Friday, May 20, 2016

Changes in In-State Freshman Enrollment in Public Universities, 2002-2012

This is a good example, I think, of how data visualization helps you make sense of things: Even simple things like a small table of data.

In this case, the table is from The College Board, showing changes in the percentage of in-state freshmen in our nation's public universities.  You can see the raw data by downloading Table 28, here. What you can't see by looking at that table, of course, is the overall pattern.  That's where a picture comes in.

There are only two numeric values in the table: Percentage of freshman enrollment that are state residents in 2002 and 2012.  I added a third, by subtracting one from the other.  Then I put them on a choropleth hex map, a format I like because all the states are the same size.  On this map, orange colors show states where the percentage of in-state residents has increased; purple shows a decrease, and grays are mostly even.

Be careful about interpreting this data. This visualization does NOT show, of course, that a university system is enrolling fewer in-state students; in fact, the number could have gone up if non-resident enrollment also increased, but at a faster pace.  It just shows what has happened to the makeup of that freshman enrollment: More in-state (orange) or less in-state (purple).

What do you see?



Monday, May 9, 2016

New SAT Concordance Tables

Note: I tweeted a link that was set up for mobile, and thus the visualization scrunched down to almost nothing.  If the URL has m=1 at the end, just delete it, or click on the title above to go to the desktop/iPad version.

The College Board just published long-awaited concordance tables to compare new SAT scores to old, and new SAT scores to ACT.

You can download the data here if you wish, or look at them visually below.  The tables in the data correspond to the tables on the visualization (that is, for instance, that Table 7 in the College Board worksheet can be viewed on Dashboard 7 here, using the tabs across the top.)

For convenience, Old SAT scores are always in light gray.  Notice also I've labeled the chart when the axes are not synchronized.

As this data is public, I have cited the original source, its purpose is educational, and this blog is not monetized, I believe the use of it in this format falls under Fair Use.

As always, hover over the dots for details.



Friday, April 8, 2016

A Deeper Dive on The Coalition Data

There has been a considerable amount of discussion in the admissions world about The Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success.  I remain skeptical about the motives behind this, as I did when I wrote this in the Washington Post.  To be clear, however, I believe colleges have the right to create their own admissions platform and conduct the business side of higher education with great latitude. I am merely questioning how a fractured admissions process helps low income students find, apply, get admitted to, and enroll in college; and the use of the term "access" by colleges who have, in general, poor records of providing access to low-income students.

Many school counselors I've talked to are very concerned by what they perceive to be a dearth of information about how this all will work, and there are also lingering concerns about privacy, which have not yet been publicly answered (to the best of my knowledge), even though one component of the application platform--the Locker--is scheduled to open this month.

These colleges represent the very top of the pyramid among private institutions, and also include many large, state flagship public institutions, as well as a few statistical outliers.  But to look deeper at the data, I downloaded a large IPEDS data set, and just scratched the surface.  What should jump out at you is the impressive list of colleges, their collective wealth, and position on several of the scatter grams, below.

Use the tabs across the top.  Every view has a filter to show public/private/all institutions.  Coalition schools are in red to make them standout; everyone else is in gray.  The universe is about 1,945 four-year, degree-granting, Title IV participating colleges and universities in the Midwest.US.  (corrected 4/17 at 6:32 pm CST).

What do you see?



Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Boom in International Enrollment

You hear a lot about enrollment of international students these days, and often, I think, when a subject gets a lot of play, it tends to be overhyped, often by people who don't really understand the data.

This would not be one of those times.

I used IPEDS trend analysis to look at enrollment of non-resident students (that is, students who are neither US citizens nor permanent residents) over time.  For comparison's sake, I also looked at overall enrollment over that same time.

This data set includes all 7,276 post-secondary institutions in the US, both degree-granting and non-degree-granting, whether or not they participate in Title IV programs, so my usual advice about IPEDS data is amplified a bit here.  Still, the trends are interesting.

The blue charts (on left) show total enrollment at these institutions: Bars show numbers, and the line shows percent change since Fall, 2004.  The red charts (right) show estimated international enrollment.  It's estimated because I had to calculate it using two variables, and the "percent of students who are non-resident" is expressed in a whole number, which is less precise than I'd like.

