Data-Minding Your Financial Aid Outcomes

“Data mining” is all the rave in this era of Big Data. To successfully mine your data, though, it’s important first to “mind your data.” As your financial aid decisions start to go out the door to parents, how deeply have you thought about how to assess and measure what comes back to you?

After all, you’ve made your aid decisions to achieve a certain set of objectives to help fulfill your enrollment management needs: educational access, economic diversity, revenue generation, community building, and more. Are you poised to determine how your outcomes reflect the main goals you set? Are you prepared to understand how your financial aid spending helped to make those goals achievable? Can you depict where your resources or policies fell short, leaving specific goals unreachable?
What are the key data to track for both short- and long-term evaluation that is critical to your planning for the future? Here are just some of the statistics and data that schools track for internal assessment and external reporting for various audiences.
Know the Basics

  • Percentage of enrolled students receiving financial aid
  • Percentage of budget and of tuition allocated to financial aid
  • Overall tuition discount rate
  • Number of students granted financial aid
  • Average financial-aid award per recipient
  • Total amount of financial aid awarded
  • Tuition revenue generated by recipients

Know your applicants and your recipients

  • Profile of financial aid applicants (typical family size, income, home equity, net worth etc)
  • Percentage of applicants not qualifying for aid
  • Profile of financial aid recipients (How does this differ from the typical applicant profile?)
  • Number/percent of applicants and recipients by:
    • Grade level
    • Race/ethnicity
    • Income range
    • Gender or sex
    • Percentage of financial need met (for recipients)
    • ZIP codes

Know your non-enrollees

  • Profile and percentage of non-returning families that cite financial reasons for leaving the school
  • Profile and percentage of financial aid applicants who did not accept your admission or financial aid offer

Reporting data like these on an annual basis, however, is only part of the battle. It is equally important to build a longitudinal database of statistics. Analyzing these data over time will yield a broader picture of changes to help answer key questions such as: How has the school’s commitment to aid kept pace with tuition increases? How has the applicant pool changed over the years and what implications does that hold for us? Are we positioned to meet the evolving demands on the financial aid budget? Are we making progress in extending opportunity to a wider variety of families? Given historical patterns, where will we be in five or ten years? Is that where we want to be? Are our trends in step with, ahead of, or lagging our competitor schools or other benchmark groups?

As the award decisions get in the hands of your applicants, think about the data you need to track and take steps now to build, review, or refresh the reports you’ve built in School Portal to be in good position to start analyzing your data as soon as families return their enrollment contracts. Be sure that indicators and statuses for your applicants (such as enrollment status, race/ethnicity, etc.) are accurate and complete to aid in filtering and sorting your data for more precise profiles of the various segments of your population. Making sure each student’s record is as clean as possible now will make it easier to get the exact views you need when it’s time to run reports.

In addition to using School Portal reporting features to depict your own outcomes, be sure to use NAIS’s DASL (Data Analysis for School Leadership) tools online to find benchmark results for schools like yours across the nation on key tuition and financial aid markers. Use preset groups of schools to compare yourself against or customize groups based on your own needs.

A key skill of the effective financial aid professional is the ability to track and assess short- and long-term views of data and statistics in support of strategic enrollment management. In today’s dynamic political, competitive, and economic climate, it is increasingly critical for leaders like you to devote needed resources to be intentional about measuring your program’s success and goals attainment. Now’s the time to mind your data for the best data mining of what your outcomes mean for your school.