At least 36% of ATS staff members are data geeks. So said a Facebook post on National Statistics Day in October 2015. Of our current staff of 20, at least eight work closely with the tasks of gathering and analyzing a wealth of data collected through the Annual Report Forms, the Entering Student, Graduating Student, and Alumnae/I Questionnaires, and the various surveys conducted by our research department on behalf of projects such as the Educational Models and Practices project and the Economic Challenges Facing Future Ministers project.
As the keeper of all these data, ATS is in a unique position to determine what is happening in theological education. What are the enrollment trends? Who is coming to seminary, and why? What levels of debt do students bring with them to seminary? How much more do they incur while they are there? What are they choosing to study? What percentage are finishing their degree programs? How are graduates faring in the job market? What, exactly, does that job market look like these days? Are graduates well prepared for the roles they are expected to play? And what are schools doing to respond to a rapidly changing landscape?
This blog will share the insights of my colleagues who work most closely with ATS data. Chris Meinzer, senior director of administration and CFO, and Tom Tanner, director, accreditation and institutional evaluation, parse the data collected through the Annual Report Forms and aggregated in the Annual Data Tables to identify major trends in enrollment, seminary finances, and faculty composition. Jo Ann Deasy examines the data related to educational debt as it affects both schools and the students who attend them. She also tracks the experiences and perceptions of students as they enter seminary, graduate, and proceed through their careers as alumni/ae. Debbie Gin, director of research and faculty development, conducts studies to answer questions as they arise. For the Educational Models and Practices project, for instance, she conducted the initial mapping survey that has determined the hundreds of different ways in which schools are responding to today’s context and its attendant challenges. Collectively, the work of these colleagues demonstrates that data indeed matters. Subscribe to this blog and stay tuned to hear what they have to say.