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How to Prepare Your Data for IPEDS Reporting

james cousins
senior statistical analyst

The Fall semester is fully under way, and along with cooler days and pumpkin spice everything, if you’re in higher education, it means IPEDS! We pride ourselves on our higher-ed knowledge base here at Rapid Insight, and recently we got a call from a customer asking for help formatting their IPEDS reporting “import” file— that fixed-width, formatting heavy, manually defined file that helps you avoid entering your IPEDS numbers by hand. So of course, always up for a challenge, we got to work.

What is IPEDS?

For those unaware, IPEDS is that annual set of info-gathering surveys required of higher-ed institutions that participates in federal student financial aid programs. We happen to be in the middle of just one of their seasonal reporting periods. At the moment, schools need to submit surveys surrounding their completions, their 12-month enrollments, and institutional characteristics.

Ultimately, IPEDS reporting boils down to accessing the data and making sure it’s accurate when you submit it. However, it’s all those pesky little things that complicate what should be a simple process. Does the data in your system need to be reformatted before it looks the way that IPEDS needs it to? Are the answers to different parts of the surveys scattered across systems or tables?

Importing IPEDS Data—with Confidence

Our analysts at Rapid Insight have already been helping our higher-ed customers with IPEDS-related data gathering, cleaning, and structuring. But this year, as the next IPEDS reporting deadline approaches, we realized another area where we could offer support: the data import process.

Many institutions have a good handle on the numbers themselves, but submitting the numbers—and avoiding typos—is where we wanted to offer more help. IPEDS allows for data “imports” as long as your data is structured in a fixed-width file and adhere to dozens of little requirements about column lengths, names, and orders.

The good news? Veera Construct can handle all of that. And because our Support Team is committed to making life easier for you, we created a custom job that we’re sharing for free!

The job (see left) contains, of course, the schema files—the things that allow you to import your data instead of having to enter it by hand—and then it writes them out for convenient access once you’ve moved the data out of your information systems. This job is available for free through our in-app “Collaborative Cloud,” where a wide variety of user- and staff-created jobs are posted for use. All you need to do is search for anything that can help you save time in your workday, then download it right into your copy of the software. Anyone who’s worked on any report knows that you will always need to double-check the numbers, but what we’ve done is make the data entry a trivial concern. So take a look at the job, consider scheduling the data pulls instead of manually checking the boxes, and cut out a little extra time for your morning coffee (regardless of which seasonal flavor it might contain).

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