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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
Faculty Persons identified by the institution as such and typically those whose initial assignments are made for the purpose of conducting instruction, research or public service as a principal activity (or activities). They may hold academic rank titles of professor, associate professor, assistant professor, instructor, lecturer or the equivalent of any of those academic ranks. Faculty may also include the chancellor/president, provost, vice provosts, deans, directors or the equivalent, as well as associate deans, assistant deans and executive officers of academic departments (chairpersons, heads or the equivalent) if their principal activity is instruction combined with research and/or public service. The designation as "faculty" is separate from the activities to which they may be currently assigned. For example, a newly appointed president of an institution may also be appointed as a faculty member. Graduate, instruction, and research assistants are not included in this category.
Faculty Status A status designated by the institution according to the institution's policies. "Faculty" may include staff with academic appointments (instruction, research, public service) and other staff members who are appointed as faculty members. The designation "faculty" is separate from the activities to which the staff members are currently assigned. For example, a president, provost, or librarian may also be appointed as a faculty member. For IPEDS reporting, graduate assistants do not have faculty status.
Fall cohort The group of students entering in the fall term established for tracking purposes. For the Graduation Rates component, this includes all students who enter an institution as full-time, first-time degree or certificate-seeking undergraduate students during the fall term of a given year. For the Outcome Measures component, all degree/certificate-seeking undergraduate students who enter an institution during the fall term of a given year must be placed in one of four cohorts: full-time, first-time; part-time, first-time; full-time, non-first-time; and part-time, non-first-time.
Fall Enrollment (EF) This annual component of IPEDS collects data on the number of students enrolled in the fall at postsecondary institutions. Students reported are those enrolled in courses creditable toward a degree or other formal award; students enrolled in courses that are part of a vocational or occupational program, including those enrolled in off-campus or extension centers; and high school students taking regular college courses for credit. Institutions report annually the number of full- and part-time students, by gender, race/ethnicity, and level (undergraduate, graduate, first-professional); the total number of undergraduate entering students (first-time, full-and part-time students, transfer-ins, and non-degree students); and retention rates. In even-numbered years, data are collected for state of residence of first-time students and for the number of those students who graduated from high school or received high school equivalent certificates in the past 12 months. Also in even-numbered years, 4-year institutions are required to provide enrollment data by gender, race/ethnicity, and level for selected fields of study. In odd-numbered years, data are collected for enrollment by age category by student level and gender.
Fall Staff (S)

This data, now part of the IPEDS Human Resources (HR) component, was previously a separate collection. Only institutions with 15 or more full-time employees are required to report (biennially, for odd-numbered years). Institutions report the numbers of full- and part-time employees as of November 1 of the reporting year; full-time faculty by contract length and salary class intervals; number of other persons employed full-time by primary occupational activity and salary class intervals; part-time employees by primary occupational activity; tenure of full-time faculty by academic rank; and new hires by primary occupational activity. Most data are provided by race/ethnicity and gender. Prior to 2001, this collection also requested the number of persons donating (contributing) services or contracted for by the institution. Between 1987 and 1991, the Fall Staff data were collected in cooperation with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Beginning in 1993, all schools formerly surveyed by EEOC (using the EEO-6 survey form) reported through IPEDS Fall Staff.

