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Glossary

The online version of the IPEDS Glossary provides definitions for almost 500 postsecondary-related terms used in the collection and dissemination of IPEDS data.

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Term Definition Related terms
Cafeteria plan An insurance plan that gives an employee the option of selecting a combination of health care and insurance benefits (e.g. hospital, medical, surgical, dental care, and group life insurance).
Calculated value (CV) Calculated value (CV) is used to designate fields that are generated (or calculated) based on data provided on other lines within the same part of a survey component. For example, a "balance" line or "other (detail)" line will be calculated as the difference between the total line and the sum of the remaining detail.
Calculation of FTE students (using fall student headcounts) The number of FTE students is calculated based on fall student headcounts as reported by the institution on the IPEDS Enrollment (EF) component (Part A). The full-time equivalent (headcount) of the institution's part-time enrollment is estimated by multiplying the factors noted below times the part-time headcount. These are then added to the full-time enrollment headcounts to obtain an FTE for all students enrolled in the fall. This formula is used to produce an FTE that is used annually in the Digest of Education Statistics.

  • Part-time undergraduate enrollment
    • Public 4-year (.403543)
    • Private (not-for-profit and for-profit) 4-year (.392857)
    • Public 2-year and <2-year (.335737)
    • All other institutions (.397058)
  • Part-time first-professional enrollment
    • Public 4-year (.600000)
    • Private (not-for-profit and for-profit) 4-year (.545454)
  • Part-time graduate enrollment
    • Public 4-year (.361702)
    • Private (not-for-profit and for-profit) 4-year (.382059)
Calculation of FTE students (using instructional activity) The number of FTE students is calculated based on the credit and/or contact hours reported by the institution on the IPEDS 12-month enrollment (E12) component and the institution's calendar system, as reported on the IC Header component. The following table indicates the level of instructional activity used to convert the credit and/or contact hours reported to an indicator of full-time equivalents (FTE students):
    For institutions with continuous enrollment programs, FTE is determined by dividing the number of contact hours attempted by 900.

    The total 12-month FTE is generated by summing the estimated or reported undergraduate FTE and the estimated or reported graduate FTE and reported Doctor's Professional Practice FTE.
    Calendar system The method by which an institution structures most of its courses for the academic year.
    Capital appropriations Nonoperating revenues appropriated to a GASB institution by a government with the requirement that the funds be used primarily to acquire, construct, or improve capital assets, including buildings, land, equipment, and similar capital assets.
    Capital assets Tangible or intangible assets that are capitalized under an institution's capitalization policy; some of these assets are subject to depreciation and some are not. These assets consist of land and land improvements, buildings, building improvements, machinery, equipment, infrastructure, and all other assets that are used in operations and that have initial useful lives extending beyond one year. Capital assets also include collections of works of art and historical treasure and library collections; however under certain conditions such collections may not be capitalized. They also include property acquired under capital leases and intangible assets such as patents, copyrights, trademarks, goodwill, and software. Excluded are assets that are part of endowment funds or other capital fund investments in real estate.
    Capital grants and gifts Revenues of a GASB institution, other than capital appropriations, where a funding source external to the institution specifies that they be used primarily to acquire, construct, or improve capital assets. Includes gifts designated for a capital project.
    Capital leases Capital assets acquired under lease arrangement, as provided in FASB Statement No. 13 (applicable to both FASB and GASB institutions). These are leases where the institution in substance acquires the capital asset or the right to use it for most or all of its economic life through a lease arrangement. FASB standards require institutions to recognize such assets in their financial statements and also to recognize the lease payment obligations as liabilities. The lease is basically considered a form of financing used to acquire the capital asset.
    Capital outlay The cost of acquiring plant assets, adding to plant assets, and adding utility to plant assets for more than one accounting period.
    Capitalize To place in service as a long-term asset. These assets are expected to be used by the institution for a period in excess of one year (e.g., land, buildings or patents).
    Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Technical Education Act The Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Technical Education Act of 1998 (P.L. 105-332) was signed into law on October 31, 1998 and became effective on July 1, 1999. Its purpose is to improve vocational and technical education programs . The primary focus is to develop challenging academic standards and promote the development of activities that integrate academic and vocational and technical instruction. The Act also outlines various opportunities for states and local areas to integrate vocational education and workforce investment systems . However, new and strict barriers are placed on linkages between vocational education and School-to-Work programs.
    Carnegie Classification An institutional classification coding structure developed by the Andrew W. Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The 2000 Carnegie Classification categorizes selected institutions as:
    • Doctoral/Research Universities-Extensive
    • Doctoral/Research Universities-Intensive
    • Master's Colleges and Universities I
    • Master's Colleges and Universities II
    • Baccalaureate Colleges-Liberal Arts
    • Baccalaureate Colleges-General
    • Baccalaureate/Associate's Colleges
    • Associate's Colleges
    • Specialized Institutions:
      • Theological seminaries and other specialized faith-related institutions
      • Medical schools and medical centers
      • Other separate health profession schools
      • Schools of engineering and technology
      • Schools of business and management
      • Schools of art, music, and design
      • Schools of law
      • Teachers colleges
      • Other specialized institutions
    • Tribal Colleges and Universities
    Carnegie Classification 2005: Basic classification The Basic Classification is an update of the traditional classification framework developed by the Carnegie Commission on Higher Education in 1970 to support its research program, and later published in 1973 for use by other researchers. Although this classification has undergone many changes over the years, the current release involves some significant changes from previous editions. For a complete description and technical details visit the Carnegie Foundation Website at http://www.carnegiefoundation.org/classifications
    Carnegie Classification 2005: Enrollment profile classification This classification describes the overall student population, by grouping institutions according to the mix of students enrolled at the undergraduate and graduate/professional levels. Exclusively undergraduate institutions are further broken down by level (two-year and four-year). For institutions with both undergraduate and graduate/professional students, institutions are grouped according to the distribution of full-time equivalent students across the two levels, giving an approximate measure of the student population's "center of gravity." As a result, it reflects important differences with respect to educational mission as well as institutional climate and culture-differences that can have implications for infrastructure, services, and resource allocation. For a complete description and technical details visit the Carnegie Foundation Website at http://www.carnegiefoundation.org/classifications
    Carnegie Classification 2005: Graduate instructional program As a companion to the Undergraduate Instructional Program classification, this classification examines the nature of graduate education, with a special focus on the mix of graduate programs. In this classification, a single graduate-level degree qualifies an institution for inclusion. The classification is based on the level of graduate degrees awarded master's/professional or doctoral), the number of fields represented by the degrees awarded, and the mix or concentration of degrees by broad disciplinary domain. The classification has two parts: one for institutions that do not award the doctorate, and one for doctoral-level institutions (based on the record of degree conferrals, not program offerings). Within each group, institutions are then classified with respect to the breadth of graduate offerings and the concentration of degrees in certain fields or combinations of fields. For a complete description and technical details visit the Carnegie Foundation Website at http://www.carnegiefoundation.org/classifications
    Carnegie Classification 2005: Size and setting classification This classification describes institutions' size and residential character. Because residential character applies to the undergraduate student body, exclusively graduate/professional institutions are not included. For a complete description and technical details visit the Carnegie Foundation Website at http://www.carnegiefoundation.org/classifications
    Carnegie Classification 2005: Undergraduate instructional program The instructional program classification is based on three pieces of information: the level of undergraduate degrees awarded (associate's or bachelor's), the proportion of bachelor's degree majors in the arts and sciences and in professional fields, and the extent to which an institution awards graduate degrees in the same fields in which it awards undergraduate degrees. The distinction between arts and sciences and professional undergraduate majors is one that has been made in the Classification since 1987 (but only for undergraduate colleges), and researchers and others in the higher education community have made similar distinctions. The previous analysis has been extended and elaborated by (1) applying it to almost all baccalaureate-level institutions, (2) making finer distinctions along the arts and sciences - professions continuum, and (3) recognizing a "middle ground" where the two domains exist in relative balance with respect to graduating students' major concentrations. For a complete description and technical details visit the Carnegie Foundation Website at http://www.carnegiefoundation.org/classifications
    Carnegie Classification 2005: Undergraduate profile This classification describes the undergraduate population with respect to three characteristics: the proportion who attend part- or full-time; achievement characteristics of first-year students; and the proportion of entering students who transfer in from another institution. Each of these captures important differences in the nature of the undergraduate population. They do not imply differences in the quality of undergraduate education, but they have implications for how an institution serves its students. For a complete description and technical details visit the Carnegie Foundation Website at http://www.carnegiefoundation.org/classifications
    Casual employees Persons who are hired to work during peak times such as those that help at registration time or those that work in the bookstore for a day or two at the start of a session.
