Performance-base rankings to affect higher ed planning

Lauren Williams's picture

This month the Department of Education will conduct public forums on college campuses across the country to discuss a possible federal college rating system that will determine student aid awards.

Many states today have already reconsidered the enrollment-based funding model and instead are allocating money to colleges and universities based on the number of students who complete courses and degrees.

According to a report released last month by the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems (NCHEMS) and Complete College America, 16 states have a funding formula in place—that’s four additional states since February 2013.

The funding formulas are based on performance indicators like course completion, time to degree, transfer rates, the number of degrees awarded, or the number of low-income and minority graduates. This illustration [see map] shows states that are already transitioning to some type of performance funding or are considering it.

Ten additional states are transitioning to some type of performance funding and more states have started the process with formal hearings held at the Legislature or meetings conducted by governing boards. Based on these changes, higher education institutions must focus on student success and retention to generate an acceptable rate of return and maintain financial viability.

The starting point is analytics. My favorite business quote from Peter Drucker is: "What gets measured gets managed.” Instinct will only go so far; schools will need to quantify the size of the problem to convince others to take action.

Today, higher education institutions are collecting more data than ever before. However, much of the data is being used to satisfy credentialing or reporting requirements rather than to address strategic planning questions. Much of the data collected are not used at all. The problem is not the amount of data, but the challenge of integrating it, and the time and expertise to analyze it.

That’s where professional analysis can help. Analytics:

  • provides evaluation of data to determine patterns unique to each school
  • helps mine and integrate vast amounts of information not normally connected
  • offers a predictive view of upcoming challenges
  • makes available a means to efficiently use available resources

Data should be used to identify the variables in student success. It’s not just about recording the data, but rather using the data to tell a story—a story that identifies trends and develops new ideas to help students be more successful at your institution.

At a time when our government will require more justification when credentialing and ranking an institution, the objective must be to use data analysis to promote retention, improve graduation rates and enhance loan repayment.

Ted Lannan is the Director of Market Research for Inceptia. More information can be found at