The Beginning Postsecondary Students Longitudinal Study (BPS) is composed of the students who participated in the 1995-96 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS:96) who enrolled in postsecondary education for the first time in 1995-96. The National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS) is a comprehensive nationwide study conducted by the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) to determine how students and their families pay for postsecondary education.1 It also describes demographic and other characteristics of students. The study is based on a nationally representative sample of all students in postsecondary education institutions, including undergraduate, graduate, and first-professional students. For NPSAS:96, information was obtained from more than 830 postsecondary institutions on approximately 44,500 undergraduate, 8,700 graduate, and 2,500 first-professional students. They represented about 16.7 million undergraduates, 2.4 million graduate students, and 300,000 first-professional students who were enrolled at some time between July 1, 1995 and June 30, 1996.
The BPS sample consists of approximately 12,000 students identified in NPSAS:96 as beginning postsecondary education for the first time. Unlike other NCES longitudinal surveys (such as High School and Beyond), which are based on age-specific cohorts, the BPS sample is more likely to include "nontraditional" postsecondary students, such as those who have delayed their education due to financial need or family responsibilities. The First Follow-up of the BPS cohort (BPS:96/98) was conducted in the spring and summer of 1998, approximately 3 academic years after they first enrolled. Approximately 10,300 of the students who first began in 1995-96 were located and interviewed in the First Follow-up. The weighted effective response rate in the 1998 follow-up of the NPSAS:96 for BPS-eligible respondents was 85.9 percent. The overall weighted response rate (including those who were nonrespondents in NPSAS:96) for the BPS:96/98 First Follow-up was 79.8 percent.2
The BPS:96/98 Data Analysis System includes sample weights for cross-sectional analysis of the students in 1995-96 (B98IAWT) and longitudinal analysis of the sample through 1998 (B98AWT). All of the tables and estimates in this report used the longitudinal analysis weight.