Illinois’ Governors State University Uses Clearinghouse Data to Benefit Students and Campus
In a two-part series, Marco A. Krcatovich, II, Governors State University’s Director of the Office of Institutional Research and Effectiveness, discusses how they used National Student Clearinghouse data to make a difference on campus and in the state of Illinois.
Governors State University, 40 miles south of Chicago, enrolls more than 5,000 students from the city, suburbs, and rural areas. When I started working here in 2014, the university began using the National Student Clearinghouse’s StudentTracker® service as a regular feature of our reporting set to understand the enrollment of students who did not accept our offer of admission and for students who enrolled at other institutions after leaving our campus.
In looking at students who did not accept our offer of admission to our new, first-year cohort (we began offering lower division courses in 2014), we found that some students attended another institution. But, there was also a sizeable population that did not attend any institution after they did not accept our offer of admission. This gap has closed a little bit over the last few years. But at that time, it was a pretty sizeable gap of students.
Our freshmen classes only run about 200 to 240 student, so it’s not a massive data set. The small class size allows us to make follow-up calls to ensure that we’re doing our due diligence. During those calls, we were able to confirm that a number of our admitted students decided to go nowhere instead of attending any college or university.
Using StudentTracker has been really helpful for us. We did the same analysis on transfer students and found a smaller, but still measurable, effect on the gaps for transfer students. The Clearinghouse data, plus our outreach, helped the university come to some conclusions and address those gaps.
When we come across data that’s helpful for people to understand the university or how to do their job better, we want to make sure we get it in front of our campus community. We presented our data to our President’s Cabinet and campus as part of a series of lunchtime sessions by my staff on university data. At a presentation, Governors State President Elaine Maimon encouraged us to add this data to our presentation to the state.
In 2015, we started presenting our StudentTracker data to the state in public written and oral testimony. For two years, our President used the data as a part of our annual budget testimony against the backdrop of the state budget crisis. We wanted to demonstrate that it is important to examine our competitiveness across the country for all populations and not just those leaving the state. We reminded policymakers that Illinois has a sizeable population of college-ready students who are not attending a college or university at all and request the resources that are needed to close this gap.
However, it was not until 2017 and early 2018 that the data resonated with policymakers.
In preparation for a fall 2017 state of Illinois legislative testimony, we conducted studies of our first three freshmen classes since fall 2014 who were admitted, but did not enroll. We found that 33-40 percent of those admitted and designated as “college-ready” did not go to any institution of any type.
When we offered this information to the legislature, it dramatically shifted the discussion away from discussing simple out-migration to a statewide commitment to better track and work with these students and identify resources to help them make the choice to attend any postsecondary institution. Our use and publicity about the Clearinghouse data reshaped the statewide narrative among our legislators and resulted in more interest in using this data statewide.
Our second article in this two-part series will discuss how Governors State and the Illinois legislature used the data to help foster a new grant to make college more affordable for students throughout the state.