With a primary responsibility for assuring quality and continuous institutional improvement, postsecondary accreditation agencies hold enormous power to improve student success, especially for low-income students and students of color. They also have a unique and critical responsibility to use data to inform their review efforts, evaluate their institutions' progress, and ensure that the institutions they oversee are providing equitable opportunities for all students.
Informing Improvement: Recommendations for Enhancing Accreditor Data-Use to Promote Student Success and Equity, authored by the Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP) and EducationCounsel, highlights this imperative, illustrates model practices, and identifies actionable opportunities for accreditors to strengthen their data-use to ensure that their institutions are promoting student success and serving students equitably.
The report puts forth three key recommendations as opportunities for accreditors to build upon and strengthen their data-use practices to promote student success and make equity a real and meaningful priority:
- Embed data-use into routine practice: Accreditors should use data to explicitly inform their focus and conclusions by routinely leveraging existing federal data sources and, when necessary, requiring reporting of additional quantitative student outcome data directly from their institutions;
- Emphasize equity: Accreditors should make equity a higher priority by requiring disaggregation of quantitative outcome metrics by at least race/ethnicity and income; and
- Increase transparency about data-use practices: Accreditors should build on the progress established in the Council of Regional Accrediting Commissions' graduation rate report and increase the transparency to the public regarding how they collect and use data in their review processes.
The new report was informed by insights shared during a convening of national, regional, and programmatic accreditation agencies, and individual interviews with accreditors. It profiles several promising data-use practices among accreditors and recognizes the role of federal policymakers in supporting accreditors by improving the availability of accurate and timely outcomes data.
This work builds on IHEP's longstanding history of advocating for improved data-use to promote student success. Currently, IHEP leads the Postsecondary Data Collaborative, an initiative to advocate for the use of high-quality postsecondary data to promote educational equity, evaluate and inform federal, state, and institutional policies, and empower college choices.