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Report and Suggestions from IPEDS Technical Review Panel #15 First-Professional Degree Classification

PROPOSAL SUMMARY: IPEDS should revise the reporting requirement with regard to first-professional degree programs by institutions so that institutions will report Ph.D Research Doctor's Degrees separately from the Professional Practice Doctor's Degrees and report all M.A and M.S. master's degrees as Academic Master's separately from all other master's degree titles as Professional Master's Degrees.

The IPEDS Technical Review Panel (TRP) on the First-Professional Degree Classification met on December 12-13, 2006. In attendance were 42 individuals, representing federal government, state government, institutions, national data users, accrediting bodies and professions. The panel considered the current reporting requirements for first-professional degree programs and options to either expand the category, to eliminate it, to redefine it, or to keep it as is. The four options were presented in detail in a document posted to "What's New in IPEDS" on July 19, 2005 (see http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/news_room/trp_update_to_07192005_20.asp) and comments were requested.

Background:

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) is considering revising the way it collects data on enrollment and degrees for students in first-professional fields. For more than 30 years, there has been little change in the way NCES, through its Higher Education General Information Survey (HEGIS) and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), has identified "first-professional" students. Currently the first-professional fields include: Chiropractic (D.C. or D.C.M.); Dentistry (D.D.S. or D.M.D.); Law (L.L.B. or J.D.); Medicine (M.D.); Optometry (O.D.); Osteopathic Medicine (D.O); Pharmacy (Pharm.D.); Podiatry (D.P.M., Pod.D., D.P.); Theology (M.Div., M.H.L., B.D., or Ordination); and, Veterinary Medicine (D.V.M.). IPEDS defines a first-professional degree as: "An award that requires completion of a program that meets 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." (U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Glossary 2004 at http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/glossary/ ).

For the most part, these are post-baccalaureate programs that prepare students for licensure to practice in their particular field. Over time, considerable change has occurred in the length of the program and degree level attained, as well as the educational pre-requisites of these and other professional programs. As a result, there is a need to reconsider the rationale for the designation of this group of programs as "first-professional." Moreover, numerous additional programs could/should be considered for inclusion, because they are similarly designed to prepare graduates for professional or clinical practice rather than traditional academic research careers.

In recent years, representatives from a number of fields have approached NCES about expanding the category to include their particular field of study as "first-professional." In contrast, there have also been calls from the field to eliminate the discrete designation because either the category as currently defined lacks cohesion and is an eclectic mix of degree programs, or because the policy significance of the category is diluted due to frequent aggregate reporting using a broader "graduate and professional" category. Presented with the option of eliminating the category, several members of the group expressed concern over the loss of historical trend data, as well as possible ripple effects on data needed for licensure reports, enhanced program support, student financial aid, medical reimbursement, and insurance.

In 2003, NCES decided to study the first-professional degree issue and a technical review panel meeting was held in February 2004 to outline the design of the project. NCES funded research by a Senior Fellow on this issue including interviews, focus groups, analyses, and discussion at regional meetings with key stakeholders. Notice was given through "What's New in IPEDS" regarding the follow-up technical review panel meeting held in December 2005 and comments were solicited from the postsecondary community.

Proposal:

The TRP reviewed the briefing paper on the research conducted by the NCES Senior Fellow, discussed the four options for the First-Professional Degree Category and suggested that IPEDS redefine postgraduate award levels as follows:

  1. Eliminate the categories:
    • Master's degrees
    • Doctor's degrees
    • First-professional degrees
    • First-professional certificates

  2. Replace them with one of the following two sets of categories:
    • Master's degree - research/scholarship
    • Master's degree - professional practice entry level
    • Master's degree - all other
    • Doctor's degree - research/scholarship
    • Doctor's degree - professional practice entry level
    • Doctor's degree - all other
    • Post-master's certificate

    • OR

    • Master's degree - research/scholarship
    • Master's degree - all other
    • Doctor's degree - research/scholarship
    • Doctor's degree - all other
    • Post-master's certificate

    The first set of categories would provide data on graduate professional practice degrees required for entry licensure into a profession, while the second set simply combines all non-research/scholarship master's and doctoral degrees.

  3. Define the proposed award levels as follows:
    • Master's degree - research/scholarship
    • A master's degree that requires advanced work beyond the baccalaureate level, including the preparation and defense of a thesis based on research, or the planning and execution of a project demonstrating substantial artistic or scholarly competence. These degrees typically prepare recipients for entry into research/scholarship doctoral programs.

    • Master's degree - professional practice entry level
    • A master's degree that is conferred on completion of a program providing the knowledge and skills for the recognition, credential, or license required to enter professional practice. The degree is awarded after a period of study such that the total time to the degree, including both pre-professional and professional preparation, equals at least six full-time equivalent academic years.

    • Doctor's degree - research/scholarship
    • A doctorate that requires advanced work beyond the master's level, including the preparation and defense of a dissertation based on original research, or the planning and execution of an original project demonstrating substantial artistic or scholarly achievement.

    • Doctor's degree - professional practice entry level

    • A doctorate that is conferred upon completion of a program providing the knowledge and skills for the recognition, credential, or license required to enter professional practice. The degree is awarded after a period of study such that the total time to the degree, including both pre-professional and professional preparation, equals at least six full-time equivalent academic years.

What are the reporting implications of this proposal?

Under this proposal, institutional reporting to IPEDS would be minimally effected as follows:

  • Data elements for completions reporting would include:
    • CIP
    • Award Level
    • Program objective (only for master & doctorate degrees)
    • Research/scholarship
    • Professional practice entry level
    • Other

  • Data elements for enrollment reporting would include:
    • Selected CIP (only 9 OCR areas)
    • Award Level (undergrad/post-baccalaureate)
    • No program type

When will this be implemented?

Pending receipt of comments from the higher education community and concurrence with this proposal, NCES would like to implement this new definition for reporting first-professional degree and enrollment information with the Fall 2007 data collection. As with all changes to IPEDS, the first collection year would be optional, the second year use of the new definition would be mandatory.

For any data collections prior to the implementation date, institutions should continue to report data on first-professional degree programs under the existing definition.

Comments

NCES is concerned about how a change in data collection and reporting of the current first-professional degree classification will impact institutional data and its use in informing policy, as well as the ability to comply with these new requirements within the timeframe presented. We encourage interested parties to send any comments or concerns about this proposal to Elise Miller, IPEDS Program Director, by March 8, 2006. Please include the following in the email subject line: First-professional TRP #15 - Proposal comments.

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