Of course, you're probably not interested in all the institutions in the US, so you can use the filters at right to look only at certain subsets, in any combination: Large doctoral universities in the west, for instance, or baccalaureate colleges in New England.

If you reset all those filters (reset button at lower left), you can look at any college or subset of colleges by typing the name in the box and make your selection(s).  If you get in trouble, just reset.

What interesting trends do you see here?




Thursday, March 17, 2016

International Enrollment and Engagement

The world is shrinking, if not literally, then metaphorically.  Some colleges and universities embrace this in big ways, and this is the purpose of this visualization.

The Institute of International Education puts out good data on both international enrollment at US colleges and enrollment of US students in study abroad programs.  I've combined that data into two views that show both.

The top chart contains two sort-able and filterable bar charts.  It starts out sorted from large to small on the left column, namely study abroad students in 2014-2015; if you'd rather sort by total international enrollment, hover over that x-axis until the small icon pops up and click that.  Reset by using the button at lower left.

The bottom charts shows every college in the data set, with study abroad on the x-axis and international enrollment on the y-axis.  Each dot is a college, color coded by control.

As always, if you want to look at a smaller set of colleges, use the filters on the right.  They will control both charts at the same time.

Three things: First, the data are for all students, graduate and undergraduate.  The IIE data are not broken out, so it's not possible to determine meaningful percentages, except of course for colleges that only enroll undergrads.  Second, the data is only reported for colleges that enrolled 10 international students and/or sent 10 students abroad.  Assuming the colleges reported the data.

So, on that point:  I've checked this data where I seen anomalies; there are several obvious colleges where it's missing.  A final caveat: High numbers can be caused by lots of things, including location, wealth of the student body, and curricular offerings, among others. There is (or should be) no value judgment attached to the numbers you find here.



Thursday, March 10, 2016

Election Results with Census Data

I normally focus on Higher Education data on this blog, and in fact, this visualization started out as a higher education post: I wanted to look at presidential election results from 2012 to see if education played a part in how people voted.  But since I had a large census file anyway, with lots of interesting information like income, ethnic groups, and other data, I decided to take it one step farther.  OK, may steps farther.  And to me, almost everything is ultimately about education.

If you don't like to interact with these visualizations, stop right now.  You'll have to play with this to see how it works.

On the top view, you see every county as a dot, color-coded by region, and arranged on a grid.  Hover over any dot for details, if you'd like.  Counties voting more heavily for Obama are on the right; Romney counties are on the left.  Wealthier counties are on top (higher median family income), and poorer are at the bottom.  Note the reference line at $53,046, the national median.

If you want to look at a specific state or region, you can do that using the filters.  But you can also look only at counties that meet certain demographic criteria, of your choice.

For instance, you could find counties that are at least 15% Hispanic and where at least 10% of the adults have a Bachelor's degree.  Once you apply the filters, only the counties that meet those criteria are displayed.  Use filters in an combination.  (Of course, you can't find any county that's 51% White and 51% African-American; the filters aren't magic.)

The data also shows up on the map at bottom; it's pretty self-explanatory: Each county is colored blue (Obama won) or orange (Romney won.)

As always, the reset button is at bottom.

I find this very interesting, and I hope you do too.  And I hope you vote in November; I need you for my next visualization!


Saturday, February 27, 2016

My homage to the Atlas of the Census

In eighth grade, a teacher introduced my class to the Statistical Abstract of the United States, and it changed the way I looked at numbers and information.  Of course, in those days, it was just a book, and very hard to interact with.  But I still remember poring over it, absorbing interesting, if arcane, facts about the country and its regions.  Ever since, I've been fascinated with reference books like it.

Then, sometime about 2005, I came across the Census Atlas of the United States, and my mind was blown even more.  It contains page after page of maps, representing gobs of data, visualized in a way that tells stories, sometimes with a single picture.  One map, especially, made an impression on me. It's in this chapter, page 14 of the chapter, page 40 of the book, showing Prevalent Asian Group, by county.  If you can't download that large .pdf file, it's below:


In my job, and in higher education in general, we think about race and ethnicity a lot, of course, but here was something that exploded and challenged the status quo and made me think differently: "Asian," was not a monolithic term.  Far from it.

That day, I bought a copy of the Atlas, and always pick it up when I see it.  It's astonishing, I think, and I still discover something new every time I spend some time with it.

