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Rapid Insight: Higher Education case study

75% Faster IPEDS Data Submission at Mount Saint Mary’s University

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  • Repeatable, code-free IPEDS prep workflows

  • Greater accuracy with midstream data verification

  • 30 hours of IPEDS data prep time saved


Mount Saint Mary’s University (MSMU) used Rapid Insight’s data preparation tool, Construct, to automatically cleanse its data for IPEDS reporting, then format it for instant upload to the IPEDS Data Collection System. In total, Construct reduced MSMU’s IPEDS submission time from forty hours to ten, while providing increased accuracy during the preparation process.

Customer Testimonial

Construct really cut down on the time required for me to work on IPEDS.

Maria Narvaez, Director of Institutional Planning and Research at Mount Saint Mary’s University

The Challenge

MSMU, a women’s college in Los Angeles with an annual enrollment of nearly 3,000 students, is one of more than 6,000 institutions across the United States required to submit data to the NCES through the IPEDS Data Collection System. 

IPEDS reporting is mandatory for all institutions that participate in federal financial assistance programs. Submitting accurate data according to strict due dates is essential for continued funding. However, the volume and range of data required for each of the four reporting periods are massive. Many institutions find it challenging to meet the deadlines. 

In 2018, Maria Narvaez was promoted to Director of Institutional Planning and Research at MSMU. Along with her new position came a significant responsibility: organizing and submitting MSMU’s data to IPEDS. Though Narvaez had two decades of higher education experience, she was brand new to the IPEDS keyholder role. She needed a way to complete the IPEDS surveys efficiently and accurately, as she wanted to meet and exceed expectations in her new role.

The Solution

Rapid Insight Construct

Thankfully, along with the keyholder role, Narvaez inherited her predecessor’s code-free, automated IPEDS data preparation workflows in Rapid Insight Construct. 

Customer Testimonial

Luckily, my predecessor left me IPEDS jobs in Construct.

Maria Narvaez, Director of Institutional Planning and Research at Mount Saint Mary’s University

The repeatable workflows draw the necessary data from MSMU’s various sources, cleanse the data, and create a single organized report. The workflows made it possible for Narvaez to hit the ground running as a new keyholder. The final export made IPEDS data entry far faster and more accurate than if Narvaez had to cross-check multiple documents. 

Compared to complex strings of code, Construct’s workflows are easy to understand, even for those without training in data. This ease of use removed a potential speedbump in the handoff between Narvaez and her predecessor.

Construct Visual Overview Flow

Construct uses an easy-to-understand, drag-and-drop workspace

The workflows made wrangling and preparing IPEDS data manageable for Narvaez. However, the full submission process still took around 40 hours. The bulk of that time consisted of manually entering data into the IPEDS Data Collection System.

Customer Testimonial

It was the manual entry into IPEDS that was time-consuming.

Maria Narvaez, Director of Institutional Planning and Research at Mount Saint Mary’s University

Narvaez knew that there had to be a better method of submitting the institution’s data than completing tedious page-by-page online forms.

Workflows to Format Data for Upload

On the IPEDS submission page, Narvaez noticed the “Upload” option and wondered how much time she might save by uploading the data instead of entering it. But the fixed-width file had strict formatting requirements that seemed challenging to meet.

Narvaez contacted Rapid Insight’s analyst support team for assistance. With the support team’s help, Narvaez modified her Construct workflows to add an additional step: condensing the data into a structured upload file.

Rapid Insight’s support team used IPEDS’s upload requirements schema to structure the output file. The team then worked with Narvaez to test and implement it.

The end result: a single Construct workflow that handles the entire process of compiling, cleansing, and formatting MSMU’s data for upload to the IPEDS Data Collection System.

IPEDS Workflow Part D

A building block for Narvaez’s full IPEDS workflow

Improved Data Verification

As important as it is to save time, it’s equally critical to ensure the data submitted to IPEDS is accurate. 

The Construct workflow Narvaez uses includes temporary outputs that act as mid-stream checkpoints for data validation. These checkpoints allow Narvaez to identify errors at any point in the process, making mistakes easier to catch and correct.

Additionally, Narvaez uses the post-upload review screen to perform a final check for accuracy. After IPEDS processes the upload file, keyholders have a chance to review and manually change any of the cells. IPEDS also flags errors in the data that need to be corrected or explained. 

As such, Narvaez’s workflows and her upload process each offer numerous accuracy checks and opportunities to validate the data before submission.

Customer Testimonial

You still have control over the information. When I went back to see what the data would be if I entered it myself; it was all correct.

Maria Narvaez, Director of Institutional Planning and Research at Mount Saint Mary’s University

Construct’s Collaborative Cloud

Thanks to Narvaez’s work, any user of Rapid Insight Construct has access to the automated IPEDS data formatting workflow through the Collaborative Cloud.

The Collaborative Cloud allows Construct users to upload jobs for other users to download, free of charge.

Each year, Rapid Insight’s support staff updates the IPEDS formatting workflow to match the current year’s IPEDS schema files. As such, any Construct user can download an up-to-date IPEDS formatting workflow of their own.

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Future Plans

Since Narvaez re-uses her Construct workflows each year, she can refine the workflows to produce better results (in less time) each cycle. For example, she no longer needs as many data validation checkpoints to feel comfortable with the accuracy of the final export. As such, she will likely remove some of them to streamline the data preparation process.

Customer Testimonial

Reporting is very cyclical in our world, so I just copy the workflow and tweak it as needed. The core of the job remains the same.

Maria Narvaez, Director of Institutional Planning and Research at Mount Saint Mary’s University

Narvaez also plans to create workflows to produce import files for the other IPEDS surveys. She will carry over the same protocols from the Completions survey to the rest of the reporting periods.

Beyond that, Narvaez uses Construct for a number of other institutional reports, including financial aid reports for the California Student Aid Commission and data submissions for the National Student Clearinghouse. Construct improves data preparation for reporting of any kind, making it a powerful tool for any institution.

If you’re interested in learning more about how Rapid Insight can help you create automated data prep workflows for IPEDS (or any other institutional report) click the button below to get a free trial of our software! Along with the software, you’ll get free access to our analyst support team to help alleviate your IPEDS burden and a free download of the IPEDS formatting workflow.

Get A Free Analyst-Assisted Trial of Construct!