Policies and Methods

The Office of Planning and Institutional Research provides information to support the planning and decision-making processes of Davidson College in accordance with its mission and goals. The office accomplishes this mission through the following activities:

Analysis of existing data

The office collates and maintains data available on campus and provides relevant analysis of these data as required, using the college's existing data stores. Our data analytics allow changes and trends to be tracked and anticipated.

Survey Research

We participate in a number of national survey projects, including the Higher Education Research Institute survey of first-year students, and continue to provide information on Davidson College students and how they compare with national norms. In addition, surveys are developed by the Office of Planning and Institutional Research to address particular questions from the Davidson College community. We promote a comprehensive program of survey research that is timely, appropriate, and useful.

External Reporting

Requests for statistical information come from a large number of external agencies, including state and federal government, consortia, and publishers of college guides. The determination of appropriate and consistent definitions of the data elements upon which this information is based is made in conjunction with other offices on campus, mindful of the constraints placed on these offices in terms of the requirements of the external agencies themselves.

Internal Information Access

Requests for statistical information also come from internal offices and departments. Information provided by this office includes not only the statistics themselves but the definitions and methodology used in their measurement.

Comparative Measures

Comparing Davidson's performance with institutions identified as peers is an on-going process. The Office of Planning and Institutional Research is an active participant in that process, assisting in the development of a benchmarking system that enables the college to assess its relative place among its peer institutions and to set institutional priorities.

Release of Enrollment Data to Public Sources

Our policy on the release of enrollment data to public sources is consistent with established practice in the higher education community and among our elite peers, as well as in the best interests of the college. We use a standardized, specific census date – October 15 of each year – for finalizing enrollment counts.

In addition to the goal of consistent and comparable reporting of data, there are a number of practical reasons for using the October 15 census date. Federal and state agencies to whom we are required to report data, consortia with whom we share data, and publications that make our data available to prospective students all recognize that there is a certain amount of "settling down" that takes place in the first weeks of a semester and do not ask institutions to report enrollment until it is reasonable to assume the final class(es) are present.

This practice also assures that there are not multiple versions of our enrollment counts and breakdowns out in the public. Not only does that lead to questions about the accuracy of our reporting, but there are a number of publications – the U.S. News annual ranking of colleges the most visible among them – that take pains to verify the accuracy and consistency of the data we report and insist on a reconciliation of contradictory reports as a condition of inclusion.

Finally, the October 15 census date was determined by the enrollment management committee. As such, it represents the collective judgment of individuals responsible for generating and reporting enrollment data.

Any questions about these policies should be directed to either Linda LeFauve (lilefauve@davidson.edu) or George Campbell (gecampbell@davidson.edu) in the Office of Planning and Institutional Research.