Building a student success report from publicly available data


Building a student success report from publicly available data

Making IPEDS data useful

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Ben Brandon

Ben Brandon

Senior Director for Student Success Analytics at Georgia State University. His capstone project was the development of a tool to help make IPEDS data more accessible and digestible to student success practitioners.

The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of EAB.

The approach to student success at Georgia State University relies heavily on regular and systematic interrogation of our student data. We are fortunate to have a robust data infrastructure including a home-grown data warehouse that allows for customized analytics and a dedicated team of experts and analysts who are tasked with providing the administration with actionable insights. Many institutions across the country are not so fortunate and may not have the technology, expertise, or staff bandwidth needed to perform these analyses. Given the premise that trustworthy, longitudinal data that are disaggregated across demographic populations are critical to understanding student outcomes, I set out to build a tool using IPEDS data that could give every institution in the country access to their own student data in a way that facilitates deeper understandings of their student outcomes.

IPEDS data are neither perfect nor exhaustive, but they can be useful as a means to explore trends and identify achievement gaps among students in a way that may otherwise be difficult for institutions to accomplish independently, especially given a shortage of resources and/or technology. Using an API made available by the Urban Institute’s Education Data Portal, I built a report that is focused on presenting some of the most critical student success data available through IPEDS in a clear, digestible manner. It allows for institutions to observe and monitor important trends for their student body, with a specific focus on tracking those trends by demographic groups that may illuminate achievement gaps between student populations.

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The report displays yearly data on enrollment for the entire student body as well as retention and graduation data for first-time freshmen students. Particular attention is paid to graduation outcomes by demographic groups, and the report presents longitudinal rates by race/ethnicity (IPEDS treats these as one variable), sex, and financial aid categories such as Pell grant recipients. Additionally, it presents the graduation rate for each group relative to the graduation rate of the student body overall to allow for quick and intuitive identification of achievement gaps.

My goal with this report was not to create a replacement for the nuanced insights and understandings that come from a thorough quantitative and qualitative approach to student data analytics. Rather, my hope was to expand the amount of useful data that student success practitioners could access, especially at institutions that are less well-resourced or who have been frustrated trying to put IPEDS data to use in the past. It is hard to fix a problem you can’t see, and I hope this tool is able to shed some light on the challenges and areas for opportunity facing many institutions across the country.

See the fellows' blogs from the capstone projects

Amy Capolupo and others participated in the Spring 2021 EAB’s Rising Higher Education Leaders Fellowship

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