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Data File Locking Trends of Virginia's Colleges and Universities

Section 23-9.6:1 of the Code of Virginia assigns the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV) a total of 21 duties in its coordinating role for Virginia’s higher education system. Duty 9 gives SCHEV the authority to develop a comprehensive information data system to help carry out its statutory duties. As part of duty 9, the Virginia public and not-for-profit institutions are required to submit various types of data to SCHEV. These data include, but are not limited to admissions, completions, courses, enrollments, financial aid, tuition and fee and any other information necessary for SCHEV to perform our duties.

Every SCHEV data collection has a defined collection period when institutions submit, process and lock their data to SCHEV. The institutions have 30 days from the opening date of a collection period to lock their submission to SCHEV, except for the financial aid data file which has a 45 day window. In a perfect world, all required data submissions would be locked to SCHEV on or before the due date. However, this submission pattern is not the norm for all institutions.

In most cases, there are valid reasons for institutions to lock their data submission after the due date. Whether the reasons are valid or not, however, not having the latest information from all the institutions by the file's due date impacts the timing of when SCHEV can update its on-line data reports. The implications of this delay could be that the most recent data will not be available to the public and policy makers who use these data to make important policy decisions.

To get a better understanding of the institutions’ locking behavior, the chart and table below display locking trends of the institutions over the last five years for the following data files - Course Enrollment (CE), Degrees Conferred (DC), Financial Aid (FA), Fall Headcount (HC), and Tuition Assistance Grant Program (TAGP) data files.

Please note that while the four-year institutions are required to submit the HC file to SCHEV by October 1st, the Virginia community colleges are not required to do so. Instead they must submit their data by the end of their fall semester. This is because the community colleges offer new courses in the second half of the fall semester and therefore they submit of end-of-term data that is more reflective of their actual enrollments. Therefore, the community college's HC locking information is not included in the chart and table below.










In looking at the most recent data submission locking trends, the percentage of institutions that were late in locking their data files to SCHEV decreased over the last five years. If we compare the percentages between data files, there are clear distinctions. For instance, a lower percentage of institutions locked their DC and HC data files after the due date compared to that of the FA data file over the last five years. Looking specifically at 2011-12, 25.4% and 31.9% of the institutions were late in locking their DC and HC data files compared to 84.5% of the institutions that locked after the FA due date.

One of the likely reasons the percentage is much higher for the FA file is because this file is one of the largest (86 data elements are collected) and most complex files the institutions have to prepare and submit to SCHEV. During the submission process, the FA file is cross checked against other locked collections for the same reporting year. The extensive cross check process is run to verify and audit state financial aid programs. If there are discrepancies between the FA file and other collections, the institutions have to determine which file needs to be updated and then resubmit the revised file to SCHEV - a process which can take time.

With regards to the average days late, there has been a noticeable downward trend for most data files since 2009-10. For the DC data file, the average decreased from 18 days in 2009-10 to 11 days in 2010-11 and remained constant in 2011-12 (11 days).

During the same time period, the FA data file shows the most significant decrease in the average days late. In 2009-10, the average days late were 72, which decreased to 34 in 2010-11 and then to 32 in 2011-12. In taking a detailed look at the range of days late by the number of institutions for the FA in 2011-12, data shows that 11 institutions did lock the file by the due date, while 30 institutions locked within 30 days after the deadline. Therefore, 58% of the institutions locked the file between the required time and a month after the file was due. Of the 42% of institutions that did not, 21 locked between 30 and 60 days, 8 between 60 and 90 days and 1 after 120 days. The locking distribution for the 2011-12 FA file is similar to that of the 2008-09 and 2010-11 FA file. As noted in the table and charts, the addition of a new reporting requirement for the 2009-10 FA file, contributed to a significant delay in institutions locking the file to SCHEV.

Most recently, the average days late for the CE (10 days), DC (11 days) and TAGP (11 days) data files are the lowest average among data files locked to SCHEV for the 2011-12 reporting year.

For more detail on the locking trends of individual institutions, click here.

SCHEV’s goal is to update the on-line reports shortly after a data file’s due date has passed. As discussed above, this is not always possible due to late file submissions. Nonetheless, there is optimism about meeting this goal. The locking trends of average days late indicate that over the last three years the institutions have locked soon after a file's due date. This improvement can be attributed to SCHEV Research staff working with the institutions on file processing and communicating the importance in having the latest data available as soon as possible to the public, policy makers, and the higher education community.

















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