In today’s higher education environment, there is increasing pressure to improve student enrollment, retention, and degree-completion rates while using shrinking resources and existing staff as efficiently as possible. To accomplish these goals, each campus needs reliable data to identify and focus its efforts on strategies that have the greatest potential to improve student persistence. For maximum effectiveness, these data should enable a campus to understand its institutionwide strengths and challenges along with individual student priorities, needs, and receptivity to institutional support.
However, data do not create solutions—people do. If a campus truly wants to address student retention in a systematic and strategic way, then the data it collects must be shared with campus personnel who can best accomplish the goal of increasing student success and fulfilling the institutional mission.
But what if the data are sensitive and highly personal? When a campus starts talking about sharing student data, people can become a little uncomfortable, and rightly so. After all, how often do we encounter stories of the inadvertent disclosure of private information such as credit card numbers, social security numbers, or (most recently) medical information? Raising questions and concerns about the sharing of data within a campus or with outside organizations shows a responsible sensitivity to student privacy.