NCES Data Institute

The 2021 application process will open in October 2020.

The 2020 Institute information below has been left on our website for reference purposes. If you are interested in applying for the 2021 Institute, please check back in September for updated information and details. 


The Institute

The NCES Data Institute: Using Federal Datasets to Support Research on Postsecondary Education (Institute) provides an intensive introduction to National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) datasets and research methodologies.

The Institute is ideal for graduate students, early to mid-career IR professionals, faculty, and staff from state and federal agencies and other higher education organizations. The Institute is limited to 30 participants who would like to

  • Increase their knowledge of IPEDS and other NCES datasets
  • Apply their new knowledge of IPEDS and other NCES datasets in a group setting
  • Understand how federal data are utilized in postsecondary education research 
  • Form their own higher education research agendas

2020 Institute Components

1. 5-week online course

2. 15-week group capstone project 

3. 3-day face-to-face meeting in Washington, D.C. 

Each of these components build on one another to create a holistic learning experience. Participants are required to participate in and complete all elements of the Institute.

Cost: While there is no charge for any component of the Institute, participants are responsible for the cost to attend the face-to-face meeting (travel, lodging, and meals).

Detailed Schedule



JANUARY 21 – FEBRUARY 21, 2020 

Prior to starting the course, participants are assigned to a research group. Course material includes:

  • An intensive introduction to NCES datasets
  • An introduction to research methodologies when using national datasets
  • Exercises that reinforce the content and allow participants to apply their new knowledge



FEBRUARY 24 – JUNE 5, 2020

Immediately following completion of the online course, each research group—with guidance from mentors—works together to complete a research project, which includes:


  • Exploring potential research topics
  • Conducting a literature review
  • Developing a group research question
  • Identifying relevant NCES datasets
  • Performing analysis using public-use data
  • Writing an executive summary
  • Preparing a PowerPoint presentation



JUNE 9 – 11, 2020

This collaborative and interactive meeting builds on the knowledge participants gained during the online course and capstone project. The meeting takes place in Washington, DC and features:


  • An orientation to the U.S. Department of Education, the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), NCES, and the National Postsecondary Education Cooperative (NPEC)
  • Panel discussions and speaker presentations on topics such higher education research, publishing, the role of the higher education community, and policy
  • An opportunity for groups to present their research projects to NCES and all meeting participants
  • Dedicated time for research groups to refine their projects based on feedback from NCES staff and fellow participants
  • Time to develop plans to complete the projects and discuss the potential for dissemination of results after the Institute through conference presentations and/or publications


The Institute is supported by NCES and is developed and operated by AIR. Questions ? Contact Tinsley Smith, Director of Contract and Grants, AIR, at or 850-391-7109.