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What is IPEDS?

IPEDS is the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System. It is a system of interrelated surveys conducted annually by the U.S. Department’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). IPEDS gathers information from every college, university, and technical and vocational institution that participates in the federal student financial aid programs. The Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended, requires that institutions that participate in federal student aid programs report data on enrollments, program completions, graduation rates, faculty and staff, finances, institutional prices, and student financial aid. These data are made available to students and parents through the College Navigator college search Web site and to researchers and others through the IPEDS Data Center.

How is IPEDS Used?

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IPEDS provides basic data needed to describe — and analyze trends in — postsecondary education in the United States, in terms of the numbers of students enrolled, staff employed, dollars expended, and degrees earned. Congress, federal agencies, state governments, education providers, professional associations, private businesses, media, students and parents, and others rely on IPEDS data for this basic information on postsecondary institutions.

IPEDS forms the institutional sampling frame for other NCES postsecondary surveys, such as the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study and the National Survey of Postsecondary Faculty.

Which Institutions Report to IPEDS?

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The completion of all IPEDS surveys is mandatory for institutions that participate in or are applicants for participation in any federal student financial aid program (such as Pell grants and federal student loans) authorized by Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended (20 USC 1094, Section 487(a)(17) and 34 CFR 668.14(b)(19)).

More than 7,500 institutions complete IPEDS surveys each year. These include research universities, state colleges and universities, private religious and liberal arts colleges, for-profit institutions, community and technical colleges, non-degree-granting institutions such as beauty colleges, and others.

To find out if a particular institution reports to IPEDS, go to College Navigator and search by the institution name.

What Data Are Collected in IPEDS?

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IPEDS collects data on postsecondary education in the United States in seven areas: institutional characteristics, institutional prices, enrollment, student financial aid, degrees and certificates conferred, student persistence and success, and institutional human and fiscal resources.

Institutional Characteristics

Institutional characteristics data are the foundation of the entire IPEDS system. These include basic institutional contact information, tuition and fees, room and board charges, control or affiliation, type of calendar system, levels of awards offered, types of programs, and admissions requirements.

Institutional Prices

IPEDS collects institutional pricing data from institutions for first-time, full-time, degree- or certificate-seeking undergraduate students. This includes tuition and fee data as well as information on the estimated student budgets for students based on living situations (on-campus or off-campus).


Because enrollment patterns differ greatly among the various types of postsecondary institutions, there is a need for both different measures of enrollment and several indicators of access. In IPEDS, the following enrollment-related data are collected:

  • Fall Enrollment — Fall enrollment is the traditional measure of student access to higher education. Fall enrollment data can be looked at by race/ethnicity; gender; enrollment status (part-time or full-time); and or level of study (undergraduate or graduate).
  • Residence of First-Time Students — Data on the number of first-time freshmen by state of residence, along with data on the number who graduated from high school the previous year, serve to monitor the flow of students across state lines and calculate college-going rates by state. These data are collected in even-numbered years.
  • Age Data — The age distribution of enrolled students offers insight into the relationship between the changing demographics of college-going cohorts and enrollment in different types of postsecondary institutions. They also permit detailed projections of enrollment by institutional type and by age. Because a student’s dependency status is strongly related to age, the data can be used to provide estimates of the number of independent and dependent students attending postsecondary institutions. These data are collected in odd-numbered years.
  • Unduplicated 12-Month Head Count — Enrollment figures based on the unduplicated head count of students enrolled over a 12-month period is particularly valuable for institutions that use non-traditional calendar systems and offer short-term programs. Because this enrollment measure encompasses an entire year, it provides a more complete picture of the number of students these schools serve.
  • Instructional Activity — Data on instructional activity is measured in total credit and/or contact hours delivered by institutions during a 12-month period.
  • Total Entering Class — Data on the number of incoming students (students enrolling for the first time in a postsecondary institution versus students transferring in from another postsecondary institution) at an institution. This measure permits the calculation of the graduation rate cohort as a proportion of the total entering student body.

Student Financial Aid

IPEDS collects data on the number of full-time, first-time degree/certificate-seeking undergraduate students who receive different types of student financial aid, including grants and loans, from different sources at each institution. IPEDS also collects data to show the average dollar amount of aid received by these students. Finally, as a result of the Higher Education Opportunity Act, IPEDS collects data to calculate the average net price at each institution for the following two groups: (1) full-time, first-time degree/certificate-seeking undergraduate students who receive grant and scholarship aid; and (2) full-time, first-time degree/certificate-seeking undergraduate students who receive Title IV federal student aid.

Degrees and Certificates Conferred (Completions)

IPEDS collects data on the number of students who complete a postsecondary education program by type of program and level of award (certificate or degree). Type of program is categorized according to the Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP) [link], a detailed coding system for postsecondary instructional programs. These data provide information on the number and location of completers by field. Business and industry, the military, and other groups that need to recruit individuals with particular skills use these data extensively. The data also help satisfy the mandate in the Carl D. Perkins Vocational Education Act for information on completions in postsecondary career and technical education programs.

Student Persistence and Success

IPEDS collects two types of data to help track postsecondary student progress and success.

  • First–Year Retention Rates — The first-year retention rate measures the percentage of first-year students who had persisted in or completed their educational program a year later. These data have been collected since 2003.
  • Graduation Rates — Graduation rate data provide information on institutional productivity and help institutions comply with reporting requirements of the Student Right-to-Know Act.

Institutional Resources

IPEDS collects institutional data on human resources and finances.

  • Human Resources — Human resources data measure the number and type of staff supporting postsecondary education. Because staffing patterns vary greatly across postsecondary institutions, IPEDS measures human resources in three ways:
    • Employees by assigned position — These data classify all employees by full- or part-time status, faculty status, and occupational activity.
    • Salaries — These data include the number of full-time instructional faculty by rank, gender, and length of contract/teaching period; and salary outlays for full-time staff.
    • Staff — These data include demographic and occupational characteristics for staff at institutions.

  • Finances — Finance data includes institutional revenues by source, expenditures by category, and assets and liabilities. This information provides context for understanding the cost of providing postsecondary education. It is used to calculate the contribution of postsecondary education to the gross national product. IPEDS collects finance data conforming to the accounting standards that govern public and private institutions. Generally, private institutions use standards established by the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) and public institutions use standards established by the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB).


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National Center for Education Statistics -
U.S. Department of Education