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Other - Issue Briefs - Publication Number: IB98-3 (January 7, 1999)

Status and Implications of IPEDS Redesign

Over the next several years and starting as early as summer 1999, the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) surveys will undergo major changes. In addition to implementing new Congressional mandates and other externally driven changes, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) is considering substantial definitional and procedural changes.

Columbia(P&B)--IPEDS redesign provides an opportunity to rethink what types of data can be most beneficial to policymakers and consumers and to help institutions in their efforts to collect timely, consistent, and relevant data. This Issue Brief outlines the current status of proposed changes in IPEDS reporting and the resulting implications for institutions.

Two studies are underway to address IPEDS redesign. The first study, launched in May 1998, is sponsored by the National Postsecondary Education Cooperative (NPEC) and serves to evaluate overall IPEDS policy. From this study four working groups have emerged to examine issues relating to IPEDS surveys. Three working groups deal with existing IPEDS surveys: finance, costs, and financial aid; faculty and staff; and students. A fourth working group will consider which postsecondary education institutions should be included in the universe of institutions that are required to submit IPEDS surveys.

The second study, under the guidance of the Director of Professional Development and Training in the Office of the Commissioner of Education Statistics, is an internal review of NCES postsecondary data collection efforts. This team will incorporate the results of the external review conducted by NPEC into a report that will be sent to the Commissioner of Education Statistics for his action.

Mandated Changes

Student Charges and Financial Aid
The Higher Education Amendments of 1998 require that institutions provide data on student charges and financial aid, necessitating the development of a uniform methodology for reporting the cost of postsecondary education. Specifically, standard definitions must be developed for tuition and fees, cost of attendance, average financial aid by type of assistance, and the number of students receiving each type of assistance. These measures relate to undergraduate students only. Institutions participating in Title IV (federal student financial aid programs) will be asked to provide data on these cost-related measures annually on the Institutional Characteristics Survey, beginning in 1999. NCES will collect data on student charges and financial aid for 1995-1997 with a new collection instrument in summer 1999. To ensure that data are comparable across three years, the working group dealing with finance forms proposed that institutions provide the three years of data themselves rather than relying on previously submitted data. Therefore a web-based form will be used July through August 15, 1999, to collect price of attendance for full-time entering students for three years plus financial aid data for all entering students who were full-time for one or more terms between July 1, 1997 through June 30, 1998. A statement of work relating to Congressionally mandated College Cost and Price Study is expected to be posted at by March 1999.

New Race and Ethnicity Codes
A new standard issued in October 1997 by the Office of Management and Budget sets forth new rules for collecting race/ethnicity data from individuals on all federal surveys. The current method of collecting race/ethnicity data uses a single-question with five categories of response: Black, Non-Hispanic; American Indian/Alaskan Native; Asian/Pacific Islander; Hispanic; and White, Non-Hispanic. The new standards will employ a two-part question. Ethnicity (Hispanic/Latino versus Non-Hispanic/Non-Latino) will be reported independently from race. Respondents will also be instructed to select one or more race classifications from five re-defined categories: American Indian/Alaska Native; Asian; Black/African-American; Native Hawaiian/Other Pacific Islander; and White. The new race/ethnicity standards will need to be reported in IPEDS starting in fall 2002, with the option of reporting with the new codes in 2000. NPEC, NCES, and the National Science Foundation (NSF) appointed a separate policy panel to address in detail issues relating to the new mandates for race/ethnicity. This group met March 17-18, 1998, and will meet again in spring 1999.

New Finance Form for Public Institutions
The standards by which private institutions report financial data were implemented for IPEDS forms in 1997. Some of the changes include reporting tuition and fee revenue net of institutional aid, recognizing pledges as income at the time the pledge is made rather than when it is received, and allocating operations, maintenance, and depreciation to functions. While these new standards make financial reporting more complete, it also means that reports for private and public institutions are no longer comparable. To correct this situation, new standards for public institutions will be issued by the Government Accounting Standards Board in 1999, with full implementation required for reporting IPEDS finance data for fiscal year 2002.

