Higher education Institutional data reporting risks

Reporting institutional data: are you taking a proactive approach?

Institutional data reporting (IDR) is the process of submitting qualitative and/or quantitative data to an external entity such as an accreditor, governmental entity or ranking agency or publication for the purpose of encapsulating an accurate representation of the institution. Common external agencies are:

  • U.S. Department of Education
  • National Science Foundation
  • Accreditors
  • U.S. News and World Report (U.S. News)

Decisions start with data

The reporting process is integral to an institution’s accreditation, federal funding and reputation. In recent years, several higher education institutions have misreported student admissions and placement data, such as the U.S. News, which has elevated this area for increased scrutiny. As externally reported metrics can impact the reputation and standing of an institution, as well as the ability to recruit new students and solicit funds from alumni and donors, misreporting data may result in:

  • Lower national and regional rankings
  • Exclusion from ranking agency publications and/or guidebooks
  • Declines in applications
  • Financial implications due to potential lawsuits or sanctions

Unfortunately, many institutions find overseeing the IDR process difficult due to the following:

  • No established data warehouse
  • Challenges with systems utilized to maintain data and generate information
  • Unclear and undefined data dictionary definitions
  • Decentralized preparation of information and reports
  • Ineffective quality control reviews for internal and external reports
  • Lack of awareness of roles and responsibilities surrounding data reporting
  • Miscommunication or lack of communication between departments
  • Lack of a formalized process for retrieving, generating, calculating and reviewing data

Key IDR considerations for colleges and universities

Consider the following. Is your institution:

  • Ensuring compliance with survey requirements?
  • Utilizing a data warehouse?
  • Employing designated data personnel (data liaisons) at each unit (e.g., school, college) level?
  • Utilizing an institution-wide data dictionary that every department/unit uses?
  • Providing a quality control review for ranking surveys, accreditation self-study reports, government reports and marketing pieces?

Managing the risks associated with institutional data reporting starts with:

How to proactively approach managing institutional data reporting risks

Baker Tilly can help

We can help your institution proactively manage the high risks associated with institutional data reporting.

Baker Tilly helps colleges and universities manage institutional data reporting risks

Case study: institutional data reporting in action

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Client need

A higher education institution asked Baker Tilly to evaluate the efficiency and effectiveness of institutional data reporting operations and resources.

Baker Tilly solution

Our Baker Tilly team helped the institution by reviewing documentation and interviewing key personnel to understand the institution’s framework for data reporting and assess consistency with the instructions set by external agencies. In addition, our team conducted testing procedures by obtaining and reviewing supporting documentation for reported data to the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), U.S. News and Higher Education Research and Development (HERD) survey.

Results achieved

Our team identified that the institution did not have formalized data definitions, a quality review process or data governance policies in place. Our team provided guidance on creating a robust data verification process that allows for a robust review before institutional data is disseminated.

For more information on institutional data reporting, or to learn more about how Baker Tilly’s higher education internal audit specialists can help your institution, contact our team.

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