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

Fall term The part of the academic year that begins between late August and November 1.
FASB (Financial Accounting Standards Board) Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) is recognized by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) as the body authorized to establish accounting standards. In practice it defers to the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) for the setting of accounting standards for local and state government entities.
Federal grants Transfers of money or property from the Federal government to the education institution without a requirement to receive anything in return. These grants may take the form of grants to the institutions to undertake research or they may be in the form of student financial aid. (Used for reporting on the Finance component)
Federal grants (grants/educational assistance funds) Grants provided by federal agencies such as the U.S. Department of Education, including Title IV Pell Grants and Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (SEOG). Also includes need-based and merit-based educational assistance funds and training vouchers provided from other federal agencies and/or federally-sponsored educational benefits programs. (Used for reporting on the Student Financial Aid component)
Federal Supplementary Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOG) (Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended, Title IV, Part A, Subpart 2, Public Laws 89-329, 92-318, 94-482, et al; 20 USC 1070b-1070b-3.) Provides eligible undergraduate postsecondary students with demonstrated financial need with grant assistance to help meet educational expenses. The Supplementary Educational Opportunity Grants (SEOG) are made directly to institutions of higher education, which select students for the awards.
Federal Work Study (FWS) A part-time work program awarding on- or off-campus jobs to students who demonstrate financial need. FWS positions are primarily funded by the government, but are also partially funded by the institution. FWS is awarded to eligible students by the college as part of the student's financial aid package. The maximum FWS award is based on the student's financial need, the number of hours the student is able to work, and the amount of FWS funding available at the institution. This is a type of Title IV Aid, but is not considered grant aid to students.
Fellowships These are grants-in-aid and trainee stipends to graduate students. Fellowships do not include funds for which services to the institution must be rendered, such as payments for teaching, or loans.
FICE (Federal Interagency Committee on Education) code A 6-digit identification code originally created by the Federal Interagency Committee on Education (FICE). The code was used to identify all schools doing business with the Office of Education during the early sixties. This code is no longer used in IPEDS; it has been replaced by the Office of Postsecondary Education (OPE) ID code.
Fiduciary funds Resources held and administered by the institution when it is acting in a capacity for individuals, private organizations, or governments. These are funds the institution holds in a trustee or agency capacity for others and the funds therefore cannot be used to support the institution's own programs . Included are pension (and other employee benefit) trust funds, investment trust funds, private-purpose trust funds, and agency funds (i.e., agency transactions). Fiduciary funds are not included in the entity-wide financial statements of GASB organizations, but are reported separately as supplementary information.
Finance (F) This annual component of IPEDS collects data that describe the financial condition of postsecondary education in the nation. These data are used to monitor changes in postsecondary education finance and to promote research involving institutional financial resources and expenditures. Specific data elements include such items as institutional revenues by source (e.g., tuition and fees, government, private gifts); institutional expenditures by function (e.g., instruction, research, plant maintenance and operation); physical plant assets and indebtedness; and endowment investments. Institutions may use different survey forms depending on the control of institution (e.g. public, private non-profit, or private for-profit) and the accounting standards followed by the institution (e.g. FASB or GASB).
Financial aid Federal Work Study, grants, loans to students (government and/or private), assistantships, scholarships, fellowships, tuition waivers, tuition discounts, employer aid (tuition reimbursement) and other monies (other than from relatives/friends) provided to students to meet expenses. This excludes loans to parents.
FIPS (Federal Information Processing Standards) code Standardized numeric or alphabetic codes issued by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to ensure uniform identification of geographic entities throughout all federal government agencies.

The use of this term was discontinued in IPEDS as of the 2010-11 data collection, when use of the new postbaccalaureate award categories became mandatory.

May refer to a degree, certificate, or level of student.

A first-professional degree was an award that required completion of a program that met all of the following criteria: (1) completion of the academic requirements to begin practice in the profession; (2) at least 2 years of college work prior to entering the program; and (3) a total of at least 6 academic years of college work to complete the degree program, including prior required college work plus the length of the professional program itself. First-professional degrees may be awarded in the following 10 fields:

  • Chiropractic (D.C. or D.C.M.)
  • Dentistry (D.D.S. or D.M.D.)
  • Law (L.L.B., J.D.)
  • Medicine (M.D.)
  • Optometry (O.D.)
  • Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.)
  • Pharmacy (Pharm.D.)
  • Podiatry (D.P.M., D.P., or Pod.D.)
  • Theology (M.Div., M.H.L., B.D., or Ordination)
  • Veterinary Medicine (D.V.M.)

A first-professional certificate was an award that required completion of an organized program of study designed for persons who had completed the first-professional degree. Examples could be refresher courses or additional units of study in a specialty or subspecialty.

