Studies of the IR Field

The Association for Institutional Research conducts research, assessment, and evaluations on a variety of topics of interest to IR professionals and is committed to making data and resources available to AIR members and the greater higher education community. This section of the AIR website provides links to papers, research, and reports about the field.

Institutions’ Use of Data and Analytics for Student Success: Results from a National Landscape Analysis

AIR partnered with NASPA and EDUCAUSE on a national survey to gain a better understanding of higher education’s use of data and analytics for student success, and institutions’ readiness to expand the use of information across functional areas. Nearly 1,000 IR, student affairs, and IT professionals across public, private, two- and four-year U.S. higher education institutions responded to the survey. Results of the survey were published in a report released April 11, 2018.  

A New Vision for Institutional Research

Are data and reporting burdens a product of the prevailing structure of institutional research? Can a new model for IR address the real-world management needs of modern postsecondary education? These questions are addressed in a newly released Change magazine article produced by AIR entitled A New Vision for Institutional Research. The concepts presented in this piece are not a prediction of some distant future, but rather, a reflection of the current environment in higher education.

Envisioning the National Postsecondary Infrastructure in the 21st Century

America's students, policymakers, and institutions need better information about our postsecondary system, especially in this era of rising college costs and stagnating completion rates. To address this problem, the Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP) convened an expert working group to develop targeted recommendations for improving the national postsecondary data infrastructure. As a result of this working group, AIR published a paper entitled Institutional Research Capacity: Foundations of Federal Data Quality. The paper is one of six in the series authored or co-authored by AIR members. The entire series consists of 11 policy papers designed to inform state and federal data policy conversations. 

National Survey of Institutional Research Offices

The National Survey of IR Offices, administered in 2015, established a baseline of IR Office capacities. This inquiry sought to document the characterizations of IR Offices as they exist in 2015, including scope of work, reporting lines, staffing, and fiscal resources. Guiding questions included: How many people work in the IR Office? What tasks are assigned to the IR Office? What fiscal investments do institutions make in their IR Offices?

Defining Institutional Research: Findings from a National Study of IR Work Tasks: A Focus on Senior IR/IE Leaders

AIR sought to identify the tasks involved in the work of IR across all titles and variations represented in its membership. Position descriptions and announcements for vacant positions—contributed by AIR members—were used to create a draft typology of IR work tasks. The collected tasks were shared with AIR members in a survey format to determine the relevance of the tasks and the frequency with which the tasks are done, and to identify who does the work entailed with the tasks. The first in-depth exploration of the data from this study focused on the tasks relevant to the work of senior IR and senior institutional effectiveness (IE) leaders.

System Office Role in Institutional Research

AIR partnered with the National Association of System Heads (NASH) to conduct research funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to examine public system/campus roles in institutional research. NASH coordinated the project and AIR assisted with the development of two surveys that addressed the organizational structure and major functions of IR offices, as well as how systems and campuses collect and exchange data. Data were collected using surveys of over 100 questions delivered electronically to the senior IR professional at 48 systems and 361 campuses in the United States.

Postsecondary Institution Ratings System (PIRS)

A random sample of 513 members were surveyed about their awareness of and engagement with PIRS.

IR Dashboards

A random sample of 467 members were surveyed about their use of data dashboards.

Data Feedback Reports

A random sample of 497 members were surveyed about their familiarity with the IPEDS Data Feedback Reports (DFRs).

College Affordability and Transparency List

A random sample of 159 AIR members were surveyed about their familiarity with the College Affordability and Transparency List.

The Quality of National Data: IR Professionals' Ratings

A random sample of 490 AIR members were surveyed about the quality of 11 large-scale data sets often used in IR studies.

IR Professionals' Familiarity with FERPA

A random sample of 498 AIR members were surveyed about FERPA-related training and their comfort with FERPA.


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