Invited Speakers

Data Rich, but Information Poor: The Value of Improving Federal Data Systems

Thursday, June 19th at 8:30 a.m.

Amanda Janice Roberson, Assistant Director for Research and Policy, Institute for Higher Education Policy

Accurate and complete data can empower college choices, promote student success, and inform federal, state and institutional policies. Yet existing postsecondary student data systems are disconnected, duplicative, incomplete, inefficient, and burdensome. Worst of all, we cannot answer pressing questions about student success and educational equity. This presentation will outline why a federal student-level data network (SLDN) would be useful and how it might be structured.

Recent IHEP research underscores the need for a coordinated and comprehensive network that leverages data from existing federal systems to paint a more complete picture of student outcomes. Reliance on relevant privacy and security principles, effective data governance strategies, and clear operations and capacity requirements can create a secure and effective student-level data network that answers essential questions about access, progression, completion, cost and post-college outcomes today.

We can protect students’ right to information alongside their right to privacy. Student privacy and data security are integral to the development of a federal SLDN. There are ways to mitigate risk and still provide students, policymakers, and institutions with valuable, aggregate information for decision-making.

The Financial Resilience of Independent Colleges and Universities

Sunday, June 17th at 4:15 p.m.

Michael Williams, founder of the Austen Group, now a division of Ruffalo Noel Levitz

The Council of Independent Colleges has been providing an annual benchmarking report called the Financial Indicators Tool (FIT) for its members for over a decade. This report is based upon the Composite Financial Index (CFI) developed by Tahey, Salluzzo, Prager, Mezzina, and Cowen in 1980 and updated through the years in the various editions of Strategic Financial Analysis for Higher Education. The CFI’s blend of limited complexity and remarkable clarity has proved useful in presenting the basics of financial health for colleges and universities to administrators and board members. With 14 years of CFI scores for the majority of Carnegie Bachelors and Master’s private institutions, we decided to take look at the financial health of these institutions as reflected in the CFI over time. What we discovered was that this group of institutions fared surprisingly well even though this period of time (FY 2001 through FY 2014) included several years of national economic turmoil. This is a finding that some might not have predicted given the very public closing of several independent institutions in recent years. In addition, we looked at the characteristics of institutions whose CFI scores improved over this period of time and the characteristics of institutions whose scores went down. We all have our hunches what the characteristics of these two categories would be, but as we looked into this aspect of the research once again there were surprises. This presentation will be a review of our research.

Invited Speaker Bios

Amanda Janice Roberson

Amanda Janice Roberson is Assistant Director for Research and Policy at the Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP), where she helps to lead the policy research team. Her research interests include college access, affordability and success; using data to inform policy and practice; and federal higher education policy. Much of her work at IHEP centers on postsecondary data, metrics, and infrastructure, including contributions to the postsecondary metrics framework. Prior to joining IHEP, Amanda served as the assistant director for the Scholarship Fund of Alexandria, managing the scholarship program, assisting students with college financial aid, and tracking outcomes of program participants. This position sparked a passion for college access and success for low-income and underserved students.  Amanda earned her M.P.A. from the George V. Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs and B.A. in political science, both from Ohio University.

Michael Williams

Michael Williams started his professional life in academe as an English professor and the classroom was his main focus for over twenty years, most recently at William Jewell College near Kansas City. In the late 80’s the president asked Mike to lead a strategic planning group for the college, and even as a specialist in Victorian Literature, he saw the importance of data to support decision making. For the past fifteen years, Mike has worked with The Austen Group, now a part of Ruffalo Noel Levitz.  Today Mike’s time is divided between academic program planning on individual campuses and benchmarking reports for national associations. The Austen Group produces the Key Indicator and Financial Indicator Tools for the Council for Independent Colleges and the CCCU Financial Ratios Report for the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities.