July 28, 2014

Seeking Comparative University Data

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Every year, colleges submit a list of “peer comparison” schools through the Department of Education in order to compare their institutional statistics and rankings with named schools. Back in 2012, The Chronicle of Higher Education published an interactive infographic to illustrate which schools were on each other’s lists. The results of the data analysis showed that many schools are checking out their peers, but also looking towards their higher education role models.

Some conclusions reached by the Chronicle of Higher Education include:

  • The typical college selected a comparison group of 16 colleges with a higher average SAT score and graduation rate than its own, lower acceptance rate, and larger endowment, budget, and enrollment.
  • The eight Ivy League colleges among them chose only 12 institutions outside their own number as peers—not surprisingly, often including the University of Chicago, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Stanford University.
  • 55 colleges outside of the Ivy League selected at least one member of that group for comparison. Some of those colleges, such as Tufts University and New York University, are rich private research institutions.
  • The 107 most intensive research universities, as classified by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, also tended to choose one another as peers. Among them they selected only 65 institutions outside their number as peers, while 234 other colleges chose one of those intensive-research institutions.

In analyzing the data, it is clear that many of these institutions don’t consider these lists to be true “peer” studies. Receiving this data is an opportunity to peek into the world of their more successful competitors. Heather Ann Kelly, director of the Office of Institutional Research at Delaware, says “If you took a look at your actual peers, the likelihood is that you stand up pretty well with them,” Ms. Kelly says. “In order to make progress, you want to be shedding light on not just your strengths, but also your weaknesses.”

Another way to analyze your own school’s data is to employ a robust data reporting software such as AMP Paperless Admissions. AMP compiles admissions data and can generate customized reports for information such as demographics, admissions rates, GPA, test scores, and more.



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