The NPEC working groups will meet in fall 1998 and spring 1999 to address these externally mandated changes. In addition to required changes, the groups will also examine definitions and instructions to ensure they are consistent across IPEDS forms and with other major non-IPEDS national studies; consider possible additions, deletions, and other changes to IPEDS surveys; and consider ways to keep the reporting burden to a minimum. IPEDS redesign will attempt to address additional topics as outlined below.

Additional Proposed Changes

Web-based Collection and Dissemination of Data
As mentioned, NCES plans a special data collection of student charges and financial aid data via web-based forms in summer 1999. Depending on the performance and further development of this application, NCES hopes to begin using the Web for IPEDS data collection on a regular basis as early as 2000. Web-based forms would include edit checks, permit customized survey items according to institution type, and allow institutions and states either to input data directly through a Web browser or to export their data. In response to the Higher Education Act, NCES also plans to establish a Web page for each institution that is eligible for Title IV funding that shows trends in student charges, financial aid, and other institutional information.

Possible New Items

Each working group is also considering additional topics proposed for inclusion in IPEDS. For example, in response to Congressional interest in providing higher education data to the public, the group dealing with student surveys is considering inclusion of the following items:

  • admissions data for entering freshman classes
  • parents' education
  • time to degree completion
  • fall-to-fall retention rates
  • average starting salaries and employment rates for graduates
  • non-credit activity
  • use of technology-mediated instruction

In addition, admissions-related items found in sections B12, C, and D of the Common Data Set may be added to this list.

The working group dealing with faculty/staff surveys has concluded that data by occupational categories, race/ethnicity, sex, and salary ranges are required by civil rights legislation. Although the group has not made any recommendations to change current survey items, it has identified the following as issues to be addressed.

  • better definition of staff categories
  • consistent definition of faculty across surveys
  • clarification of administrative/managerial categorization of staff
  • salary data on part-time faculty
  • data by discipline
  • use of a service month concept for faculty activity
  • methods for collecting data

The NPEC working groups plan to have draft recommendations for discussion at the April meeting of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO) and the May meeting of the Association for Institutional Research (AIR). The internal NCES redesign team will use the recommendations from the four working groups plus other NCES-sponsored hearings to produce an interim report in spring 1999 and a final report for the Commissioner of Education Statistics by late summer 1999. It is anticipated that most changes to IPEDS forms will be made by the 2002 collection cycle, with some showing up as early as 1999.

Implications for Institutions

Submission of IPEDS data is one of the requirements for participation in Higher Education Act Title IV. In addition, the Higher Education Amendments of 1998 include a provision for the Secretary of Education to impose a fine of up to $25,000 per survey on those institutions that do not submit IPEDS surveys in a timely fashion. Therefore it is important for institutions to submit complete and accurate IPEDS surveys on time, monitor proposed new data elements and collection methods, and provide input into the redesign process.

NCES Web Page to Track Institutions Submitting IPEDS Surveys
In response to Congressional concerns about the timeliness of IPEDS data, NCES has established a web site listing all institutions submitting and not submitting IPEDS surveys, starting with the 1998 Institutional Characteristics survey. This list will be updated as forms are submitted.

Opportunities to Provide Input to the Redesign Process
The working groups are currently in the process of compiling a master list of proposals and are very interested in receiving input from institutions. Specifically they would like feedback on how difficult it would be to provide the new data under consideration; what factors relating to collection, analysis, or reporting may affect data quality; whether additional items should be considered; and any other suggestions and comments.

Institutions should take advantage of several opportunities summarized below to provide input to the IPEDS redesign process.

  • NCES will announce new developments via their News Flash service. 
  • Working group chairs and key NCES staff will participate in the 8th Annual AIR Colloquium. The Colloquium, which serves as the second of AIR's new series of "Town Meetings on National Data," will be held in Tallahassee, Florida, January 28-30, 1999. Individuals who would like to have input into the redesign process are encouraged to attend. Registration information is available at
  • If you wish to comment about the new proposals posted at and, send an email to
Data Sources:

AIR Alert #9 and #9a


Reviewed 2016-06-24