Academic journal article College and University

What We Learned: A Look Back at the Findings of the 2015 AACRAO Research Agenda

Academic journal article College and University

What We Learned: A Look Back at the Findings of the 2015 AACRAO Research Agenda

Article excerpt

Thanks to the active and ongoing participation of our membership, 2015 was a productive year for AACRAO research. Among other insights, we learned about staffing for admissions and registrars, data quality practices, transcript and admissions practices, the career profile of a registrar, international student recruitment practices, and practices for tracking student identity preferences. These initiatives were designed to help meet our research goals:

* Contribute to a better understanding of the factors and conditions that impact higher education academic and enrollment services.

* Use the Research Advisor Board to engage the membership in determining the focus of the research.

* Develop new insights and information for our members to help them successfully lead their institutions in a continually evolving environment.

* Maintain current partnerships and develop new partnerships with other organizations and associations who share common interests with AACRAO.

We are fortunate to have a membership that is highly engaged in our research initiatives. Over the thirteen surveys conducted in the last year (eleven "60-Second Surveys" and two special topics surveys), an average of 818 institutions responded to the surveys. This average represents just one institutional response per survey. It excludes those surveys that were intended to collect responses from individual members. In that light, we captured the practices, policies, staffing models and opinions of 31 percent of our 2,600 member institutions. Similarly, because most of the responding institutions are u.S. institutions, we also captured a representative1 sample of all u.S., Title IV eligible, degree granting institutions.2

Over the course of the year, a few trends in practice, policy and staffing overall became apparent. First and foremost, there is no "one size fits all" for any of the above. Variety and variance (i.e., standard deviation) are the norm across and between institution, size, type, and control. Since we send the 60-Second Surveys to all active members, it is not wholly unexpected that the raw data often contain instances where more than one person per institution responds to the same survey. Flowever, due to the topics in the 60-Second Surveys (basic practice, policy, etc.), I anticipated that I would be able to simply select one set of responses from all of an institutions responses because I assumed that all would be the same. Unfortunately, the majority of the time the responses are not the same or even close to the same. This is often true even when the respondents are from the same department. While some of the differences could be accounted for by different interpretations of the survey questions and/or separate colleges within a university functioning as separate units with similar responsibility but different practices, the occurrence rate is too pervasive across all topics to be wholly accounted for with these explanations. What this data appears to illuminate is perhaps a need for additional training, practice documentation, policy clarification or improved inter- and intra-office communication. However, this is only conjecture at this point based on anecdotal feedback from some institutions contacted for clarification. Perhaps these differences just represent what William Louis Stern found in his experiments where a chain of people told and retold a story, and by the end of the chain the story was not the same as when the first person told it. Policies and procedures are often shared in an informal way with new employees and with other departments, so perhaps the differences in understanding of the policies and procedures exist simply because of the context in which the persons responding to the survey learned about it in the first place. Further qualitative research would help us understand how and why these differences are reported and perhaps lead to ways in which aacrao can be of assistance to its members in this regard. …

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