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3 Tips to Streamline Community College Compliance Reporting

How to save time and move your data strategy from disparate to deliberate

May 2, 2023, By Matt Logan, Director, Partner Development

Community College IR and IE offices spend weeks (if not months) each year on IPEDS and other compliance reports. For every report, schools must review instructions, compile the data, connect the dots from disparate systems, and create a cogent narrative. Since many states require additional reports (in completely different formats), this process can take even longer.

Reporting and compliance tasks are critical, but their time-intensive nature can bog data teams down, stifling their ability to leverage institutional data in a more strategic way. In this post, I’ll share three ways to simplify the reporting process for your community college-freeing up your teams’ time for other strategic initiatives.

1. Improve data integration

Data integration is the process of combining data from various sources (such as your SIS, LMS, and CRM) into a single, unified view. This allows different sources of data to “speak” to each other. But, as the proliferation of campus technology continues to expand, the process has become increasingly difficult to manage without a true integration strategy. A common method for integration involves leveraging a data model to essentially transform your data to speak that data model’s language. This way, you’re able to see and interpret your integrated data, but you may lose two crucial pieces of functionality in the process:

  1. The ability to trace the lineage of your data if you need to validate or understand it in its original form.
  2. The ability to look at your data historically. Point-in-time views are great to answer, “how are we doing right now?” But they can’t tell you how you’re doing now as compared to last year at the same time across the same data point.

If you choose a third-party solution for this work, make sure you choose one that is system-agnostic, enabling valuable information-sharing across your tech stack. More importantly, select a solution that provides data transformation transparency, ensuring clear lineage and flexibility when sources and processes inevitably change.

El Camino College (ECC) used Edify, EAB’s data and analytics solution, to combine and standardize data from their LMS (Canvas) and SIS (Colleague) into a unified student record. Having a single source of truth for student data has empowered campus decision-makers to be more strategic in the way they support their students. They use Edify to investigate valuable enrollment and registration trends, credits, and LMS usage metrics, among other insights, and then act decisively to meet student needs and institutional goals.

Edify Data Model

Having a system in place that can automatically integrate your data is an essential component in simplifying compliance reporting. This step saves you and your team from the time-consuming task of manually translating disparate and often confusing codes from various source reports before you can begin the compliance reporting process itself.


2. Automate repetitive tasks

Another key to streamlining compliance reporting is to automate as much of the work as possible. Ensure that you’ve integrated and cleansed your data first. Then, use a data management platform to create repeatable, editable exports matching IPEDS or state reporting fields. Once these are created, you can automatically pull corresponding data into those exports, validate it, and submit your reports. What’s more, you can use your new exports to replicate the process again in the future. They can be re-run in subsequent reporting cycles and edited if any guidelines change.

Northampton Community College recently underwent their first round of IPEDS and state reporting using Edify. In a matter of days, EAB’s data team brought Northampton’s SIS data into Edify in raw form, then transformed, cleansed, and validated it. This transformed, validated data became searchable under EAB’s data model via uniform fields and naming conventions-creating much more efficiency when locating important reporting fields.

Next, Northampton’s IR and IE staff partnered with Edify’s professional services team to build exports in Edify that matched every form field and reporting requirement for both IPEDS and the Pennsylvania state reporting agency, PIMS. These exports then pulled in matching student data from Edify that could be reviewed and submitted in a matter of hours. Then, Northampton simply downloaded the reports and submitted them to the respective reporting bodies.

The new process saved them hundreds of hours of staff time, and they were able to submit both reports on time and under budget.



3. Engage executive leaders in data governance efforts

On a slightly more macro level, I recommend establishing effective campuswide data governance and ensuring your executive leadership team is engaged in the effort. This step provides the foundation necessary to not only ease the burden of compliance reporting, but support broader, more strategic analyses across the institution as well. Creating this data foundation requires that campuses follow five key pillars to design effective data governance:

  • institutional data ownership
  • data governance structures
  • enterprise data value
  • data quality assurance
  • data access controls


At the front end of the process, leaders must prioritize enterprise data domains for consideration and definition; at the end, they must work closely with campus to respond to new needs and initiate better data stewardship among those inputting and using enterprise data. As each of these activities requires an ongoing effort from leaders and frontline staff throughout the institution, data governance initiatives must be carefully designed to ensure that each process incorporates the right individuals at the right times and leverages appropriate mechanisms and frameworks to facilitate continuous improvement.

Despite the clear need for executive leadership involvement and vision-setting within this work, our survey of 65 executives suggested that few consult with IR teams as a regular part of the decision-making process, and more were relying on IR/IE on an ad hoc basis. Effective data governance lays the groundwork for easing compliance work at the institution but requires a more strategic partnership between executive leadership and the IR/IT offices leading the work.


Conclusion: Streamlining reporting enables you to engage your team in higher-level work

As community colleges navigate some of the largest staffing shortages in recent memory, many are investing in better technology and tools to help support and retain existing (and exceedingly critical) staff. New tech doesn’t solve all woes of the staffing crisis-but it definitely helps nurture the needs of those who remain.

If done right, the three tips above will free up staff capacity. Be prepared to take advantage of that extra bandwidth and think about what strategic initiatives you will take on as a result.


Looking to Northampton Community College once more: with Edify, they’ve been able to look beyond some of these more time-intensive tasks and approach institutional data management with a strategic mindset. For example, they are planning to integrate their student success data (Starfish) into Edify and stand up an underutilized retention function to drive their student success strategy forward. Northampton’s data leaders are also excited to empower their campus with self-service access to the data they need through customizable dashboards in a drag-and-drop workspace. These strategic initiatives serve two purposes: 1) they reduce the burden on the IR/IE teams and 2) they move the campus toward its long-sought-after goal of creating a culture of data confidence.

Northampton is leveraging Edify professional service hours to create a campus data strategy and to develop a campus data dictionary so everyone-not just the data tool-will speak the same language when it comes to data.

In sum, the right tools and the right partnership will streamline your campus reporting needs, help unburden your data team, and enable you to set your sights on greater institutional initiatives.

Matt Logan

Matt Logan

Director, Partner Development

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