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Data USA Launches ‘Universities’ Section, Offering Comparisons for 7,000-Plus Institutions

The new user interface aims to provide rich data on colleges and universities and make it easier to compare institutions.

Data USA unveiled Monday a trove of public data on 7,363 universities and colleges culled from the U.S. Department of Education and other sources.

The universities profiles aims to transform the raw extensive data into a user-friendly digestible format for the public to peruse, especially prospective students, parents and high school counselors. But it's also meant for higher education administrators and their IT staff, given that it includes features to easily do side-by-side comparisons of institutions.

The universities category includes such data as the average net price to attend a specific institution after factoring in financial aid, financial aid by income level, SAT scores, graduate demographics, most common jobs by major and the academic rank and gender of the instructional staff.

The new universities section is one of a number of sections on the Data USA site, which also features data categories like “Cities and Places,” “Industries” and “Jobs.” Data USA is a joint collaboration between the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Deloitte and Datawheel.

Higher-Ed Administrators and CIOs Make the Grade

“For any CIO or chancellor, they need to be aware that the data they provide to the government is becoming more visual,” César Hidalgo, MIT associate professor and director of the collective learning group for the MIT Media Lab, told Government Technology. “So, their point of action is to make sure the data they provide to the government is up to date.”

Additionally, higher-ed administrators can use Data USA to gather information on their competitors, such as endowment performance, government grants and contracts and salary expenditures, says Hidalgo, who is also co-founder of Datawheel.

Ann Perrin, senior research executive with Deloitte Services, said higher-ed administrators can also use the site to showcase their institution.

“It will help prospective students learn about the university, the types of occupations available to them based on their major (and) where these institutions lead in comparison to other universities,” Perrin said.

As for CIOs, she added that the universities section can help them quickly understand their student population and how that might influence operations. Universities and colleges are expressing a greater interest in delivering a more student-centered experience and Data USA’s information linking majors to various job occupations, as well as providing information on the demographics of academic instructors, moves in that direction, Perrin said.

Building the Data Delivery Pipeline

Data USA launched in 2016 as a visualization engine for distributing publicly available U.S. government data from a range of sources, including the Department of Labor, the Census, Department of Education, Department of Commerce and other government sources.

In the case of the universities section, the information is pulled from the Department of Education’s Integrated Postsecondary Education Data Systems. The Department of Education also has its own tool called the College Scorecard.

“We create tools to take the data sets and turn them into stories,” Hidalgo says. “When the U.S. Department of Education collects more information on a university, it will expand our story on that university.”

Data USA has taken a similar approach to the other categories on its site, such as its "Cities and Places" category, which pulls from publicly available data from state and local governments. 

Data on New Yorkers’ income, for example, was also updated Monday to 2016 figures from 2015 on the Data USA site, due to an update on the publicly available information pulled from government sources. Other state and local governments are also taking action on their own to make their data more accessible to the public through visulaization, as is the case in Nevada.

“Data USA is our attempt to democratize data and change the way people interact with government data,” Perrin says.