IR Priorities

What’s on your to-do list? The top priorities of IR offices for 2014-2015

Higher education continues to be pressured to report information to a wide variety of stakeholders to use for decisions. Campuses are responding to increased requests from federal and state education departments, senior campus leaders, and even current and prospective students. Institutional research is at the center of these information and reporting needs.

The Association for Institutional Research (AIR) conducted a survey in fall 2014 to determine members’ top IR priorities for the 2014-2015 academic year.

2014-2015 College/University IR Office Top Priorities

We asked respondents to name the top two priorities for their IR office. We coded the data and found:

  • 40% of respondents’ priorities related to planning and decision support (e.g., conducting retention and graduation rate research projects, supporting the efforts of institutional strategic planning, and conducting cost analyses)
  • 26% related to accreditation and compliance efforts (e.g., reporting timely information to regional accreditors, reporting on program assessment projects, and supporting academic program assessment)
  • 20% of respondents’ priorities related to improving data access and reporting (e.g., establishing a data warehouse, moving user data online for easier access, and improving IR’s access to data)
  • 4% related to improving data management and integrity (e.g., improving data integrity and improving data collection processes)

We disaggregated these top priorities by sector and found approximately 43% of public 4-year and 45% of private, not-for-profit, 4-year respondents’ priorities were related to planning and decision support while only 20% of respondents form public 2-year institutions reported similar tasks.

A little more than half of respondents said their current available resources are sufficient to perform these priority tasks/functions, 44% said they would need additional resources, and the remaining were unsure. 
Ideal IR Top Priorities for 2014-2015
We asked college and university IR professionals what they think the top IR priorities should be for the 2014-2015 academic year.  Most (69%) said their IR office was working on the right tasks. However, 31% said they were not and identified 34 ideal top priorities:
  • 44% of those ideal priorities were related to planning and decision support (e.g., supporting decisions informed by IR data and providing data that helps the institution respond proactively to trends)
  • 12% were related to accreditation and compliance efforts (e.g., creating a comprehensive institutional effectiveness plan and working to improve processes to satisfy state and federal reporting)

This study identifies areas of priority for IR offices and differences in priorities between institution types. Understanding how IR is structured and delivered is the basis of a large project AIR is conducting.  The National Survey of IR Offices will explore the tasks and functions, staffing and financial resources, and the clients and colleagues of the IR Office. Please plan to participate in this exciting study; we begin data collection this spring with a final report delivered in the fall.   

How do these findings about IR priorities resonate with your work? Share your thoughts and comments below.



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