By Mayra Cruz
@MayraC27

Campus coverage can be daunting, but looking beyond the campus is a way to get the story, Jennifer Wheeler of The Register-Mail said at “DataU: the databases you need to cover higher ed.”

From grants to graduation rates, one of the major databases to mine for information is the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, or IPEDS, which is compiled by the National Center for Educational Statistics. The IPEDS information contains a general overview of institutions, including enrollment, retention rates and budgets, among other items.

“It’s a robust source of information,” said Alex Richards of the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Richards said IPEDS is a robust source of information. Compiled information is also available on the NCES site for snapshot data needed on quick deadlines.

Following the money at the national and individual institutional levels is important to remember. Grants, endowment and student fees are areas for exploration, Richards and Wheeler said.

The surrounding community should not be ignored, since it also needs to be investigated, Wheeler said. Getting familiar with the local municipalities is key to effective campus coverage.

Everything from crime rates, restaurant inspections and parking tickets are all topics that could be mined for stories.

“You really have to hold their feet to the fire,” Wheeler said.

As a student at the University of Illinois, Wheeler said that in finding information on parking tickets, the original campus focus changed to include a countywide analysis. Student reporters should also take advantage of academic resources, such as databases, she said.

Mayra Cruz is a graduate student at the University of Missouri School of Journalism.