A first-professional student was a student enrolled in one of these programs.

The 12-month FTE for first-professional students was calculated using the unduplicated headcounts reported on the 12-month enrollment component. Since the 12-month unduplicated headcounts do not differentiate between full-time and part-time students, an estimation was used. The ratio of full-time to part-time first-professional students from the previous collection year fall enrollment(which corresponds to the same academic year students) was calculated, and this ratio was applied to the 12-month unduplicated headcount. Adding the resulting full-time and one-third part-time student estimates results in the FTE for first-professional students.


First-time student (undergraduate) A student who has no prior postsecondary experience (except as noted below) attending any institution for the first time at the undergraduate level. This includes students enrolled in academic or occupational programs. It also includes students enrolled in the fall term who attended college for the first time in the prior summer term, and students who entered with advanced standing (college credits earned before graduation from high school).
First-year student A student who has completed less than the equivalent of 1 full year of undergraduate work; that is, less than 30 semester hours (in a 120-hour degree program) or less than 900 contact hours .
Fixed assets Assets that cannot readily be turned into cash without disrupting the operation of the institution. Fixed assets include intangible assets consisting of certain nonmaterial rights and benefits of an institution, such as patents, copyrights, trademarks and goodwill.
Focus institution The term used in the IPEDS Peer Analysis System to identify the postsecondary institution that is being compared to other institutions (peers) or that is the basis for any statistical reports generated within the system.
Four-year institution A postsecondary institution that offers programs of at least 4 years duration or one that offers programs at or above the baccalaureate level. Includes schools that offer postbaccalaureate certificates only or those that offer graduate programs only. Also includes free-standing medical, law or other first-professional schools.
Freshman A first-year undergraduate student. First-year student
Fringe benefits Cash contributions in the form of supplementary or deferred compensation other than salary. Excludes the employee's contribution. Employee fringe benefits include retirement plans, social security taxes, medical/dental plans, guaranteed disability income protection plans, tuition plans, housing plans, unemployment compensation plans, group life insurance plans, worker's compensation plans, and other benefits in-kind with cash options.
FTE of students The full-time equivalent (FTE) of students is a single value providing a meaningful combination of full-time and part-time students. IPEDS data products currently have two calculations of FTE students, one using fall student headcounts and the other using 12-month instructional activity. Calculation of FTE students (using instructional activity)
Calculation of FTE students (using fall student headcounts)
FTE staff The full-time-equivalent (FTE) of staff is calculated by summing the total number of full-time staff from the Employees by Assigned Position (EAP) component and adding one-third of the total number of part-time staff.
Full aid year For the purposes of the IPEDS Student Financial Aid (SFA) component, full aid year refers to either the academic year (for academic reporters) or the period between September 1 and August 31 (for program reporters).
Full-time staff (employees) As defined by the institution. The type of appointment at the snapshot date determines whether an employee is full-time or part-time. The employee's term of contract is not considered in making the determination of full- or part-time.
Full-time student Undergraduate: A student enrolled for 12 or more semester credits, or 12 or more quarter credits, or 24 or more contact hours a week each term. Graduate: A student enrolled for 9 or more semester credits, or 9 or more quarter credits, or a student involved in thesis or dissertation preparation that is considered full-time by the institution. Doctor's degree - Professional practice - as defined by the institution. Credit
Full-year cohort The group of students entering at any time during the 12-month period September 1 through August 31 that is established for tracking and reporting Graduation Rate (GR) and Outcome Measures (OM) data for institutions that primarily offer occupational programs of varying lengths. Students must be full-time and first-time to be considered in the cohort. For OM component, undergraduate students must enter in one of four cohorts: full-time, first-time; part-time, first-time; full-time, non-first-time; and part-time, non-first-time.
Funds functioning as endowment (quasi-endowment funds) Funds established by the governing board to function like an endowment fund but which may be totally expended at any time at the discretion of the governing board. These funds represent nonmandatory transfers from the current fund rather than a direct addition to the endowment fund, as occurs for the true endowment categories.


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