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Rapid Insight: Higher Education case study

Automating IPEDS Data Prep at Indiana Wesleyan University

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IPEDS Data Prep at Indiana Wesleyan University
  • 5x faster IPEDS data prep

  • Easy accuracy checks at any point in the process

  • Approximately 300 staff benefit


Using Rapid Insight’s data automation tool, Construct, Indiana Wesleyan University built automated data prep workflows to compile, cleanse, organize, and format data from across the institution for easy, accurate IPEDS data submission. IPEDS reporting is mandatory for all institutions that participate in any Federal financial assistance program, and submitting accurate data in a timely fashion is critical to receiving federal funding.

Customer Testimonial

I couldn’t do IPEDS reporting without Construct. I’m sure I could find a way, but I can’t imagine how unwieldy it would be.

Tony Parandi, Director of Institutional Research, Indiana Wesleyan University

The Challenge

As a thriving private university with 13,000 full-time students across five distinct academic units, Indiana Wesleyan University (IWU) needed to simplify the complex process of gathering, cleansing, and aggregating data for its IPEDS reports. Rather than tediously compiling and wrangling data from spreadsheets, IWU’s Director of Institutional Research, Tony Parandi, wanted an automated process his 2.5 FTE IR shop could use to speed up the process and ensure the data’s accuracy.

The Solution

Rapid Insight Construct

IWU’s IR department already used Rapid Insight Construct to compile a range of detailed institutional reports and analyses for several other departments, such as enrollment and financial aid reports. As such, Parandi knew Construct to be an intuitive, powerful tool and a perfect fit for collating and cleansing the wide range of data required for IPEDS. Parandi also knew that he could rely on Rapid Insight’s analyst support team to provide guidance, advice, and testing for his workflows.

Customer Testimonial

Construct is the main tool that sets our office apart… institutionally, it saves a lot of our offices a lot of time.

Tony Parandi, Director of Institutional Research, Indiana Wesleyan University

Building IPEDS Data Prep Workflows

Parandi built an IPEDS data prep workflow that connects directly to IWU’s Colleague information system and other data sources across campus. Construct’s node-based, drag-and-drop interface makes building and editing jobs easy. The workflow (pictured below) queries the data sources, sections the data by IPEDS stage, aggregates and cleanses the data, and formats it for final output. In other words, the workflow handles the entire data preparation process, from database to report.

IWU IPEDS Data Prep in Construct


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Parandi also uses Construct’s notation feature to leave notes to himself for reference during future cycles, making it easy to understand what each part of the workflow accomplishes.

Verifying Data Integrity

At various checkpoints in the process, Parandi uses a Temporary Output node to inspect the data and ensure that it passes muster. Further along in the process, Parandi exports the data with a Report node for IWU’s subject matter experts to review and approve. 

Submitting IPEDS Data

Although Construct allows users to build workflows that format IPEDS data for direct upload, Parandi prefers to export the data from Construct into a digestible report and manually enter it on the IPEDS website. Though the process takes longer than an automated upload, it gives Parandi a final method of verifying the data’s integrity before submission.

Revising and Improving Upon Workflows

Each year, IPEDS makes changes to their requirements. As such, Parandi must update his workflows to match the new rules. Thankfully, Construct makes this a quick process. “Sometimes it’s as easy as making a few changes in a single node,” Parandi says. Workflow updates take as little as five minutes and as much as two hours to update, depending on the volume of changes IPEDS made to its reporting standards. 

Parandi has been using Construct for IPEDS data prep for almost ten years, but he still finds ways to improve the workflows every year, making them even more efficient and effective.

The Impact

Timely, Accurate IPEDS Submissions

Thanks to Rapid Insight, Parandi and his IR department have organized, accurate reports to work from when entering IWU’s IPEDS data for each deadline. “Construct gets our rather messy data systems to meet the qualifications to report on IPEDS within the timeframe,” Parandi says. “There are a lot of steps that need to happen before the data is clean enough to report on it.” Thankfully, Construct makes those steps manageable and allows Parandi to focus on the institution’s many other data needs.

Future Plans

IPEDS may eventually require student-level data, which will require changes to Parandi’s Construct workflows. If IPEDS does require more granular information in the future, Construct will make the transition easier. Parandi’s workflows connect directly to the data in IWU’s student information system rather than pre-built queries or spreadsheets. As such, IWU’s IT department will not need to restructure queries to provide more granular data; Parandi can make the updates on his own.

Additionally, the state of Indiana already requires student-level data for its reporting. If the information IPEDS requires is similar to what Indiana requests, Parandi can repurpose his state reporting jobs for IPEDS. If IPEDS requires distinct information, Parandi will build out a new workflow to provide it. Either way, Parandi’s experience in Construct equips him to build a purpose-built IPEDS data prep workflow and deliver the required data on schedule.

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