In May 2017, the American Council on Education invited over 40 higher education thought leaders, analytics experts, chief institutional research officers, chief information officers, and presidents from colleges and universities across the nation to participate in a daylong exploration of the data challenges faced by postsecondary leaders as they seek to improve student outcomes, promote equity and inclusion, and create more sustainable organizational models.
The 2017 convening saw a robust dialogue from which two primary themes emerged: 1) the presence of structural, cultural, and technical obstacles that limit the effective use of data, and 2) the growing importance of data-enabled executives and campuses. Participants expressed the importance of data-informed decision making for institutions, particularly as a variety of social, political, economic, and technological changes have converged to undermine the effectiveness of traditional higher education business models. They gave voice to some of the difficulties that emerge when institutional leaders seek to use data to monitor and track performance in a more cohesive manner. Ultimately, participants agreed that college and university leaders need to be better equipped to handle the opportunities and challenges that result from efforts to implement data analytics. This paper seeks to highlight what some of those needs are.