SCUP
Planning for Higher Education Journal

Reference Group Formation Using the Nearest Neighbor Method

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From Volume 41 Number 2 | January–March 2013
By Gerald W. McLaughlin, Josetta McLaughlin, Richard D. Howard

The management of change and the evaluation of performance outcomes in higher education are most successful when a set of reference institutions against which to benchmark is identified. This article discusses a method by which a focal institution can identify other institutions that are most similar to itself. This methodology identifies the nearest institutional neighbors using a balanced set of measures from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). A case study is used to demonstrate the methodology. Readers will find this methodology to be robust and flexible, as well as easy to understand and explain to others. It is a hybrid method that integrates judgment and analytical techniques.

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