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Data & Information



Can we adequately answer questions about postsecondary outcomes and value?  No.

Data play a crucial role in improving college access, completion, and career readiness.

  • Students need clear and timely information about how much college will cost, how long it will take to graduate, and how well a degree will prepare them for the job market and enable them to repay their loans.
  • Colleges and universities need real-time data to identify whether their students are on track toward success, and to deploy just-in-time teaching and support strategies that enable students to make their way toward certificates and degrees.
  • Policymakers need comprehensive and comparable data about how colleges and universities perform on key measures, such as access, cost, completion, and outcomes related to learning, debt, and earnings in order to make informed decisions about allocating limited resources.


Existing metrics often only include “traditional” students and ignore the new majority of students, who are more likely to be part-time students, older students, students from low-income backgrounds, students of color, and first-generation college-goers. Colleges and universities, and their data systems, must reflect the experiences and outcomes of all students, especially the new majority. It’s time for a system reboot. And we need only look to leading institutions and states for the operating manual.

“Answering the Call” shares what the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has learned from leading institutions and states about how to improve and use postsecondary data to improve student outcomes. The paper both highlights how better data are already being used to increase student success and presents a metrics framework that draws on a decade of work in the field to measure access, progression, completion, cost, and post-college outcomes, and to track those measures with respect to efficiency and equity.


To learn more, watch the following videos about why better data matters. And join the conversation with the shareable messages below!

Video: Michelle Cooper, President, Institute for Higher Education Policy

Video: Deborah Santiago,  COO and vice president for policy at Excelencia in Education

Video: Kati Haycock, president of the Education Trust

Shareable Social Media Images (To download an image, right-click and select “Save as.”)












What We Still Don’t Know About Higher Education

With better information, schools can graduate more students and students can make more informed decisions. Learn more about the impact of these information gaps and institutions that are leading the way in making data-driven decisions.

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