The Value of Leading Indicators

Sep 18, 2020

In our previous post in the Black Swan series, we discussed with several of our client analytic leaders the difficulty of using institutional data to make predictions in this volatile year. But don’t throw out all of your asterisked data just yet! The consensus among our clients was to use this data in the short term to develop leading indicators: data points that look forward at future events and identify what is influencing the outcomes.

Leading indicators are not necessarily predictive but can be correlated with future outcomes and reveal patterns, trends, and changes in student behavior. Though enrollment and retention data are typically the biggest focus, leading indicators are also critical in finance, human resources, and academic operations. Declining non-resident enrollment may indicate potential budget shortfalls for institutions with differential tuition rates. Changes in a three-year rolling average of students enrolled in a particular program may indicate declining popularity and an increased delivery cost per student. All of these factors impact the institution’s overall health.

Leading indicators depend on clean, trusted data that managers and leaders understand and agree on, so that the focus of the conversation is taking action, rather than discussing whose numbers are correct. To develop leading indicators, consider your top priorities for institutional stability and success. By setting goals and benchmarks based on these indicators, you can turn your data into actionable information, even in an unpredictable year.

The video below is the second segment in a series from a conversation ASR's Higher Ed practice had in July 2020 with several of our client analytic leaders, about the impacts of the year's events on their use of analytics. In this segment, you will hear the voice of Moderator John Van Weeren, Principal at ASR; and Greg Flanik, Chief Information Officer at Baldwin Wallace University. Dr. Nicola Richmond, Chief Strategist and Vice Chancellor of Strategy, Analytics and Research at Pima Community College; Dr. David Kowalski, Associate Vice President for Institutional Effectiveness and Strategic Innovation; and Dr. Nick Wagner, Executive Director of Institutional Effectiveness at Saginaw Valley State University, also participated in the conversation.