In an industry constantly measuring outcomes, data sets, comparisons, rankings and statistics , one would think it would be easy to compile a report on a university’s performance. The real answer is quite the opposite.
“One of the problems in reporting student outcomes is that you have so many different standards of measurement,” said Mark Stansberry, chairman of the Regional University System of Oklahoma Board of Regents. “It is challenging to arrive at common definitions and data sources that allow performance comparisons across universities.” Added to the effect is that several of the formulas don’t accurately account for nontraditional students. That can mean as much as 80 percent of RUSO graduates are not counted in some federal formulas.
To more accurately reflect the efficiency and effectiveness of RUSO’s six institutions, the system decided to take on the Herculean task of creating its own dashboard. A work group with a nucleus of six senior administrators from three institutions worked on the project with dozens of their colleagues across RUSO universities for nearly a year. The project was led by Mark Kinders, University of Central Oklahoma Vice-President for Public Affairs.
“We are grateful for the efforts of the work team and all who assisted in creating the dashboard,” Stansberry said. “It took tremendous time, diligence and thought to make sure RUSO was accurately capturing and comparing meaningful benchmarks.”
The team adopted 27 benchmarks to measure university performance. Some of the initial findings include:
RUSO institutions are “ladders” for social mobility and exceed the national average in helping students migrate from being among the most financially insecure college students to becoming one of the wealthiest American professionals. When compared to equally financially challenged students at hundreds of similar universities across the nation, 38 percent more RUSO graduates will rise to the highest income category.
Fewer than half of RUSO graduates have accumulated debt, which averages around $11,000.
RUSO students report a 90 percent satisfaction rate with their college experience in national surveys.
The median annual salary for RUSO graduates one year after graduation is $33,132, which was $4,280 higher than the median for all 43 Oklahoma two- and four-year public and private institutions.
“We created the dashboard to provide a useful lens in which to objectively assess the strengths,
gaps and opportunities of our six regional universities,” said Stansberry. “In the process we were able to show how we are fulfilling RUSO’s mission to provide an affordable, high-quality education.”
Stansberry noted that the dashboard for benchmarks is a working document. The team is currently entering the first annual reporting round for the benchmarks. It includes recommendations for further evaluation and timeline for gathering data.
“This first step opened up a dialogue between the campuses to agree on those data sets that reflect the distinct mission of our institutions to provide upward social mobility to our students through exceptional teaching and mentoring, “ said Kinders. “Our next step is to evaluate the process of collecting data and refine the analysis.”
The benchmarks for the dashboard were drawn from numerous sources including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation study “Answering the Call: Institutions and States Lead the Way Toward Better Measures of Postsecondary Performance,” the U.S. Department of Education’s “Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System,” the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education “Unitized Data System” and customized institutional data sources provided by campus senior administrators.