History of the Field of Institutional Research
Institutional research activities date back to the eighteenth century, however considerable changes occurred in the field during the twentieth century. Developments have been driven, in part, by government’s growing influence. Federal higher education commissions and legislation such as the 1944, 1952 and 1966 GI Bills and the 1965 Higher Education Act set aside funds for colleges and financial aid for eligible students but with stipulations and reporting requirements. The Higher Education Act has been reauthorized every six years since 1968, always with new requirements of universities. Governmental authority was again exerted in 1988 when the Secretary of Education required accrediting agencies to incorporate institutional outcomes as criteria for accreditation and yet again when the 2005 Spellings Commission pushed for greater educational accountability and better evidence of quality. Changes in the field have also been caused by tremendous advances in computing power which in turn have made it easier to use complex statistical techniques. It is now possible to store, access, and review millions of records thereby increasing the possibilities for the production of meaningful statistics and more thorough evaluations. Recent social and technical developments make this an important and exciting time to be an institutional researcher.
The incorporation of the Association for Institutional Research (AIR) in 1965 formalized the professionalization of institutional research. The development of the field and its people is enhanced by the organization’s journals, research monographs, newsletters, conferences, and regional chapters –such as, CAIR.