By Becca Kraybill
For years, a collection of facts about Goshen College finances, enrollment and student life was tucked away in a filing cabinet in the Registrar’s office.
Scott Barge, director of assessment and institutional research, believes that access to this data, and data in general, can create a stronger campus.
Though the information was public, faculty and students wanting access to the files needed to sift through them–making fact-checking a tedious and laborious process.
Barge hopes to change this. Barge, along with other faculty from the Institutional Research Office, has produced Goshen’s first online, interactive “Fact Book.”
Barge started assembling the book last winter with the intent of providing a “main reference on statistics for the work of [institutional research] or Public Relations.” Barge said more and more colleges are producing similar online data collections.
The Fact Book is interactive: a viewer can click on eight different categories of campus life, with each category linking to sub-headings of data.
The first step of forming the book, Barge said, was to compile factual data from past years into one website. For example, the new book lists funds given to the college since 1989 and the cost of tuition since 1980.
However, to make the fact book more applicable, Barge said he has added “public information already available on different websites.”
For example, Barge has included a section for the net price of average college debt–a figure available on government websites, now easily accessible through the Fact Book.
The Fact Book also includes categories of facts that were not listed before. Athletic team records, declared majors and retention rates are several categories gathered in one source for the first time.
Barge said the advantage and possibilities of the Fact Book on campus are plenty.
One, he said, is the linear presentation of the data, especially when looking at retention rates.
“We can now say, ‘This is for this group, but this is for this group,’” Barge said.
A second advantage is the potential for several parties to contribute to the book. Though the Fact Book is still “preliminary,” Barge said he hopes to add more categories, including data on campus residencies and co-curriculars. Suggestions for collection are welcomed at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Barge believes access to campus facts will help students make “informed discussions.”
“It’s to make information available,” Barge said, “not drive one purpose or issue.”
Barge said he hopes to move the book away from preliminary status by next semester. To visit the book, go to http://www.goshen.edu/ir/factbook.