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Trends in IPEDS Subbaccalaureate Certificates

The Working Group agreed that, in order to make sound recommendations regarding the increase of certificate reporting to IPEDS, it was important to have a more in-depth understanding of the nature of that increase. To that end, the Working Group examined the most recent years of IPEDS Completions data to determine what types of subbaccalaureate certificates were awarded and which sectors contributed to the growth.

Between 2007-08 and 2010-11, there was a large increase in the number of subbaccalaureate certificates awarded. Interestingly, however, between 2009-10 and 2010-11, there was a decrease in the number of short-term and long-term certificates awarded and a sharp increase in the number of moderate-term certificates awarded. As shown in figure 1, the number of short-term certificates awarded decreased from 505,721 to 485,975—a 4 percent drop; while, there were about 122,000 more moderate-term certificates awarded—a 30 percent increase from 2009-10 to 2010-11.

Figure 1: Number of subbaccalaureate certificates awarded at Title IV institutions, by certificate type: 2007-08 to 2010-11

From 2007-08 to 2010-11, the total number of subbaccalaureate certificates increased at all institutional sectors; however, there were differences in the growth of each certificate type among the sectors. Table 1 displays the number of certificates awarded by sector from 2007-08 to 2010-11.

The number of short-term certificates increased in each year at public 4-year, public 2-year and private nonprofit institutions between 2007-08 and 2010-11. At for-profit institutions and public less than 2-year institutions, short-term certificates increased from 2007-08 to 2009-10 and then declined from 2009-10 to 2010-11. All institutional sectors awarded more moderate-term certificates in 2010-11 than they did in 2007-08. The 4-year for-profit institutions awarded almost 150 percent more moderate-term certificates in 2010-11 than in 2007-08. The growth in moderate-term certificates between 2009-10 and 2010-11 at 4-year institutions is the result of a sharp increase primarily in the number of moderate-term certificates in the health professions and personal and culinary services being awarded.

Long-term certificates comprise a much smaller share of subbaccalaureate certificates than short-term and moderate-term certificates. The number of long-term certificates awarded from 2007-08 to 2010-11 increased although not as much as did short-term and moderate-term certificates. Among for-profit institutions and public less than 2-year and private nonprofit institutions, the number of long-term certificates dropped sharply from 2009-10 to 2010-11. There was a decrease in the number of long-term certificates awarded in almost all fields of study at these institutions.

Table 1. Number of subbaccalaureate certificates awarded at Title IV institutions, by certificate type and sector: 2007-08 to 2010-11

In addition to examining the number of subbaccalaureate certificates awarded by institutional sector, the Working Group thought it important to investigate the proportion of certificates awarded by reporting method to IPEDS. Institutions may report to IPEDS by traditional academic year or by program. Program reporters are institutions that do not operate on a traditional academic year, instead students enroll in programs on a continuous basis throughout the year. Table 2 shows that about 45 percent of all certificates awarded in 2010-11 were reported by institutions that are program reporters, which accounted only for about 35 percent of institutions.

Table 2. Percentage of subbaccalaureate certificates awarded, by institutional sector and reporting method: 2010-11

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