How One Data System Met My APR Needs and Eased the Burden on My Staff

Sharilyn Brown (pictured far right) poses for a picture with colleagues at COE’s annual conference in September. Sharilyn recently retired from Southwestern Oregon Community College.

I’m Sharilyn Brown, a former TRIO director of both Talent Search and Upward Bound programs and past president of NAEOP. I have 28 years of service in TRIO, including experience as a peer reviewer of all types of TRIO programs. Two years ago, I boldly decided to transition our APR and student data to empower, the Council for Opportunity in Education’s (COE) powerful annual performance report (APR) and student data tool. I started working with empower in 2020, two years before I retired.

Why did I make this decision? My experience with an outdated cumbersome system and years of frustration with managing the APR. Our database was developed 20 years ago and was an access-based web program, not Oracle-based like empower. Maintaining this outdated system led to high costs, mainly related to updating the system to meet the requirements of the APR. To avoid these costs, we manually managed the data in excel spreadsheets, which became too difficult to manage over time.

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As I prepared to retire from TRIO, I wanted to leave my team with a robust data system that met our APR needs and eased the administrative burden on staff. I found the solution in empower, a data tool created for TRIO by TRIO. This provider is uniquely positioned to understand TRIO’s data needs. TRIO and empower speak the same language.

The idea of transitioning to a new database was daunting, but my conversion to empower was virtually seamless and required little time and effort. With a few minor tweaks, we were on our way. Once onboard, I found this tool to be extremely user-friendly, highly automated, effective in retaining historical data, and much less labor-intensive. The ease of use was particularly advantageous when submitting the APR. The empower team was there to guide me through to a successful submission and dramatically reduced the time to complete the process.

The relationship with empower allowed me to give feedback that enhanced my experience as a user and ensured I remained compliant with TRIO’s APR requirements.

The affordable, inclusive pricing options for empower made it an excellent financial investment. As a COE product, the resources generated through empower go back into the TRIO community, and that’s something I felt good about.

If you’re thinking about changing to a tool that offers you more ease of use, independence, and affordability, and reduces your administrative burden, then consider transitioning to empower now before the next APR cycle.

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