I've wanted to do my own mini-version for a long time, but the thing that makes it hard is getting at Census Bureau data.  It's either very hard to extract, or rolled up in ways that don't inspire further analysis.  But I did come across a file that was accessible and fairly easy to work with, with data on a lot of factors at the US county level.  And I started working on it.

This includes 19 maps: The first 16 show US counties, colored by the variable indicated.  In the heading is the US average.  For instance, about 66.2% of the US population is "White alone."  All maps are color coded with that center value as the center point.  Check the legend.

You can look at the whole US or just a state; unfortunately, adding Alaska and Hawaii makes it hard and time consuming to get the maps to look good.  If you have Tableau, you can download this and look at it yourself.

The maps have data filters on them too.  So if  you're looking at the view with percent of adults with a high school diploma, for instance, you can pull the slider up or down to show only those counties with very high or very low values.  On each map, I've also added a somewhat-random second slider, so you can see combinations of variables.  On the high school graduates one, for instance, you can also look at population density.  See which counties have high/high, high/low, or low/low combinations. Play around.

Additionally, there are three other views: Two showing 2012 presidential election results, and one scatter-gram, where you can cross any two variables, and see the relationships between them.

If you work in my job, you might find interesting data that can help you understand how--and why--your distant markets are different than your local ones.  Or maybe it's just fun to play with.

Either way, I hope you enjoy it.  I'd love to hear what you discover.





Thursday, February 18, 2016

Educational Attainment in the States

In case the coverage of the 2016 presidential election didn't convince you, this might help you see why people in the rest of the country seem different somehow.

The data are from the US Census Bureau's American Community Survey, in 2012; this shows the educational attainment of adults 25-34 in that year.  Use the control at top right to pick a value to display on the map, and the states (represented by hex boxes here) change color to show the value you've chosen.  The bar chart also updates.

There are seven values:


  • Less than a HS Diploma shows the percentage of the population in that state aged 25-34 that did not complete high school
  • HS Diploma or Less shows the number above plus the percentage of people who have just a high school diploma
  • Exactly a HS Diploma shows just that: Everyone who graduated from high school but did not continue
  • HS Diploma or Higher is the percentage with at least a high school diploma, including everyone who went beyond that
  • Bachelor's Degree shows people who have just a BA or a BS
  • Bachelor's Degree or Higher and Graduate Degree should be self explanatory
Once you make a selection, the map and the bar chart update; both are color-coded with blue numbers lower and orange numbers higher.  Be careful with this: With low attainment rates, blue is presumably better (at least if you work in higher education); with higher attainment rates, orange is better.  Hover over a state to see the value, or look at the bar chart at the bottom, which displays the same data in a different format.

You may notice the map style; this is the first time I've used it, and I like it a lot.  It allows you to see values on small states that would otherwise get lost on traditional maps; and it allows Alaska and Hawaii to display just off the coasts without a lot of effort.  But I'd like to know what you think about them, too.







Thursday, February 11, 2016

Graduation Rates by Selectivity: Freshmen, 2007

This is the second part of my visualization of graduation rates from NCES. Part I is right below this one, or if  you want, you can click here to open it in a new window.

People in higher ed, and especially in government, talk a lot about graduation rates, and the presumption is this: That graduation rates are something we credit or blame on the colleges; that is, something a particular college does determines whether or not its graduation rate is high.  If Princeton stopped caring, presumably, its graduation rate would collapse.

Well, maybe.  Probably not, though.

We can see that a single factor, such as percentage of students in the freshman class with Pell, or the mean SAT score, can predict with some precision the graduation rate of a college or university.  If you don't believe me, see for yourself.

There is some variation in rates of colleges with similar profiles, of course, and people believe--correctly, or incorrectly, I'm not sure--that this is the important difference, or the value added by the particular college.  Maybe, but given the percentage of variance explained by single variables, I'm willing to guess other pre-college characteristics explain a lot of that unexplained variance.  Even as dull an instrument as US News and World Report realized years ago that having more Pell students lowered your graduation rate, all other things being equal.

Which leads us to this: The entering freshman class of 2007, and their six-year graduation rate, broken out by gender, ethnicity, and the selectivity of the college. You can see the pattern: The more selective the school, the higher the graduation rate.

