Integrated Planning and Advising Services (IPAS) Research

Renewed emphasis on student progress and degree completion is driving higher education to take a fresh look at services that promote student success. Integrated planning and advising services (IPAS) are an approach to student success that promotes shared ownership for educational progress among students, faculty, and staff through holistic information and services that contribute to credential completion. EDUCAUSE is contributing to this effort with a comprehensive ECAR research project which will investigate IPAS benchmarking; data and systems integration; implementation; and assessment and evaluation.

All IPAS research materials are publicly accessible thanks to generous support from The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Report Information

Assessment and Evaluation

This report consists of two main parts. The first addresses a host of methodological and procedural issues related to the evaluation and assessment of IT projects in general and IPAS projects in particular. The second is concerned with comparing and contrasting the real-world evaluation and assessment experiences of four institutions that have recently launched IPAS projects.

Key Findings

  • Institutions need to develop a protocol for assessment and evaluation during the project planning stages for their IPAS initiatives.
  • There is no one correct way to evaluate and/or assess an IPAS project.
  • Institutional type and resources influence, but do not determine, the assessment and evaluation options available.
  • The topic of data is central to any discussion that institutions should have regarding IPAS evaluation and assessment.
  • Aligning and operationalizing goals and outcomes with meaningful variables are essential processes to any evaluation or assessment protocol.
  • The major obstacle for smaller institutions is related to the human resources available to design and execute protocols and to conduct the analysis and reporting of results.
  • Institutions need to be comfortable with uncertainty in outcomes, resilient in data-collection efforts, and patient with regard to having results that demonstrate impact.


While the use of analytics to promote student success is gaining in popularity, basic questions about what IPAS is and the issues institutions face during implementation and integration. The IPAS Implementation Handbook catalogs the experiences, observations, and practical advice from 19 institutions engaged in IPAS implementation projects. To facilitate comparisons, institutional IPAS data regarding expectations, goals, costs, benefits, change management efforts, implementation team composition, and end users are included.

Key Findings

  • Among institutions included in this study, 84% deploy solutions from at least three of the IPAS domains of educational planning, progress tracking, early-alert systems, and advising and counseling.
  • IPAS projects are not simply IT projects; they are student success projects that require the cooperation and collaboration of various departmental, functional, and service units for successful implementations and outcomes.
  • The most frequently cited change-management efforts for IPAS projects tend to focus on institutional priorities that align with strategic plans and involve key stakeholders and end users in the IPAS process.
  • Despite their interest in IPAS solutions as end users, faculty and students tended to be excluded from change-management efforts related to their institutions’ projects.
  • Including a diversity of non-IT groups in all phases of IPAS projects—especially on the project committee—is viewed as essential for gathering feedback from potential end users and increases the likelihood of campus-wide buy-in for IPAS solutions.

Data and Systems Integration

Enthusiasm for IPAS solutions may be hindered both by technical and institutional barriers. The Data and Systems Integration Report uses qualitative data from four institutions that have recently implemented IPAS solutions to explore the complexities of deploying IPAS systems and integrating IPAS solutions into institutional practices.

Key Findings

  • Using a single set of credentials for IPAS authentication makes the tools more accessible and increases the likelihood of end-user buy-in.
  • Considerable effort is required to prepare existing data and to generate new data with which to populate IPAS systems.
  • The costs of real-time and two-way data exchange solutions exceed their perceived benefits at this time.
  • Institutions tend to have IT staff with the technical skills necessary to handle a systems and data integration project.
  • Creating diverse IPAS implementation teams that include representatives from key functional units or stakeholder groups increases the effectiveness of the implementation and garners broader campus support for the project.
  • In addition to hard IT skills (programming, database management), highly developed soft and cognitive skills (communication, creativity, analysis) are necessary to carry out a successful IPAS implementation project.


Recognizing potential unfamiliarity with this emergent field of practice within higher education, ECAR worked with a select cohort of 36 institutions (26 of them community colleges) that are actively engaged in student success initiatives. Each institution was asked to provide two responses, one from the CIO and another from the officer responsible for student success initiatives, to a survey about their institution’s IPAS practices and plans. ECAR also conducted qualitative focus groups with IPAS stakeholders from 26 of the participating institutions.

Key Findings

  • Among our study cohort of institutions actively engaged in student success initiatives, 80% of respondents say IPAS services play a major role in their institution’s student success strategies. Nine out of ten expect their use of IPAS technology to increase in the next five years.
  • Top drivers of IPAS investment are the strategic priority of student success and the desire to reorient the institution from an enrollment to a completion culture. Making more efficient use of advising resources ranks much lower.
  • Though CIOs and SSOs usually are in accord about IPAS issues, they sometimes differ in their assessments, even at the same institution. CIOs, for example, are more likely than SSOs to report that their institution uses predictive or proactive analytics in student progress.
  • Study participants advised that institutions considering IPAS technologies ensure wide, cross-departmental representation, that they reach out proactively to affected constituents to communicate goals and progress, and that they review and rethink institutional processes to promote student success rather than merely augmenting those processes with new systems.

Related Initiative: EDUCAUSE iPASS Grant Challenge

The latest EDUCAUSE grant competition, Integrated Planning & Advising for Student Success (iPASS) in higher education, awarded grants of up to $225,000 to 24 institutions from across the country. Created with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, the initiative aims to help two-and four-year higher education institutions launch comprehensive iPASS technologies by 2018.

Related Resources in the EDUCAUSE Library