    Certificate A formal award certifying the satisfactory completion of a postsecondary education program.
    CEU One CEU (Continuing Education Unit) is normally defined as 10 contact hours of participation in an organized continuing education experience under responsible sponsorship, capable direction, and qualified instruction.
    Change in net assets A term used to describe the net amount of revenues, expenses, gains, and losses for the reporting period. This appears on the Statement of Revenues, Expenses, and Changes in Net Assets for GASB organizations and on the Statement of Activities for FASB organizations.
    Chief administrator The principal administrative official, or chief executive officer, responsible for the direction of all affairs and operations of a postsecondary education institution, or that component of an organization that conducts postsecondary education, but who may report to a governing board.
    CIP code A six-digit code in the form xx.xxxx that identifies instructional program specialties within educational institutions. Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP)
    Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP) A taxonomic coding scheme for secondary and postsecondary instructional programs. It is intended to facilitate the organization, collection, and reporting of program data using classifications that capture the majority of reportable data. The CIP is the accepted federal government statistical standard on instructional program classifications and is used in a variety of education information surveys and databases.
    Clerical and secretarial

    A primary function or occupational activity category used to classify persons whose assignments typically are associated with clerical activities or are specifically of a secretarial nature. Includes personnel who are responsible for internal and external communications, recording and retrieval of data (other than computer programmer) and/or information and other paperwork required in an office. Also includes such occupational titles such as switchboard operators, including answering service; telephone operators; bill and account collectors; billing and posting clerks and machine operators; bookkeeping, accounting, and auditing clerks; payroll and timekeeping clerks; procurement clerks; file clerks; clerical library assistants; human resources assistants, except payroll and timekeeping; shipping, receiving, and traffic clerks; secretaries and administrative assistants; computer operators; data entry and information processing workers; desktop publishers; mail clerks and mail machine operators (except postal service); office clerks (general); office machine operators (except computer); and proofreaders and copy markers.

    (Term used in the IPEDS HR survey component prior to 2012-13)

    Clock hour A unit of measure that represents an hour of scheduled instruction given to students. Also referred to as contact hour.
    Cohort A specific group of students established for tracking purposes.
    Collection year The academic year in which IPEDS data were collected. Most Institutional Characteristics, Salaries, Fall Staff, Fall Enrollment, and Employees by Assigned Position data are collected for the current year; Completions, 12-Month Enrollment, Student Financial Aid, and Finance data collections cover the prior year. Data year
    College Navigator A web tool accessed through http://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator that provides selected IPEDS data to assist students, parents, high school counselors, and others obtain information about nearly 7,000 postsecondary institutions in the United States and other areas. It offers a wide range of information including programs offered, retention and graduation rates, aid available, campus safety, accreditation, and estimated student expenses. NOTE: Replaces the College Opportunities Online Locator (IPEDS COOL).
