Numbers, numbers…

Most IR people are fascinated with numbers, logic, probability, and statistics, which is part of what draws us to our field.   We like to poke at data, and think about what they can and cannot tell us about the phenomena they reflect.  It’s not surprising that many in the profession think that Nate Silver is somewhat of a god.   And so when one of our favorite numbers guru addresses a topic in higher education, our day is made!

Yesterday in his blog, Five Thirty Eight, Nate Silver talked about what the changing numbers of college majors do and do not tell us about college programs and whether or not some majors are suffering from an increased emphasis on career-focused programs.  He uses data from the National Center for Education Statistics – data provided by Institutional Researchers through our IPEDS reporting – and employs a standard IR approach in offering alternative perspectives on numbers:  using a different denominator.   No spoilers here, I couldn’t possibly do it justice anyway.   Please go read.

As an added bonus, Silver mentions his own undergraduate experience at the University of Chicago and advocates broad, diverse studies.   He didn’t explicitly mention “liberal arts education,” but at least a few of his readers’ comments do.   Oh well, you can’t have everything!

About Robin Huntington Shores

Currently the Director of Institutional Research at Swarthmore College, Robin has worked in Institutional Research for over 20 years at a range of institutions.
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One Response to Numbers, numbers…

  1. There is a very nice article in the Chronicle Review following up on the same article that Nate Silver responded to – and the bad press given to the Humanities in general: “The Humanities, Declining? Not According to the Numbers.” by Michael Berube.

    Robin

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