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Rapid Insight: Higher Education case study

Automated IPEDS Reporting at Paul Smiths College

“I’ve drastically reduced the time and effort that it takes me to do my IPEDS reporting”

At Paul Smith’s College, Dr. Loralyn Taylor is an all-in-one IR office and Registrar. Needless to say, she is a very busy woman, and as “less than a one-person shop”, she tries to eke out every bit of time savings that she can. One of her most time-consuming tasks is the required reporting she must do for both the IPEDS and NYSED (New York State) reports which requires “a significant number of man-hours to complete.” When she considered which reports to begin the automating process with, these reports seemed like a logical place to start in order to reserve “more time to work on other projects”.

You don’t have to be a programmer

Dr. Taylor faced a few typical challenges when it came to collecting the data she needed for her required reports: data was stored in multiple systems that didn’t always talk to each other, she found inconsistent data in her databases, and finding time to be able to get surveys done was difficult. Dr. Taylor found Rapid Insight’s Construct and has been using it ever since to pull files from a variety of sources and in a variety of formats together. She describes Construct as “able to import anything I can throw at it.” Dr. Taylor appreciates how easy Construct is to use: “The part of Construct that I enjoy most is that everything is really straight-forward. You don’t have to be a programmer. If you’ve ever tried to use SQL reporting services, this is nowhere near that difficult. Everything is very visual, and it becomes very easy to keep track of where your columns are, where your data is located, and the type of data that you’re pulling in. This makes everything straightforward – not only to create the job but also if you have to troubleshoot your jobs.” When it comes to building jobs, Dr. Taylor relies on a few built-in Construct features to make sure that everything is going smoothly. One such feature is a record count displayed next to each node: “One nice thing is I can see exactly how much data I have flowing through each node. This is important because it tells you where you’re running into problems. If suddenly nothing was coming out and this number was zero, it’s easy to identify exactly where the problem is in your job.”

Automating the IPEDS reports

Dr. Taylor has set up Construct jobs to automatically output the information necessary for the IPEDS reports. Because she only needs to run these jobs once or twice each year, she uses the notes and labels within Construct to remind her which inputs and outputs she needs to change or add every year. As she puts it, “the beautiful part about this is that next year, when I need to run this again, all I have to do is go right here and change the graduation dates to the new set of graduation dates, and I hit run.” Because of the ability to save jobs and processes, the job to automate IPEDS only needed to be set up once – now Dr. Taylor simply runs that job each year and she has all of the necessary IPEDS information automatically outputted – without having to make calculations by hand. So how long did it take Dr. Taylor to set up the Construct jobs that automate her IPEDS? Her answer: “It took me about the same amount of time that it would take me to actually do the IPEDS survey using pivot tables and Excel or using Access queries, which is what I did before I was using the pivot tables, to set up the [Construct] report.” After seeing this time savings, Paul Smith’s Financial Aid department has asked Dr. Taylor to help them automate their portion of the IPEDS reports.

This is a huge time savings

Besides automating her IPEDS and other required reporting, Dr. Taylor has also used Construct to automatically run in-house reports on a scheduled basis. As she wrote to us in an update, “Just this week, I am working on an automated report to merge admissions information, orientation attendance lists, lists of people who have taken their placement testing, lists of people who have taken their freshmen survey, and lists of students who are on a student account so that Admissions can have one combined list to work from at orientation. This list used to take them hours of work to put together and updated and Construct does it every morning automatically! This is a huge time savings.” Dr. Taylor has also created “automated enrollment reporting that is emailed every morning to our executive cabinet”, which has gotten a very positive response (“They love it!”).

Extra mileage

One thing Dr. Taylor likes about Construct is “once you’ve started to build a process, you can use those jobs for multiple things.” Not surprisingly, she is getting extra mileage out of her IPEDS jobs by using them to create the university factbook. Because the factbook utilizes some of the same fields as the IPEDS, she has modified the job so that it can accomplish both outputs almost simultaneously. As for future plans, though the IPEDS jobs were originally set up so that the outputted fields could be easily matched up and transcribed into the IPEDS documents, Dr. Taylor will be implementing a new solution from Rapid Insight that does away with the transcription process. This way, information is directly outputted into the official IPEDS document for even bigger time savings.

About Paul Smith’s College

Whether your passion is forestry or the culinary arts, hospitality or biology, natural resources or business, for over 60 years Paul Smith’s College has provided experiential learning critical to our students’ success. And while our range of associate and bachelor degrees is diverse, everything we teach is based on the same principle: that actually doing is a critical part of learning. Located in the heart of the Adirondack Mountains of New York, Paul Smith’s uses its 14,000-acre setting as a living laboratory to promote economic, social and environmental sustainability.