    Community, Social Service, Legal, Arts, Design, Entertainment, Sports, and Media Occupations An occupational category based on the following three major groups in the 2010 Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) Manual:  1) Community and Social Service Occupations (http://www.bls.gov/soc/2010/soc210000.htm); 2) Legal Occupations (http://www.bls.gov/soc/2010/soc230000.htm); and 3) Arts, Design, Entertainment, Sports, and Media Occupations (http://www.bls.gov/soc/2010/soc270000.htm).
    Comparison group The group of peer institutions used for comparison purposes within the IPEDS Peer Analysis System (PAS). Comparison groups may be identified by the analyst by name or UnitID, they may be built by using characteristics (variables) from the IPEDS data, or they may be automatically generated by the system. Also referred to as a peer group. Focus institution
    Completer A student who receives a degree, diploma, certificate, or other formal award. In order to be considered a completer, the degree/award must actually be conferred.
    Completers within 150% of normal time Students who completed their program within 150% of the normal (or expected) time for completion. Normal time to completion
    Completions (C) This annual component of IPEDS collects number of degrees and other formal awards (certificates) conferred. These data are reported by level (associate's, bachelor's, master's, doctor's, and first-professional), as well as by length of program for some. Both are reported by race/ethnicity and gender of recipient, and the field of study, using the Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP) code. Institutions report all degrees and other awards conferred during an entire academic year, from July 1 of one calendar year through June 30 of the following year. Completions data by race/ethnicity at the 2-digit CIP level became an annual collection in 1990; since the 1995 collection, race/ethnicity is collected at the 6-digit CIP level. In 2001, IPEDS began collecting completers of double majors by level, 6-digit CIP code, and by race/ethnicity and gender of recipient.
    Component unit This term applies to GASB institutions only. A component unit is a legally separate organizations for which the governing board and/or management of the primary institution is financially accountable. It can be another organization for which the nature and significance of its relationship with a primary institution is such that exclusion would cause the primary institution's financial statements to be misleading or incomplete.
    Comprehensive fee A single fixed amount of money charged by an institution that covers tuition, required fees, room, and board. For some institutions, this amount may also cover books and supplies.
    Computer, Engineering, and Science Occupations An occupational category based on the following three major groups in the 2010 Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) Manual:  1) Computer and Mathematical Occupations (http://www.bls.gov/soc/2010/soc150000.htm); 2) Architecture and Engineering Occupations (http://www.bls.gov/soc/2010/soc170000.htm); and 3) Life, Physical, and Social Science Occupations (http://www.bls.gov/soc/2010/soc190000.htm).
    Construction in progress Capital assets under construction or development that have not yet been placed into service, such as a building or parking lot. Capital assets are not subject to depreciation while in a construction in progress status.
    Contact hour A unit of measure that represents an hour of scheduled instruction given to students. Also referred to as clock hour.
    Contact hour activity The provision of coursework to students which can be measured in terms of contact or clock hours .
    Continuing contract or employment agreement A contract or agreement that has no specific date of termination, and that can be terminated for just cause or other agreed-upon reasons (e.g., reorganization, funding).
    Continuing professional education Programs and courses designed specifically for individuals who have completed a degree in a professional field (such as law, medicine, dentistry, education, or social work) to obtain additional training in their particular field of study.
    Continuous basis A calendar system classification that is used by institutions that allow students to enroll/start classes at any time during the year. For example, a cosmetology school or a word processing school might allow students to enroll and begin studies at various times, with no requirement that classes begin on a certain date.
    Contributions from affiliated entities Revenues from non-consolidated affiliated entities, such as fund raising foundations, booster clubs, other institutionally-related foundations, and similar organizations created to support the institution or organizational units of the institution. General purpose financial statements for FASB institutions include a separate line for these revenues; GASB institutions classify such revenues as gifts.
    Control (of institution) A classification of whether an institution is operated by publicly elected or appointed officials (public control) or by privately elected or appointed officials and derives its major source of funds from private sources (private control). Sector
    Institutional affiliation
    Level (of institution)
    Cookie A message given to a Web browser by a Web server. The browser stores the message in a text file. The message is then sent back to the server each time the browser requests a page from the server.
