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Higher Education Analytics using Power BI #1: Retention

Headshot of article author Patrick LeBlanc

Partnering with Stetson University, I am happy to share the first of many Power BI Higher Education Analytics solutions. This solution shows student persistence, retention, and graduation patterns, leveraging a Student Information System (SIS) as the data source. Year-over-over retention and graduation rates can be filtered to allow deeper examination of trends at the college and major level. Additional views, including retention and graduation rate tables by major and ethnicity, are included within the report solution.  The entire solution with documentation can be downloaded.

The following image shows the first view within the report: overall persistence, retention, and graduation rates by year of first time student cohort. This report allows users to quickly show institutional retention and graduation trends across time, with the option to filter the view to show only specific colleges and/or majors.


This report was built in Power BI Desktop and published to Power BI web service to share with the campus community.

While the report initially used a manually refreshed Excel file of student enrollment as the data source, the architecture shown below was developed to extract and automate the reoccurring refresh of data.


For this example, Stetson University extracted data from BANNER using Argos for Enterprise reporting and exported to Excel.  While Stetson University used Argos to extract the data, any data extraction tool, such as SQL Server Integration Services (SSIS), can be used.

The download zip file contains the following items to help you quickly create your own retention report:

  • a step by step guide to setting up the files and configuring Power BI,
  • a Data Dictionary, which contains detailed information on the FTIC (first time in college) views, tables, and variables used to create the extracted data file,
  • a sample Excel source data workbook, and
  • the Higher Education Retention report template which contains the data model and reports.

The documentation included in the download assumes users understand how to extract data from their existing source systems and does not provide detailed guidance on this aspect of the process.

If you have any questions, suggestions, or concerns, please feel free to email myself at, Resche D. Hines, Ph.D. ( or Angela Henderson (

Stay tuned to my blog, Facebook page, and twitter (@patrickdba) for updates on forthcoming higher education reporting solutions.

Talk to you soon,

Patrick LeBlanc