The Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP) has produced Toward Convergence: A Technical Guide for the Postsecondary Metrics Framework, a companion piece to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's February 2016 report, Answering the Call, which proposed a new metrics framework to measure the performance of higher education institutions.
The framework - intended to help policymakers, institutions, and consumers better understand how institutions are performing - draws on lessons learned from a decade of efforts by states and institutions to collect and use better data.
Toward Convergence provides important, foundational details that support and build on the findings outlined in Answering the Call and enumerates the technical details of the newly proposed framework. In particular: Postsecondary education currently is data rich but information poor, and improving data quality, transparency, and use is imperative for more students to gain access to and succeed in higher education.
To produce its in-depth report, IHEP analyzed the metrics and definitions used by institutional and state initiatives, along with data specifications in national data collections, to identify points of consensus in the field. The resulting key metrics fall into three major categories:
- Performance metrics measure institutional performance related to student access, progress, completion, cost, and post-college outcomes.
- Driven by increased interest in college costs and affordability, efficiency measures consider how resources impact college completion.
- Equity measures seek to include all students and accurately represent the higher education experience of populations that are underserved and may have been "invisible" in other data collections.
"This report draws on the knowledge and experience of higher education leaders and experts to lay out in detail the metrics we should be collecting - and explains why those data will make a difference, for all students, but particularly for those who traditionally have been underserved by higher education," says Michelle Cooper, IHEP's president. "Until now, only some institutions have been willingly and voluntarily collecting data to answer critical questions about who attends college, who succeeds in and after college, and how college is financed. But the field needs a core set of comprehensive and comparable metrics and should incorporate those metrics into federal and state data systems. Doing so will make the data available for all students in all institutions, not only those who voluntarily collect and report it."
Coming on the heels of Answering the Call, IHEP's Toward Convergence details recommendations for metric definitions in the framework and adopts shared definitions from the field where there is consensus, while identifying where and why there are still divergent viewpoints on some items.
The report, however, is just the beginning. Over the long-term, IHEP will continue the conversation about postsecondary data and systems through its innovative initiative, the Postsecondary Data Collaborative (PostsecData), a coalition of more than three dozen organizations seeking to improve data quality, transparency and use. PostsecData, under IHEP's leadership, will act as the convener of ongoing advocacy and information-sharing around a long-term data and infrastructure improvement effort, working with partners to encourage institutions and policymakers to adopt the metrics framework as best practice nationwide.
Read more about Toward Convergence.