July 14 2016

Colleges and universities are bursting with valuable student data at every corner. How this data is collected and in what ways it is applied is critical for success at any institution. But is there such a thing as too much data? And how exactly do you translate numbers and figures into meaningful metrics that directly inform your enrollment strategies? These guidelines will ensure that you effectively turn research data into action.

higher ed professionals study enrollment data

What Quality Data Do You Need?

Simply put, most campuses collect too much data. As the Credo adage goes, "You can never have enough, but you can have too much." Rather than stockpiling all the information you can possibly get your hands on, it is far more important to have a plan in place — to have a clear understanding of the why associated with your data. Why are we collecting this? What purpose does it serve? Most importantly, what will we do with this data? This is how data collection is simplified and how enrollment becomes data-driven. 

So what helps steer colleges and universities towards the enrollment data they need? Start by determining what a significant step looks like for your institution. Ask yourself: When our target audience makes a move we can measure, is it significant enough to warrant being measured? Taking part in an on-campus guest experience, for instance, is generally a significant indicator of interest and potential to commit. If guest experience visits are up, it’s a good sign that enrollment is on track. Such is also the case with the number of admitted students and student deposits.

The right measures should be leading, not just lagging indicators.  Your fall new student goal is an example of a lagging indicator.  When the turnstiles stop spinning in the fall you either made it or you did not, but it is too late to do something about it.  Leading indicators could be annualized goals with monthly targets for campus visits or admits; tracking your progress this way allows for mid-course corrections and more effective planning.

Data-Inspired Action is Critical

Once you have begun regularly collecting valuable data, it is time to start drawing conclusions and either celebrating or course-correcting. If you continually feel like every study prompts another study and so forth, it probably means you are always looking and not concluding. The right data, examined comparatively, will clearly separate blip from trends. Use data analysis to set strategy: to engage others on your team, both to provide another set of eyes and also as a professional growth step for young professionals.

Remember the why. If you make an investment and expect enrollment numbers to follow without carefully evaluating developing trends of concerns in what the data is telling you, you could be setting yourself up for failure. It is important to make sure that what you have invested in isn't producing false positives. For instance, a vast name purchase that doubles your applications doesn’t actually mean much unless you enroll more new students.  In this case your investment might actually hinder, not help.

focus is Key to Action on Data Research 

Taking action on research findings should be a foundational and regular discipline. By embedding the practice of data gathering and drawing conclusions about that data into the department’s framework, you are setting a pattern of thoughtful investments and clear strategic assessment.

Equally important is the practice of communicating those conclusions to the entire department and internal stakeholders. Regularly distributing metrics updates and response plans keeps key internal audiences aware of the findings and gives them the opportunity to contribute to the plan based on their own knowledge and expertise. It also builds confidence in your ability to lead and deliver on enrollment results.

Confidence alone will not lead to enrollment gains. You must have a plan, and it must be driven by research and action.

If you’re looking to start incorporating data research into your enrollment action, contact an expert at Credo today.


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