5 Vital Metrics To Measure Diversity In Higher Education

4 min read
November 29, 2017


Metrics to measure diversity in Higher Education

Throughout this diversity series, we've made the case for why a more diverse learning environment is one, that ultimately produces greater results. However, what are the results we are expecting? How do they materialize and what value do they add? In order to determine that we need to assess and track key performance indicators or metrics.


Many people think metrics are the latest fancy buzz word that's a glorified synonym for data. Not quite. Data is nothing but a bunch of information if its not manipulated to create meaningful value. Metrics bring that data to life. Great metrics interpret data in such a way, that at a glance, you can determine success. Today, we have analysts making an exceptional living by simply interpreting this data and selecting key metrics in a dashboard or a tool used to simplify complex data sets to provide users with at a glance awareness of current performance. When it comes to moving your institution toward healthy diversity, here are 5 vital metrics To Measure Diversity In Higher Education that you should be tracking.


It might sound silly but one thing I always ask clients is how do you measure success? You would be surprised the answers and looks we often get. However, in order to determine whether a diversity program is working, you need to clearly define success for said program. The best way to do this is by defining S.M.A.R.T. Goals.

  • Specific - Your goal should be unambiguous and communicate what is expected, why it is important, who's involved, where it is going to happen and which constraints are in place.
  • Measurable - Your goal should have concrete criteria for measuring progress and reaching the goal.
  • Attainable - Your goal should be realistic and possible for your team to reach.
  • Relevant - Your goal should matter to your business and address a core initiative.
  • Timely - You should have an expected date that you will reach the goal.

For example, instead of evaluating success simply as an increase in diverse students, a SMART Goals would establish success at a 5% increase in female non-traditional student enrollment among our key programs (Nursing, Business, Marketing) in the Fall semester. See much more specific and something that at the end of the Fall semester you can look back on and see how well you've done.

Diversity Pacing

Diversity is not a sprint, its a marathon and much like the 26.2 mile race, setting and measuring pace is also important. Diversity Pacing is very similar. You set intermediate intervals. (I would recommend quarterly or by semester to coincide with your school fiscal year.) Based on your previously determined SMART goals, measure your performance at intervals as a percentage of the success metric. Using the example above, in order to stay on track to be "successful" and hit your Fall semester SMART goal, you should be seeing a 2.5% increase in female non-traditional student enrollment among key programs by midterms. If you're not seeing the activity, this will give you a preliminary heads-up that you might want to tweak your strategy. If you're pacing way ahead, it doesn't mean you need to slow down but perhaps you set your goals too low and might want to invest more heavily in the activities that are generating these successful outcomes.


Read our Ultimate Guide to Diversity & Inclusion in Student Recruitment

Retention of Underrepresented Faculty and Staff

As a general practice, retention is an extremely important metric to determine performance in higher education, however environments that breed high-turnover among underrepresented faculty and staff is a key indicator that something is broken. Less diverse classrooms can come across as unwelcoming to minority applicants and current students. If faculty and staff aren't sticking around because they don't fit into the school culture you have developed, the diversity at your institution will be hard to change.

Compensation Disparities

One of the factors that may be affecting the aforementioned retention is compensation disparities. While over-simplistic, there is a direct correlation between how the faculty and staff feel they are valued and their pay. While you may be making an effort to hire more diverse employees, if they're primarily for lower-level admin positions and adjuct faculty, you're likely to continue to see a disparity in the compensation and the sentiment that women and minority employees aren't being treated fairly.  There’s a good chance they’ll look for more equitable opportunities which affects your retention metric above.


While its still widely held practice not to discuss salary in the workplace, your human resources department should be keeping a close eye on this metric and make adjustments to level the playing field. By maintaining balance and equal pay for equal work regardless of race, gender, race, or age, your retention stats will begin to improve.

Cost/Benefit Ratio Diversity Initiatives

Diversity shouldn't cost a lot of money, the investment should mostly be in time for strategizing, implementation and measurement. Like with any initiative your college undertakes, return on your investment is important. There are a lot of great ways to create a more healthy diverse environment but if the long-term benefits don't outweigh the cost, the initiative will be dubbed a failure. The danger with this is, from experience, we tend to see, not just schools, but all organizations turn their back on diversity completely when they perceive their initial attempts to prove futile.


Be smart. Select programs and projects that match your capacity. Clearly define desired outcomes and how you measure success. Map out the efforts you will need to complete and how much it will cost. As with anything, start small and manageable and get some early wins under your belt before moving on to larger more cost-intensive diversity infusion programs.



Metrics are great performance indicators but they're not effective at generating diversity, only measuring it. You need a strategy. Developing, infusing and promoting diversity into your school culture is where it starts. Diversity isn't just about metrics and the data it interprets, its not sustainable on its own. You must invest in a long-term approach that is accepting and inclusive of all students, faculty and staff from all walks of life.


Non-Traditional Student Recruitment & Grassroots Marketing Case Study

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