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Postsecondary Education

NCES 2006-160
May 2006

5. Data Analysis and Reporting

5.1 Comparison and Complexity

Market conditions and complexity are realities for postsecondary institutions that are under pressures to focus on improvement, to find their market niche, and to be competitive. Competition for potential students may require institutions to make greater investments in faculty, in student financial aid, and in physical plant improvements. Consequently, they must monitor and measure their current internal conditions so that they can make needed operational changes and allocate resources to programmatic priorities, as well as have a clear understanding of their relative market and qualitative position compared with competitors.

Demands for greater accountability and for more consumer information mean that more external reporting is also a reality for postsecondary institutions. States make decisions on the fair and equitable allocation of resources for operations and for capital improvements among public colleges and universities. Having comparable information on facilities, finance, faculty, and students for institutions within a state as well as for peer institutions is extraordinarily important to states’ policy and decision-making processes.

Many states collect facilities inventories for public institutions. These data may be used for a multiplicity of purposes, including determining the allocation of maintenance and operations funds among colleges and completing space utilization studies that may be used to determine the need for, and relative priority of, new facilities. In addition, a number of states conduct facilities audits to support capital budget requests for renovation and renewal of facilities. Thus, postsecondary institutions are involved in collecting and analyzing information for themselves and for others as well. This information helps colleges and universities communicate more effectively, build credibility, and develop the case for additional financial support from donors and government agencies.

In summary, facilities data collections are used internally for management purposes, to establish strategic directions, and to build support for additional resources. States use facilities data for accountability reporting, for informing consumers, and in the budgetary process.