My summer “vacation” on the training trail

Data gathering, interpretation, enrichment, and presentation — all of it easier and stronger when you know how to use the best tools around.

I spent my summer as an AIR/NCES professional trainer, showing higher education researchers how to do just that. In all, over 150 people attended my five workshops, all over the country. I built up my frequent flyer miles, dealt with high altitudes out West and basked in hot days down South. Even got to go to my first home, Texas.

All in all, I met a lot of great people and dove deep into the exciting world of institutional research. 

On-the-go itinerary

May 27, Denver, CO – IPEDS SFA Workshop through AIR Forum
June 20, Washington D.C. – NCES Data Institute
July 15, Washington D.C. – NCES IPEDS Institute (Train the trainers!)
July 18, Baton Rouge, LA – IPEDS SFA Workshop
July 26, Bridgewater, MA – NEAIR Summer Workshop & Getting Started with Tableau (most attended workshop!)
Aug. 2, Austin, TX – TAIR Summer Workshop

So I started at the world’s largest gathering of higher education professionals working in institutional research in Denver, and continued with smaller and regional forums. 

Digging into the data

At several events, my goal was to show participants how to prepare their institution’s data for IPEDS, and how to search, use and compare the data to other schools. By the end of the session, they were aware of the latest changes to IPEDS and skilled with various IPEDS data tools. 

Participants learned how to save their benchmarking work, while working in the Use the Data Center. No more lost work or wondering where you left off when the boss interrupts your progress. 

At the IPEDS SFA, we divided into teams and competed to answer questions in the Match Group game. This ice-breaker got everyone relaxed and talking, while the winners scored some free conference swag. 

Revealing the cost of education

One workshop focused on managing and extracting the financial aid data needed to complete the IPEDS Student Financial Aid Survey. According to the IPEDS Help Desk, this is one of the most challenging reports to prepare.

It is also one of the most critical surveys, because it lets colleges report their average net price accurately, so price-conscious students and parents can compare schools on sites like and It’s a vital tool in helping families close the education cost gap.

Added bonus: I showed those in attendance how to turn files into reports that can also address internal benchmarking and reporting needs. 

If you could use a refresher course in IPEDS, check out my upcoming trainings later this year. If you’d like help to make your IPEDS data more impressive and usable, please get in touch. There’s no charge for the first hour together.

Know your acronyms

IPEDS – Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System 
AIR – Association for Institutional Research
NCES – National Center for Education Statistics
SFA – Student Financial Aid
NEAIR – North East Association for Institutional Research
TAIR – Texas Association for Institutional Research

Read more about my vacation on my next blog…

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Ingram Market Analytics

Ingram Market Analytics, in Pittsburgh, was established by John Ingram, who has 25 years of experience in institutional research. I practice action analytics. I can turn drowsy data into an active advocate to support and champion your ideas. Get results that you can use immediately for greater productivity.