Institutions across the U.S. are utilizing data and technology to improve student retention,increase degree completion, boost learning, inform administrative decision-making, and modernize to meet consumers’ expectations.
NWC’s IT office this year alone has created several new programs to boost efforts related to student academic success and student well-being. However, NWC staff report that innovative and efficacy-boosting initiatives – in areas such as prospective student communication, alumni relations, and student engagement – have stalled at NWC due to a lack of IT resources. Investments in IT are especially critical given that NWC typically creates its own in-house programs to avoid spending on less-tailorable, third-party ones that can cost well above $100,000.
The idea that NWC’s IT department is under-resourced is supported by EduCause’s Core Data Service Benchmarking Report. In 2016, the bachelor’s-degree granting institutions surveyed by EduCause spent 4.7% of their IPEDS institutional expenses on central IT spending; NWC spent between 3.15-3.23% for each fiscal year between 2016-2019. This difference in spending is not directly explainable by institution size. The average bachelor’s-degree granting institution spent $1,455 per full-time equivalent (FTE) student, faculty, and staff on central IT spending, while NWC spent $744 per FTE only including undergraduate students and $652 including graduate students.
Additional investments in IT would also benefit the departments whose workload has increased due to the six-term cycle of our online programs. The additional IT resources could help areas such as the registrar, the business office, and more automate time-intensive processes, which would help control future personnel costs in these areas.
Finally, a 2018 articlein the Journal of Higher Education found that investments in IT at private institutions were positively associated with both teaching and service outputs.
Suggestions for Northwestern
NWC should increase funding to the IT department and/or invest in business intelligence and higher education software.
Goal 3.1 – Pursue strategic enrollment growth – Increase residential undergraduate enrollment to 1,050 by 2023.
Goal 3.2 – Pursue strategic enrollment growth – Increase graduate and adult enrollment to 450 by 2023.
Goal 5.2 – Secure the human and financial resources to advance strategic initiatives – Raise $1.45 million in unrestricted annual gifts by 2023 to fund the college’s growing operational costs.