Appendix B

The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) is the only collection of institution-level data on certificates awarded; however, other federal agencies gather data on an individual's completion of certificate or certification programs. For example, there are three federal agencies that collect data for specific populations: (1) the Department of Labor for the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) Common Performance Measures, (2) Bureau of Labor Statistics' (BLS) educational/training classification system, and (3) the Department of Education's Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE) Perkins IV State Accountability Reports. IPEDS and BLS' data collections define certificates as awards from postsecondary institutions, while the WIA and OVAE's data collections include both certificates awarded by postsecondary institutions and certifications from other entities, such as professional organizations. Given the occupational focus of WIA, its definition of a certificate is more occupational focused. WIA defines a certificate as one awarded in recognition of an individual's attainment of measurable technical or occupational skills necessary to gain employment or advance within an occupation. These technical or occupational skills are based on standards developed or endorsed by employers.

With the exception of OVAE, each agency provides specific guidance on what types of certificates should be included and which ones should be excluded (see exhibit B-1 for a detailed description). Among the nine institutions interviewed, only two institutions had the same office or person preparing IPEDS and WIA data reports. The officials from those institutions did not report any challenges in distinguishing between the reporting definitions of a certificate for each data collection. More often they encountered issues ensuring that they were using the correct cohort of students for the WIA data reports.

Table B-1. Comparison of certificate definitions in federal data collections