IPEDS Data as the Public Face of an Institution

Sonia Schaible-Brandon is Director of Institutional Research at Colorado Mesa University. She serves as a lead instructor for the workshop IPEDS Data as the Public Face of an Institution. Sonia spoke with eAIR about the workshop and shared examples of how IPEDS data are used in the public domain.

Interview by Elaine Cappellino

Sonia.jpgeAIR: What is the goal of presenting the workshop IPEDS Data as the Public Face of an Institution?

In my mind, the main goal of Public Face is to communicate to those responsible for data submission how important it is to maintain accuracy and integrity when submitting the data because it is so public-facing.

eAIR: In what ways are IPEDS data made available to the public? 

The data are made publicly available in a variety of ways, starting with the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) Data Center and College Navigator (a public, online resource hosted by NCES), where anyone can pull the data that institutions have submitted. Several policy organizations, like the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems (NCHEMS), Education Commission of the States (ECS), and others, use IPEDS data in publications. States often use IPEDS data when building performance funding models. Inititiatives such as College Measures and Delta Cost Project, among several others, use these data. The Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA) requirements utilize IPEDS data in some of the required information that all institutions who receive Title IV funding are required to post on their websites. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) now puts graduation and retention rates on its output when students submit their FAFSA applications.

eAIR: What are some of the organizations that use IPEDS data, and who are the potential consumers of the information?

Organizations that use IPEDS include institutions of higher education, NCHEMS, the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE), ECS, state and federal legislatures, news organizations, high-school students, counselors, and parents. As the mom of a high-school basketball player, I showed the coach College Navigator, and he now uses it with all the parents and players. Any coach or director of high-school programming could be a potential consumer if it could be marketed to them.

eAIR: How can IR professionals best be prepared to respond to questions posed about the data found on the public sites?

IR professionals can best be prepared by making sure they understand where the data come from and how there are differences. Utilizing available resources - IPEDS ListServ; AIR resources such as trainings and tutorials; NCES materials such as survey instruction, glossary, and the IPEDS helpdesk; as well as local, regional, and national conferences, are all available for IR offices. It is important to take advantage of all of these to make sure, as a professional, an IR person is as well informed as possible so that the data can be accurately portrayed and any questions from others can be answered.