Increasing student success, reducing administrative costs and improving system and campus capacity to use data are the goals of a two-year grant awarded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to the National Association of System Heads (NASH). Stephanie Huie, Ph.D., interim vice chancellor for UT System strategic initiatives, has been appointed to chair the national advisory committee that will oversee the project.
The project will assess the role of higher education systems in institutional research and how that may change to improve data capacity to measure and improve institutional performance.
“The goals of this project strongly align with Chancellor Cigarroa’s Framework for Advancing Excellence,” said Huie. “It emphasizes finding and improving efficiencies and reducing costs, both of which are emphasized throughout the Framework. But it is the larger purpose of the project—the intent to cultivate data‐driven decision‐making in an effort to improve performance—that gets at the heart of the Framework’s drive to advance a culture of innovation and positive change.”
Huie oversees the UT System Productivity Dashboard, a groundbreaking tool that provides detailed data at the click of a mouse or the tap of a screen. The Dashboard gives parents, students, and stakeholders easy access to graduation rates, degree costs and other important information to assess the effectiveness and productivity of UT System's 15 institutions.
Huie emphasizes the need to reassess how information is communicated to various stakeholders, keeping in mind that one size does not fit all. Communicators must become more data savvy, and analysts must become better communicators.
“Whether in the area of student success, where there is a long history of metrics and reporting, or in resource management, which is emerging as a critical area for research—data, information and analytics are the key to moving forward,” Huie said. “Even in areas of traditional interest, access to new and expanding datasets could revolutionize the patterns and connections we can find and, thus, our ability to affect change.”
The project will be conducted in partnership with the Association for Institutional Research, a national membership-based association of institutional research professionals in higher education. The work will begin with a survey of system institutional research offices and will be supplemented with focus groups and interviews of personnel in public institutional research offices. After the completion of the baseline descriptive work, the project will shift to a pilot effort among systems wishing to model best practices in system/campus institutional research.
The committee includes experts from five other systems: University of California, State University of New York, University of North Carolina, Oregon University and the University of Wisconsin. In addition to Huie, Kristi Fisher, associate provost of information management and analysis at UT Austin is serving on the committee.
Educating students, providing care for patients, conducting groundbreaking research and serving the needs of Texans and the nation for more than 130 years, The University of Texas System is one of the largest public university systems in the United States, with nine academic universities, six health institutions and a fall 2012 enrollment of roughly 216,000. The UT System confers more than one-third of the state’s undergraduate degrees, educates two-thirds of the state’s health care professionals annually and accounts for almost 70 percent of all research funds awarded to public universities in Texas. The UT System has an annual operating budget of $13.9 billion (FY 2013) including $3.1 billion in sponsored programs funded by federal, state, local and private sources. With more than 87,000 employees, the UT System is one of the largest employers in the state.