data-informed projects, the recommendations offer a starting point for reexamining cross-functional data use. Specifically, senior leaders could benefit from expanding roles for IR, IT, and student affairs professionals; transcending or removing certain organizational silos and strategically communicating across all position levels; prioritizing the measuring of student outcomes; and increasing the use of qualitative data, especially from students.

For additional information on the roles of IR, IT, and student affairs on campus, the collaboration between these groups, and a summary of this report, check out the primer Data and Analytics for Student Succes: A Focus on Collaboration Between Institutional Research, Student Affairs, and Information Technology.

Suggested citation is: Parnell, A., Jones, D., Wesaw, A., & Brooks, D. C. (2018). Institutions’ use of data and analytics for student success: Results from a national landscape analysis.Washington, DC: NASPA–Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education, the Association for Institutional Research, and EDUCAUSE.