Consider this.  You are headmaster at a college where they only thing they teach is dunking a basketball.  At the end of the course of study, students are given a test: 100 attempts to dunk the basketball.  And your school has a dunk percentage of 74.3%, the highest in the nation, and far better than any other Dunking College in the US.  All the people in Tallsville, where you're located, are very proud of you, as you educate mostly local kids from Tallsville, named for the Tall family.

The next year, you get ten times as many applicants.  And, being a college that wants to turn out the best dunkers (it's in your strategic plan, of course), you are suddenly able to admit only the tallest applicants, with the biggest vertical jumps and the largest hands.  Using the same instructional tools you've always used, your dunking percentage skyrockets to 98.2%.  And next year, guess what happens to applications? And guess whom you select from that pool?

The nation's oldest and wealthiest colleges mostly had a head start of several hundred years on the rest of us. And in times when college was almost exclusively the bastion of wealthy, white men from the upper crust of society, they have long histories of turning out men who end up, not surprisingly, wealthy and white.

Their reputation ensures that their position in the market will be strong for as far as the eye can see, and will allow them to select only students who, albeit not always white, wealthy men anymore, are destined to graduate from college.  If you're a little less selective, you have a little less luxury of choice.  And so it goes.

There is, of course, nothing wrong with that.  But choosing a college because of its graduation rate is backwards: The college will select you based on your propensity to graduate. Ponder that.

Do you agree? Or not?  Either way, I'd love to hear from you.



Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Graduation Rates, Rolled Up

I like the NCES Digest of Education Statistics, but some of the reports they present are almost unusable.  If you've ever tried to visualize a report like this, you know what I mean.  If anyone from NCES is reading this, please help and encourage the good people there to put data in a cleaned, unformatted report.

But, on to the data.  This is pretty simple, actually, and it bounces off previous visualizations I've done that show graduation rates are as much an input as an output.  The data are presented in three views: Over time, summarized for a single year, and by institutional type.  Click on the tabs to see them all, and use the filters on the right to select subsets.  You may want to look at women, or Hispanic students, for instance, and you can do so here.

There are some interesting patterns here.  It's clear that women, across the board, have higher graduation rates than men; and that colleges are not serving African American men very well.

What else do  you see? Anything surprising? Leave a comment below.

See this, too, for another way of looking at college graduation rates.



Friday, February 5, 2016

In-state enrollment and Pell

A recent article in the Washington Post piqued my interest: Why the University of Oregon turned to neighboring states for students, by colleague Roger Thompson.

Some of this is no surprise, of course. I've been looking at NCES and WICHE data for years, and even visualized the latter to show how demographics will change enrollment profiles at colleges across the country.

Lots of publics realize this, and lots have attempted to enroll larger numbers and percentages of students from outside their states. There's more to it than population, however: It's one of education's worst-kept secrets that students who travel farther to college come from families with higher incomes (or vice versa, of course), and in general, so do students who cross state lines for their education. Public universities have discovered that high out-of-state tuition makes them less desirable, and so have recently adopted a revenue maximization model, often offering large discounts to non-resident students.  It's generally better to get 70% of $30,000 than 0% of $30,000, especially when resident students might only pay $12,500, assuming the enrollment boost is sufficient.

This is a natural reaction by the universities in light of massive state funding cutbacks.

To boot, wealthier students have higher test scores, on average, and at prestigious-conscious universities, this can be an added bonus.

The danger, of course, is that this might exclude lower-income in-state students.  So, I took a look at the two factors over time at about 550 public colleges and universities.  The visualization below gives you the option to compare any four institutions by choosing the ones you want from the individual drop-down boxes: Orange lines show percent of freshmen from in-state; purple shows percent with Pell over time.  In order to select a college, just click on the box and start typing any part of the name. If you want UC Santa Cruz, for instance, you'll get better luck with "Cruz" than "California."

I started with four at random.  Make your own set.

What do you see? And are you surprised?

Note: Since I posted this, a colleague has pointed out that the IPEDS data are not sufficiently granular to separate in-state and out-of-state Pell students, which would have been the ideal way to look at this.  And, in addition, I'll add that a university could a) increase the percentage of its state's HS graduates enrolling, b) increase the number of Pell students, and c) see the percentage of Pell students go down if the freshman class grew substantially.





Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Degrees awarded by Discipline, Ethnicity, and Gender, 2011 to 2013

This is three years of data from the NCES Digest of Education Statistics, breaking out all bachelor's degrees awarded by ethnicity, gender, and discipline.  For the sake of clarity, I rolled many of the disciplines together, and on at least one view, rolled up ethnicities into groups as well.

The first view simply takes a look at ethnicity and gender: What do Asian women, or Hispanic men study in college?  Eight views on one dashboard, showing some interesting stuff: 30% of Asian women study Science and Math, compared to just 9.5% of African American men.  Business always dominates with men, except Hispanic men.  Interesting.






Behold the power of DataViz.  This view is the exact same day, just shown a different way to allow you to get a comparative view.  This shows all ethnic groups in the data set, however, and the data in columns adds up to 100%.  So, for instance, in the very top left, of all degrees awarded to Asian women, 19.82% were in business.  The figure is 34.3% for nonresident (international) men.




The third view turns it all around. Here you can see all the degrees awarded in a specific discipline in those three years, and see how they were distributed.  For instance, of all the degrees awarded in Education, 65% went to Caucasian women; of all the engineering degrees, 8.3% went to Asian males.




The fourth view is a little more complex, and allows you to create your own view.  For each discipline shown, the colored bars add up to 100% for the groups selected.  At first, it's a little noisy: Both men and women, and all ethnicities.  But this is where you can get interactive.  Look at just Hispanic students, for instance, by de-selecting every thing else; or see just men, if that's what you want.  The bars will always recalculate, and the very bottom bar rolls up all degrees into one bar, for comparison.

What do you see that jumps out at you?  Let me know in the comments at the bottom.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

2014 IPEDS Admissions Data

This is always a popular post: Statistics on the entering class of 2014 at about 1900 colleges and universities across the country.  It's based on IPEDS data, which I downloaded from the IPEDS data center and conditioned.  The source file is here, if you'd like to do something with it yourself.

This year, NCES only reports test score ranges for those colleges and universities that require tests for all applicants; in some regard, this makes sense, but it's unfortunate.  At my institution, for instance, about 94% of enrolling students submit tests, and this data might be helpful to students who do plan to apply with tests.  I plan to let NCES know this was not a good idea, and you can, too, if you'd like.  For now you'll know why these colleges don't show up.  You'll have to check with the colleges themselves.

This view starts with private, Liberal Arts Colleges in the Great Lakes region, but you can make the list be whatever you want using the filters across the top.  Be aware that if you select "New England," for instance, you can't then select "Florida" until you re-set the region filter.

The views from the top down are:


  • Admit rates, with the overall rate on the left, and men and women on the right
  • ACT Scores, at the 25th and 75th percentile
  • SAT CR Scores, at the 25th and 75th percentile
  • SAT M Scores, at the 25th and 75th percentile
You'll have to scroll down to see them all four boxes, and within each box, use the scroll bar.





Friday, January 15, 2016

The latest Boogey Man: Frontloading

It's happened three times in the last several months: I am invited into, or stumble into, a discussion on "Frontloading."  It's been the case that the people who are talking about it are generally convinced it exists, and generally believe it's a widely practiced approach.

In case you don't know, frontloading is the presumed practice of enrollment managers (of course) who make big institutional aid awards to entice freshmen to enroll, and then remove them after the freshman year.  Journalists, especially, point to aggregated data suggesting that the average amount of institutional aid for non-freshmen is lower than for freshmen. "Aha!" they scream, "The smoking gun!"

Well, not so fast.  I'm willing to admit that there may be a few colleges in the US where frontloading happens, probably in a clandestine manner, but perhaps, in at least one instance I was made aware of, for a very logical and justifiable reason.  But most enrollment managers I've asked have the same reaction to the concept: To do so would be career suicide.  This does not deter those who love to skewer enrollment management and hoist the problems of higher education squarely on our backs.

To be sure, I asked a Facebook group of 9,000 college admissions officers, high school counselors, and independent college consultants about the practice.  This is not a group of wallflowers, and the group members call it like they see it; even so, I asked them to message me privately if there were colleges where this routinely happened.  I got a couple of "I think maybe it happens," responses, and exactly one comment from a counselor who said she was sure it happened.

