IPEDS Collection Changes: Get Involved, Be Informed

Eric S. Atchison is Director of System Analysis, Research, and Enrollment Management at Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning, and IPEDS State ​Coordinator.

EricA.jpgI remember it like it was yesterday. Being fairly acquainted with IPEDS data submission and two years on the job as an analyst, I thought I was prepared to report our institution’s financial aid data in an efficient manner with fewer edits and (hopefully) no fatal errors. Once the winter collection opened, I realized I was severely underprepared. I had not paid attention to the numerous electronic notifications and had skipped the IPEDS Update at our regional IR conference for another session. The Student Financial Aid component had been expanded to collect data on four student cohorts with varying aid reported in each group. I spent weeks trying to understand the plethora of changes and alter our reporting schema to comply with the instructions. It was this chain of events that led me to further investigate the process by which survey components changed.

With the IPEDS fall collection now open, you may be looking over the recently approved changes to the collection system for the current year as well as upcoming changes for 2017-18 and 2018-19. This year’s collection brings many changes to several of the IPEDS components. In addition to the changes to the survey components, many of the tools have received updates to enhance usage in the public domain. You might be asking yourself, “How did these changes come about?” or “How can I get involved and be in-the-know about changes to the IPEDS data collection?” This article will help answer these questions as well as provide a summary of the recent changes.


Changes to the IPEDS data collection typically occur through legislative efforts, emerging issues of relevance within the postsecondary community, or as an effort to reduce burden and ensure relevance of the data collected. Many of the recent changes to data collection ipeds-logo-lead.pngprocesses and variables collected have connections to the work of recent Technical Review Panels (TRPs) that are conducted by RTI International. Once the TRPs have concluded, a summary is produced and published on the TRP website. An open comment period allows a public review of the suggestions. While TRP participants represent a diverse group of individuals from various associations, sectors, institutional types, and roles, it is important to have feedback from many different perspectives to ensure that data being collected are useful across the various sub-groups of postsecondary institutions. Currently, TRP No. 49 (The Public Face of IPEDS: Web Tools and Publications) and TRP No. 50 (Outcome Measures 2017-18: New Data Collection Considerations) are open for comment until September 19 and October 12, respectively. TRP No. 49 includes a discussion of potential changes to IPEDS publications and web tools and TRP No. 50 discusses potential changes to the Outcome Measures survey component regarding data on Pell Grant recipients. I highly encourage readers to participate in this process to provide feedback on this and other TRP summary reports as they are released.

The fall collection contains several changes to determine eligibility of responding to the Academic Libraries component. Also, a reorganization of questions related to distance education allows for respondents to answer a screening question prior to being shown other questions if the institution offers distance education courses.

The winter collection provides several changes to the Admissions component. The response option of “Don’t know” under admissions considerations has been removed and an option of “Considered but not required” has been added. Two changes regarding admissions tests include the removal of ACT Writing and SAT Writing scores and the conversion of new SAT critical reading and math scores (2016) to the 2015 score range. The Student Financial Aid component will now provide respondents with the option to select pre-scripted context responses. Within the Graduation Rates 150% and Outcomes Measures components, institutions will now include in the full-time, first-year cohort students who study abroad during their first year of entering an institution. Additionally, for the Graduation Rates 150% component, a new section to calculate the 150 percent graduation rate separately for recipients of Pell Grants and recipients of a subsidized Stafford Loan who did not receive a Pell Grant will now be collected. A screening question for the Graduation Rates 200% component will assist institutions in determining if this survey is applicable where students did not complete their program but were still enrolled at 150 percent of normal time.

The spring collection includes changes to each survey component. The only change to the Fall Enrollment component reflects the inclusion of eligible students who study abroad during their first year of entering an institution. Several changes have occurred within the Finance component for both GASB- and FASB-reporting institutions related to the reporting of expenses by natural and functional classifications. GASB-reporting institutions also have revisions regarding the collection of data for the Census Bureau. Changes made to the Human Resources survey component for degree-granting institutions include collecting salary outlays by contract length, limiting the reporting of graduate assistants by function to “teaching,” “research,” and “other,” and revising the reporting period for newly hired full-time, permanent staff to the period of November 1 and October 31. All institutions will now report staff counts by race/ethnicity annually. The Academic Libraries component has been revised to include information on serials, interlibrary loans, and virtual reference services.


The other side of IPEDS that many parents, students, institutions, organizations, and governmental agencies utilize every day is the suite of tools that provides these data to the public. There have been several changes to the “Use the Data” section of the IPEDS website that may help you become a more efficient data user. When using the Compare Individual Institutions, Statistical Tables, and Survey Data Custom Data Files, users are now made aware of which data are preliminary when selecting the data they would like to access. The “Data Trends” section of the IPEDS website now has questions regarding retention rates, financial aid, and institutional expenses, as well as race/ethnicity data within sections on completions, fall enrollment, and graduation rates. IPEDS data for a collection year between 2011-12 and 2014-15 are now available within Microsoft Access databases to reduce the effort of downloading complete data files for each individual component. Within the “Find Your College” section of the IPEDS website, users can now access the interactive Map Your College tool that allows visitors to utilize various filters to view institutions within a specified geographic area.

Although there are numerous changes to the IPEDS data collection system, data users, keyholders, and others on campuses who assist with the data collection preparation and reporting, all have resources available to prepare for these changes. Many resources can be found on the IPEDS and AIR websites including online video tutorials, face-to-face workshops, online courses, and reporting guides such as the New Keyholder Handbook, frequently asked questions, and an IPEDS glossary. These resources provide a wealth of information across a spectrum of engagement and time commitments to meet the needs of a variety of learning styles.




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