“For every semester we don’t do everything we can to ensure student success—including using analytics to increase student progress and completion—students leave our campuses without graduating, discouraged and more in debt than when they entered.” AIR, Educause, NACUBO Joint Statement

In a rare joint statement titled “Analytics can save higher education. Really” three national higher ed organizations make the case for the increased use of analytics to improve student outcomes. This is exactly what colleges need to hear, with one caveat.

While we agree that data and analytics are a key to solving big social problems (it’s part of our mission), statements like these can be misleading. Casual readers might think that “Analytics” means “Technology” — that some piece of software can instantly make them data-informed and transform their institution. It can’t. Technology will not save higher ed. Ultimately it is people who will save higher ed.

If your institution already has people with a shared mission for student success and a belief that data can help show the way, you need to empower them with the data that they need to make better decisions. If you don’t yet have that culture, data can reveal equity gaps and other insights that break down myths and spark cultural change.

In a true culture of inquiry, everyone should be able to access data they need to make better decisions around student success. Colleges must break down data silos and “empower those on the front lines who are directly educating and supporting students.” Pre-canned, high-level dashboards are not sufficient. Data must be actionable and relevant to each person.