I have told people repeatedly that there are many possible reasons why the data look the way they do:


  • The freshman data is first-time, full-time, degree seeking students.  All of them are technically eligible for institutional aid.
  • The "All students" data includes all undergraduates.  That includes full-time, part-time, non-degree seeking students, many of whom are less likely to qualify for aid.
  • The "All students" group also contains transfers, who may qualify for less aid
  • It's possible that students who earned aid as a freshman lose it due to lack of academic progress or performance in subsequent years
  • It's also possible students with the most institutional aid are the neediest, and thus not likely to be around past the freshman year
These reasons seem to fall on deaf ears of people who are eager to prove something they believe to be true.

So I tried another angle: Doing the same comparison of Pell Grant participation.  The Pell Grant, of course, is a federal program, not awarded by or controlled by the colleges.  What would happen if we looked at Pell Grant participation rates among freshmen and the rest of the student body?  I think this visualization, below, demonstrates it quite well.

There are four columns: 

  • Percent of freshmen with Pell
  • Percent of all other undergraduates (non-freshmen) with Pell
  • The percentage of undergraduates who are freshmen (in a traditional college, this should be about 25%-30%.  Bigger or smaller numbers can tip off a different mix)
  • And finally, the right hand column, showing the difference between the first two.
The bars are color-coded: Blue bars show more freshmen with Pell; red bars show fewer freshmen with Pell, and gray bars show no difference.  You'll note that most bars are blue; if this were institutional aid, you might leap to the conclusion of frontloading.  That's exactly what journalists do.

But it's not institutional aid.  It's federal aid.  And yet, the differences are very large at some places.

You can hover over the top of any column to sort by that column.  And you can use the filters at the right to limit the colleges included on the view to certain regions, control, or Carnegie type.

Is this evidence strong enough to convince you?  If not, let me know why in the comments below.



Wednesday, January 6, 2016

In Which I Break the Rules

I've had a long-standing rule when publishing to this blog: I don't take requests.  This is for two reasons: First, I do this for fun, and I publish what's interesting to me, hoping you'll find it compelling as well.  Second, the tools available now allow you to answer your own questions fairly easily.  If you like my visualizations but want to ask some more questions, you can download free versions of Tableau Public and explore to your heart's content.

But yesterday, when I published this piece on freshman migration, a topic that generated a lot of interest this time and the first time I did it, I admitted this was the most fun I had exploring data.  And I also admitted that I had dozens of views lined up, but, in the interest of keeping things simple, kept just two.

Since it's gone live, I've had about 20 people ask me "Could you look at this data this way?" questions.  That's exciting, because I'm always hoping what I publish generates as many questions as it answers.

So, for once, I'm taking requests.  And, even some suggestions. specifically from Ian Pytlarz and Carolyn Rockafellow of a Google+ Group for Higher Ed users of Tableau.  Thanks to them.

Six views here, all in one workbook, and accessible via tabs across the top:


  • State exports: Numbers and percentages in a scatter
  • State "stay homes: Numbers and percentages in a scatter
  • Bar charts of exports, showing number and percentages.  You can sort by either column
  • Pie charts of all 50 states and DC: (Another rule I broke, as pie charts are not very good for such things, but some people like them, and if you don't you can skip them and get the information elsewhere)
  • Individual college enrollments by in-state/out-of-state, or in-region/out-of-region
  • Enrollments in colleges within a state in aggregate, showing percentage from in-state and out-of-state
But that's it!  I may do some more internal analysis for our own use here at DePaul, but if you want more, you can make yourself data independent (and I'd love to see what you do with this!)







Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Freshman Migration, 2014

Note: Please be sure to hover over a bar on the first chart, below, to see how to interact.

When I was a kid, I was fascinated by license plates on cars.  And whenever I found myself in a college parking lot, it was like a buffet, with lots of plates from distant states. Thus, my fascination with freshman migration and out-of-state enrollment was born.

IPEDS has finally released 2014 Fall enrollment data, and that means the bi-annual availability of the freshman migration data.  I like visualizing this for two reasons: First, I can think of dozens of ways to show it, all of them interesting to me, and maybe to you, too.  Second, the data is so multi-faceted that it requires viewers to interact, something I've preached about for years: Don't let me decide which data is interesting; decide for yourself how you want to view it.

