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Why Data Governance Is Important to Higher Education

Data is an Asset

Data is a critical asset to higher education institutions, especially in today’s digital age where vast amounts of data are being collected and analyzed to inform decision-making. According to the Education Data Initiative, college enrollment peaked in 2010 and statistics indicate enrollment has declined 9.6% by 2020. In addition, the U.S. Census Bureau indicates the number of postsecondary eligible 18-year-olds will decrease starting in 2025. Data is continuing to play a critical role for postsecondary institutions to remain competitive, to make informed decisions about programs, to bring about strategic decisions and to allocate resources effectively.

Over the past decade, technology use in postsecondary education has increased significantly, driven by factors such as the growth of online and blended learning, the adoption of learning management systems (LMS), the use of mobile devices and apps, and the integration of data analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) tools. The more technology used, the greater the sources of information for analysis, and thus increasing complexity. Managing data effectively will be mandatory to leverage data effectively.

Data Governance is a Crucial Aspect of Data Management

Data governance refers to the management of data assets to ensure accuracy, availability, integrity, and security. It encompasses policies, procedures, and practices that define how data is collected, stored, accessed, and shared across an organization. In higher education, data governance ensures that data is being used effectively to support student success, research, and institutional effectiveness. The Educause 2023 Horizon Action Plan recognizes the importance of data governance and recommends that higher education institutions prioritize this area.

There are several reasons why data governance is essential to higher education.

  • First and foremost, it ensures data accuracy and consistency. With so many data sources and systems in use across campuses, it is essential to have a standardized approach to data management to avoid inconsistencies and errors in reporting. This ensures that data is reliable and trustworthy, which is crucial when making decisions that impact students and the institution as a whole.
  • Second, data governance promotes data security and privacy. Higher education institutions collect and store vast amounts of sensitive data, including student records, financial information, and research data. Data governance policies and procedures help ensure that this data is secure and protected from unauthorized access or use.
  • Third, data governance enables effective decision-making. By establishing clear guidelines for data collection, analysis, and reporting, institutions can ensure that data is being used effectively to support decision-making at all levels of the organization. This can lead to better student outcomes, more efficient operations, and improved institutional effectiveness.
  • Finally, data governance promotes transparency and accountability. By establishing clear policies and procedures for data management, institutions can ensure that all stakeholders understand how data is being used and why. This promotes trust and accountability, which is essential in an era where data-driven decision-making is becoming increasingly prevalent.

In conclusion, data governance is critical to higher education institutions. By ensuring data accuracy, consistency, security, and privacy, promoting effective decision-making, and promoting transparency and accountability, data governance enables institutions to use data effectively to support student success and institutional effectiveness. As recommended by the Educause 2023 Horizon Action Plan, higher education institutions should prioritize data governance to ensure they are making the most of their data assets.

Dwight Moore

SVP Technical Services

About Columbia Advisory Group

Columbia Advisory Group (CAG) is a leading Information Technology (IT) consulting firm. CAG’s team has assessed and helped improve the performance of more than 300 technology organizations and IT departments, including many higher education institutions, state agencies, and Fortune 50 customers. Practice specialty areas include Infrastructure, IT Service Management, Cybersecurity, and A/V Services. CAG improves business outcomes with IT insights and expert technical support. Based in Dallas, Texas, CAG works extensively with clients throughout the U.S. Contact us at

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