Exploring Data Sources

Why do enrollment figures seem inconsistent sometimes?

As with many subjects or fields, there is much more to reporting than meets the eye. The database used to track student information is very large and complex. Banner is a production/transactional database. Theoretically and practically, this means you can extract a set of data using the exact same parameters and from the exact same source within minutes and obtain two non-identical sets of data. Adding to this complexity is the fact that the same or similar information may be stored in more than one data tables. Consequently, it is possible, for what appears to be the same information, to be extracted from different sources. That too, can result in seeming discrepancies.

Differences between Operational Data and Official Data

Operational data are sets of data queried ad-hoc directly from the Banner database. At SRSU, ad hoc querying is performed using Argos (an Ellucian reporting client). Operational data is very useful for obtaining instant information for broad gauging, troubleshooting student record errors and day-to-day operations. However, it should not be used for official reporting, because, as mentioned above, a dataset cannot be replicated – it is always changing.

Official data are data sets extracted from Banner at a specific point in time using specific criteria required by an agency. At SRSU, it is the collection of data files reported to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. These data sets are preferred for official reporting, not only because indicators derived from them are reproducible, but also because they are the only sets of data that undergo a careful quality review (for accuracy and reliability) by the SRSU Registrars and the THECB. Additionally, the parameters imposed to these data sets relate to student records for which SRSU receives public funding.

Here are some common enrollment-related definitions to keep in mind:

12th Class Day/Census Day: Enrollment is recorded twelve days after the start of the semester and used to establish preliminary enrollment data, and it is reported to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and the Texas State University System chancellor.

20th Class Day: Final/official enrollment is recorded based on this date and includes withdrawn students – those dropped for non-payment, and those withdrawn by the registrar. This enrollment number is reported to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and the Texas State University System chancellor; it serves as the official enrollment count for the semester.

Other important definitions:

Retention: The measurement of a cohort’s persistence from one fall semester to the next. This is most often gauged by the persistence of the fall, full-time freshmen class but may apply to any student type. Official retention measures depend on the definition established by the agency the measure is reported to.

First Time in College (Freshmen) Students: Have not attended another college or university after high school graduation.

Transfer Student: Attended and earned or attempted college credits after high school graduation. In some cases, additional criteria may be reflected on official reporting retention metrics. For example, for metrics reported to the Legislative Budget Board a transfer student is one that has transfer 30 or more SCH.

Returning Student: A student that attended the university for one or more long semesters, did not attend for one or more long semesters, and then re-enrolled. Returning students may also transfer back college credits earned at another college or university.

Continuing Student: Consistently enrolled from one long semester to the next until graduation.