    Cooperative (work-study) program A program that provides for alternate class attendance and employment in business, industry, or government.
    Core expenses Total expenses for the essential education activities of the institution. Core expenses for public institutions reporting under GASB standards include expenses for instruction, research, public service, academic support, student services, institutional support, operation and maintenance of plant, depreciation, scholarships and fellowships, interest and other operating and nonoperating expenses. Core expenses for FASB (primarily private, not-for-profit and for-profit) institutions include expenses on instruction, research, public service, academic support, student services, institutional support, net grant aid to students, and other expenses. For both FASB and GASB institutions, core expenses exclude expenses for auxiliary enterprises (e.g., bookstores, dormitories), hospitals, and independent operations.
    Core revenues Total revenues for the essential education activities of the institution. Core revenues for public institutions (using the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) standards) include tuition and fees; government appropriations (federal, state, and local); government grants and contracts; private gifts, grants, and contracts; investment income; other operating and nonoperating sources; and other revenues and additions. Core revenues for private, not-for-profit and public institutions reporting under the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) standards include tuition and fees; government appropriations (federal, state, and local); government grants and contracts; private gifts, grants, and contracts; investment return; sales and services of educational activities; and other sources. Core revenues for private, for-profit institutions reporting under FASB standards include tuition and fees; government appropriations (federal, state, and local); government grants and contracts; private grants and contracts; net investment income; sales and services of educational activities; and other sources. In general, core revenues exclude revenues from auxiliary enterprises (e.g., bookstores, dormitories), hospitals, and independent operations.
    Correspondence Education Education provided through one or more courses in which the institution provides instructional materials and examinations by mail or electronic transmission to students who are separated from the instruction.  Interaction between the instructor and the student is not regular and substantive, and it is primarily initiated by the student.  Correspondence courses are typically self-paced.  Correspondence education is not distance education.
    Counseling service Activities designed to assist students in making plans and decisions related to their education, career, or personal development.
    Credit Recognition of attendance or performance in an instructional activity (course or program) that can be applied by a recipient toward the requirements for a postsecondary degree, diploma, certificate, or other formal award, irrespective of the activity's unit of measurement.
    Credit course A course that, if successfully completed, can be applied toward the number of courses required for achieving a postsecondary degree, diploma, certificate, or other formal award, irrespective of the activity's unit of measurement.
    Credit for life experiences Credit earned by students for what they have learned through independent study, noncredit adult courses, work experience, portfolio demonstration, previous licensure or certification, or completion of other learning opportunities (military, government, or professional). Credit may also be awarded through a credit by examination program.
    Credit hour A unit of measure representing the equivalent of an hour (50 minutes) of instruction per week over the entire term. It is applied toward the total number of credit hours needed for completing the requirements of a degree, diploma, certificate, or other formal award. Clock hour
    Contact hour
    Credit hour activity The provision of coursework to students which can be measured in terms of credit hours.
    Current assets Assets that are reasonably expected to be realized in cash or sold or consumed during the next normal operating cycle (normally one year) of the institution. Liquidity or nearness to cash is not the basis for classifying assets as current or non-current; thus cash or investments intended for liquidation of liabilities due beyond the one-year period would not be current assets.
    Current liabilities Liabilities whose liquidation is reasonably expected to require the use of resources classified as current assets or the creation of other current liabilities within the next year. May include accounts payable, accrued salaries and wages, deferred revenues, and long term debt current portion, among others.
    Current replacement value The estimated current cost to replace all buildings owned by the institution. It represents recent appraisal value or what is currently carried as insurance replacement value, but does not include the replacement values of those buildings which are a part of endowment or other capital fund investments in real estate. This figure is not a book value figure.

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    National Center for Education Statistics - http://nces.ed.gov
    U.S. Department of Education