There are two ways I've presented it here.  On the first, you start by looking at the states that exported the most freshmen in 2014.  If you want to look at the colleges those students attended, just click on the state bar in the top view; the destination colleges below update.  If you only want to look at liberal arts colleges, or colleges in the Southeast, you can do that using the filters.  Remember, there is a reset button at the bottom of the visualization.  You can't break it.

The second view shows individual colleges; I've started with my own.  You can see where the 2014 class came from.  First select All students or just Out-of-state students, depending on your interest. The tree map updates to show both regions (in color) and states (each square).  Hover for details.

What do you see? And do you like this as much as I do?

(As always, data presented is believed to be accurate, but there are occasional problems with IPEDS, including incorrect and missing data).






Tuesday, November 17, 2015

How will demographics change enrollment?

Ever since I started in admissions, people have been talking about demographics changes and challenges, and the chant continues.  The future, we're told, will look very different than the present.

Our trade paper, the Chronicle of Higher Education, ran an article about how this might affect higher education.  It included lots of interesting charts and graphs, but didn't allow me to look at the data in the ways I wanted to.  So I downloaded it and started looking at it using Tableau.

This is as much a testament to self-service BI as it is to the trends in the data.  I've often spoken about the 80/80 rule of business intelligence: 80% of what an analyst gives you, you don't need; 80% of what you want isn't in the report.  I spent a long time playing with and slicing this data to see if I could find a way to present it that makes sense, and that gives people what they want.  And every time I answered a question, I generated several more ("what if" can waste a lot of time.")

In the end, after several different views, I settled on the first one, below.  It's very simple, yet it gives you the flexibility find out most of what you need.

On the chance that you want or need something else, though, I kept the other views I had been experimenting with.

View 2: Maps and Details allows you to see the data mapped; once you filter to a region, you can see how states compare.

View 3: Changes with a State over Time looks at the same data four ways: Numbers, percent change, percent of total, and numeric change by ethnicity.

View 4: Counties Mapped allows you to select a state and see where concentrations of ethnicities live; choose a state, choose the ethnic group and age of the population, and see the results.

View 5: States and Counties shows ethnic percentages for every county, listed by state.

View 6: Counties shows all counties regardless of state.  Did you know there are 40 counties in the US where every 18-year old is white? Or that one county in South Dakota is 98% Native American?

Some notes about the data are on the CHE website.  Be sure to read them so you know what this shows and doesn't show.

Again, remember to interact.  You can't break anything.

And if the frame is not displaying the visualization correctly, you can go right to the original on the Tableau Public website.





Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Pell Partnership Data

Yesterday's big news, of course, was the announcement of "The Coalition," the curiously-named group of about 80 colleges and universities making for very strange bedfellows.  I wrote a little bit about it here.

Today I came across a little data set that contained information about Pell graduation rates and non-Pell graduation rates, and I thought it an interesting opportunity to look at it in light of yesterday's news.  So, over my lunch hour, I did (yes, this software is really that easy to use. You should try it out.)

It's presented here in Tableau Story Points.  Just use the gray boxes across the top to look at the different views of the data.  Most of it should be self-explanatory, but if not, leave a comment and I'll reply to it.

FYI, there were several schools from "The Coalition" who did not supply Pell Grant Grad Rate data. In alpha order, they are:


  • Columbia (NY)
  • Hamilton (NY)
  • Harvard (MA)
  • Rutgers (NJ)
And you can ask them why they didn't.  I would never speculate about such things. (Olin College of Engineering did not provide data claiming their sample size was too small.)







Monday, September 28, 2015

The Peacekeeper Missile Comes to Admissions

Maybe  you're too young to remember the Ronald Reagan presidency, but one of the things I remember most is the "Peacekeeper Missile." People were incensed by what they believed to be political doublespeak worthy of the book 1984.  Missiles were objects of destruction, not something you associated with peace.  Change the language, change the discussion.

So today, this happened.  In what Inside Higher Ed is calling "An Admissions Revolution," eighty of the country's top colleges have formed a "Coalition," (a nice political sounding word: I mean, they form coalitions in Canada, so it must be nice, right?) to create a new application as well as a new portfolio system for students, who can start as early as the 9th grade, to assemble documents and other resources, not unlike my suggestion about Google managing the application process.  The goal, ostensibly, is to get more low-income and first generation students interested and ready to go to college, and to apply to these mostly-selective institutions.

