by Pamela Brown, Vice President UCOP
“How can you not get romantic about baseball?” said Billy Beane, the Oakland A’s General Manager.
Ah, but how can you not get romantic about data?
At least that’s how I felt after watching Moneyball, the movie about the Oakland A’s leveraging data to help them win. Based on Michael Lewis’ book, he says “People…operate with beliefs and biases. To the extent you can eliminate both and replace them with data, you gain a clear advantage.”
As Vice President for Institutional Research & Academic Planning (IRAP) at UC Office of the President, that’s my goal – to infuse data into University decision-making and advocacy efforts. IRAP produces the UC Accountability Report, an almanac of university operations, and the UC Information Center, an interactive website with dashboards and data tables that provide information to the Board of Regents, California Legislature, parents and families, and the public overall. And here’s how we use this data…
Data supports myth busting. Much of the national debate is that increasing tuition and fees has made higher education too expensive and for those who attend, many graduate with unmanageable debt. For UC, and particularly Berkeley, it’s quite the opposite because one-third of tuition and fees is returned to support financial aid. With UC’s Blue and Gold Program, Berkeley’s Middle Class Action Plan and state and federal support with Cal Grants and Pell Grants, the net cost of attending is much less than the sticker price as seen in the data from a UC Information Center storyboard.
Data illustrates trends and identify opportunities for improvement. Take the following data visualization that provides graduation rates for Pell Grant recipients compared to all freshman entrants. This data shows continuing improvements in four-year graduation rates, particularly compared to our American Association of Universities (AAU) public peers, and that Pell Grant recipients have similar graduation rates as all students, but there is a gap and room for improvement at year four. (The UC Accountability Report goes into greater detail in this data visualization.)
Data provides comparisons and informs resource allocations. UC Berkeley’s Cal Answers application provides campus data down to a department level which can help inform the work you do. For example, Cal Answers data shows that while the number of majors is growing in Engineering increasing the amount of advising support the College may need, the course enrollment data shows that many of these undergraduates take their lower division courses in Letters and Science increasing this College’s temporary academic support needs. In addition, Cal Answers course enrollment dashboards provide information on how quickly courses fill compared to prior years, which can help get students into open seats in courses and departments identify courses where additional sections are needed.
Data doesn’t tell the whole story, but combined with personal stories and examples, it can produce a powerful one. The New York Times featured perspectives from Pell Grant recipients about the importance of a college degree. One such story was from Basti Lopez who transferred from Santa Ana College to UC Irvine because of the financial aid she was offered and her ability to live close to home. As she goes to school, Basti is helping others with the transfer process and is studying for the law school admissions exam with the hopes of becoming an immigration lawyer.
This article accompanied the release of the New York Times’ College Access Index that ranked universities higher if they had larger percentages of Pell Grant recipients, higher graduation rates for those students, and lower net costs for low- and middle-income students. Based on those criteria, the New York Times called the University of California an “upward-mobility machine” for having six campuses in the top seven spots in its ranking of economic diversity at the nation’s top colleges. In fact, we found through our use of alumni earnings data that within five years of graduation, UC Pell Grant recipients go on to earn more than their families did, providing evidence in support of social mobility.
Data empowers individuals to engage in informed discussions. Both UCOP and UC Berkeley have resources that can help you do your work, including analysts in the institutional research offices. Here are a few links to resources which may help you!
|UC Office of the President||UC Berkeley|
Pamela Brown is the Vice President of Institutional Research and Academic Planning (IRAP). She began working in the Office of the Provost at University of California Office of the President (UCOP) in November 2013. IRAP produces evidence-based analysis and reports that inform and shape university management, strategic planning, policy, and decision support, including the Annual Accountability Report that reflects the UC’s activities and operations through data-driven narratives and data visualizations.
Prior to coming to UCOP, Pamela worked sixteen years at UC Berkeley where her last role was Executive Director of the Office of Planning and Analysis (OPA). In OPA, she partnered with stakeholders and led improvements in the campus reporting and planning environment.
Pamela received her Master’s degree from the Graduate School of Public Policy and her B.A. in Applied Mathematics both from the UC Berkeley.