3 Reasons Why Higher Education Needs Data Governance Now


Colleges and universities are facing a number of challenges. As students demand a better, more personalized student experience, institutions rely on data to help them deliver the individualized experience students expect. And as funding models continue to evolve, colleges and universities need accurate, trustworthy data to prove they are moving the needle on retention and graduation rates. But the reality for many institutions is that finding the data they need, understanding what it means, and trusting that it’s right is a challenge. To solve this challenge, we believe higher education needs data governance – now. And here’s three reasons why.

Reason #1: Multiple definitions exist for common terms such as “student”

How many times have you sat in a meeting where someone references the number of “students” on your campus? Since students are the lifeblood of your institution, chances are, it’s a lot. Now think about how many times the discussion shifts from the topic at hand to a discussion of what the data actually means? Does the data include full-time and part-time students? Is it degree-seeking only? What about continuing education? The list of questions goes on.

The reality is – and continues to be – that multiple definitions for the same term will exist in the data throughout your campus. And that’s ok. But you need a way for the people using the data to easily understand which definition applies. Data governance enables you to define the terms you use – in words everyone (even your faculty and staff) understand – so that everyone can feel confident they know which definition the data set they’ve included in the report is using. That way, when users are sharing the data, they can confidently answer questions like the ones above, and quickly steer the conversation back to the decision at hand.

Reason #2: Data is siloed across multiple systems and departments

If you look across the departments on your campus, chances are you’ll find a myriad of systems and processes that use data. And because those systems are often siloed within an individual school or department, it’s difficult to get a clear picture of all the data that exists on your campus. As an example, think about all the data you collect on a student. There’s demographic information captured in your student information system. There’s academic data that indicates if students are attending class and how they are performing academically. There might be even more data captured in your learning management system. And what about the data that indicates whether or not a student is engaged in campus life? All of these data points together can paint a picture of how likely – or not – a student is to succeed at your institution. But when this data exists across systems and departments, gaining a clear picture of the information available is a challenge.

Data governance helps to break down departmental silos by giving enterprise-wide visibility to the data that exists in the various systems across your campus. It helps you to establish processes so that you can define who has access to what data and document how they are defining it. And you can develop data sharing agreements to define how departments can share data with each other. Data governance also provides a way for users to identify problems with the data, and route them to the appropriate person for resolution. With data governance, you’re enabling your data users to find the data they need quickly, so they can put it to use to help students – and your institution – thrive.

Reason #3: Your future depends on it

Think about it. Data is the driving force behind much of what you do. It’s what helps you deliver a personalized student experience. It provides insight so you can identify when a student is at-risk of failing or dropping out. It helps you justify requests for additional funding by proving that your retention and completion rates are improving. Quite frankly, it’s the foundation for all your key decisions. So if you lack confidence in your data, your college or university will suffer. The data you collect – and the data you’re required to report on – is only going to grow. And if you’re struggling to find the data that you need, to understand what it means, and to trust that it is right, then you need data governance. It’s really that simple.

But don’t take our word for it. On October 4, Ron Layne, Manager of Data Quality and Data Governance at George Washington University is going to share how they used data governance to help make their data transparent and trustworthy. He’ll also share the principles, people, and policies you need to start a successful data governance program. You can register for the webinar here. Or you can read their case study on our website.

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