This sounds great, right? Right?  You'd think so.

Of course, if you know anything about college admissions, your first question might be this: Today, one day after the announcement, which group is probably more aware of The Coalition?  A) first generation, low-income, students of color from under-resourced high schools, or B) white students of wealthier, college-educated families who already being planning for college at--or well before--the 9th grade.  I'll give you a moment.

In an industry already obsessed with prestige, this sounds like a club that won't take just anyone as a member, unlike the Common App, which has recently--God help us all--begun to allow colleges to determine for themselves what admissions criteria are important.

The collective gasp from the super selective members of Common App sounded like a Rockefeller in the presence of someone who extended the wrong pinkie finger when drinking tea.  "We just can't have these, these, Commoners, in the Common App," they decided without discerning a hint of irony, and they started their own country club, which of course, will do the requisite charity work one expects of any decent country club.

The standards for membership are fairly arbitrary: A 70% graduation rate for all members; for privates, a pledge to meet "demonstrated need," (a patently ridiculous term both in definition and in the way it's practiced) and for publics, "affordable tuition for and need-based aid for in-state students."

Does that seem backwards to you?  Shouldn't public institutions, which I believe were generally founded by the public for the public, be held to a higher standard of serving, you know, the public they're supposed to serve?  And of course, remember my frequent rant that high graduation rates are an input, not an output.  Even as blunt an instrument as US News and World report recognizes that if you enroll more Pell grant recipients, your graduation rate will drop.

Which brings me to the last point.  These institutions are, for the most part, selected from the institutions that a) have the most resources, b) charge the most, and c) enroll the fewest Pell grant kids.  Is this new application, which fragments the process even further, and clearly--not even possibly, but clearly--favors wealthier kids really the answer?

Or is the name--The Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success--just a political ploy from institutions that don't really seem to know much about access in the first place?  A new take on the Peacekeeper Missile? An homage to 1984?

Look at this, showing about 1700 four-year private and public institutions, each as a bubble.  The Coalition institutions are in red, everyone else in gray.  Colleges to the right have higher median SAT scores in the freshman class (another proxy for wealth, of course); colleges lower on the chart have fewer Pell grant kids as a percentage of all freshmen.  Larger dots are wealthier.  Hover over any dot for details about that college.

The the two-bar chart on the top shows Pell Grant enrollment.

There is one filter, to allow you to look at all institutions, just public, or just private.  Go ahead, click. See if it makes much difference.  And remember:

“War is peace. 
Freedom is slavery. 
Ignorance is strength.”


“It's a beautiful thing, the destruction of words.” 




Tuesday, August 18, 2015

How Pell Grant Recipients Fare at America's 80 Largest Universities

On my train ride in this morning, I saw an article posted on Twitter about Pell Graduation rates at the 80 largest universities in America.  If you want to look at a boring table of static data, just click here.

But I wanted to see if there were any patterns, so I copied the table, pasted it into Excel and then opened in Tableau to visualize it.  I think it tells an interesting story, although the data set is unfortunately limited, and with no key to merge the data with another set, it loses some potential.

Start by looking at the first view.  For each institution, there are three columns: The overall six-year graduation rate; the six-year graduation rate of Pell recipients, and the spread, with the values on spread sorted from low to high.  In this instance, a negative number means Pell students graduate at a higher rate than the student body overall, and a positive number means just the opposite.  As you scroll down the list from top to bottom, ask yourself what makes the pattern make sense?  There are dozens, but all I could see was, "football," but you might see "big public research university."  Or something else all together.

If you want to sort by another column, hover over the axis until the little icon pops up and click away. The "reset" at lower left does just what it says it does.

The second view (on the tabs across the top) shows the Pell graduation rate scattered against the percentage of freshmen with Pell.  The bubbles are colored and sized by spread (blue and large are good for Pell students; red and small, not so much.)  Right away you see the pattern: If you enroll fewer Pell students, your Pell graduation rate is higher.  My hypothesis would be that more selective institutions (who have higher graduation rates overall) a) simply select the most capable from among the poor students they admit, and b) have more resources to fund the smaller percentage of low-income students.

What do you see?