While ambiguity will continue to exist in the metric definitions provided by many external reporting agencies, institutions can take action to improve their confidence in the reliability and consistency of their externally reported institutional statistics. We have outlined three key elements of the institutional data process for further consideration.
Primary Data Collection is the process of collecting data from the distributed areas of an institution such as colleges, departments and academic units. This data includes such items as faculty resources, post-graduation employment rates, and timely graduation rates. Since the data exists in a wide variety of environments across an institution, it is highly subject to the risk of inconsistent definition and collection.
Central Data Collection and Review includes the collection and review of data submitted by those completing the Primary Data Collection, as well as the collection of data managed centrally. Financial resource information, graduation rates, and alumni support are often collected centrally, as is a significant portion of enrollment data. The team performing Central Data Collection and Review often has central data collection as a primary responsibility, resulting in more robust processes over data collection and analysis. The Central Data Collection and Review process is critical to the integrity of institutional data reporting.
Once all the pertinent data has been gathered, two key steps remain. First, the institution must ensure the data collected is the data submitted. While this seems straightforward, it is a key step in avoiding erroneous or intentional misstatement.
Second, consideration should be given to how the data underlying the submissions is retained. This step is important should questions arise subsequent to the submission, as underlying systems often do not retain historical information.
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