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Institute of Education Sciences

Using IPEDS Data: Available Tools and Considerations for Use

The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) contains comprehensive data on postsecondary institutions. IPEDS gathers information from every college, university, and technical and vocational institution that participates in federal student financial aid programs. The Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended, requires institutions that participate in federal student aid programs to report data on enrollments, program completions, graduation rates, faculty and staff, finances, institutional prices, and student financial aid.

These data are made available to the public in a variety of ways via the IPEDS Use the Data webpage. This blog post provides a description of available IPEDS data tools as well as considerations for determining the appropriate tool to use.


Available Data Tools

College Navigator

College Navigator is a free consumer information tool designed to help students, parents, high school counselors, and others access information about postsecondary institutions.

Note that this tool can be found on the Find Your College webpage (under "Search for College"), along with various other resources to help users plan for college.

IPEDS provides data tools for a variety of users that are organized into three general categories: (1) Search Existing Data, (2) Create Custom Data Analyses, and (3) Download IPEDS Data.

Search Existing Data

Users can search for aggregate tables, charts, publications, or other products related to postsecondary education using the Data Explorer or access IPEDS data via NCES publications like the Digest of Education Statistics or the Condition of Education.

Create Custom Data Analyses

Several data tools allow users to create their own custom analyses with frequently used and derived variables (Data Trends) or all available data collected within IPEDS (Statistical Tables). Users can also customize tables for select subgroups of institutions (Summary Tables). Each of these options allows users to generate analyses within the limitations of the tool itself.

For example, there are three report types available under the Data Feedback Report (DFR) tool. User can

  1. select data from the most recent collection year across frequently used and derived variables to create a Custom DFR;
     
  2. create a Statistical Analysis Report using the variables available for the Custom DFR; and
     
  3. access the NCES developed DFR for any institution.

Download IPEDS Data

Other data tools provide access to raw data through a direct download (Complete Data Files) or through user selections in the IPEDS Custom Data Files tool. In addition, IPEDS data can be downloaded for an entire collection year for all survey components via the Access Database.

IPEDS Data Tools Help

The IPEDS Data Tools User Manual is designed to help guide users through the various functions, processes, and abundant capabilities of IPEDS data tools. The manual contains a wealth of information, hints, tips, and insights for using the tools.

 

Data Tool Considerations

Users may consider several factors—related to both data selection and data extraction—when determining the right tool for a particular question or query.

Data Selection

  1. Quick access – Accessing data in a few steps may be helpful for users who want to find data quickly. Several data tools provide data quickly but may be limited in their selection options or customizable output.

  2. Data release – IPEDS data are released to the public in two phases: Provisional and Final. Provisional data have undergone quality control procedures and imputation for missing data but have not been updated based on changes within the Prior Year Revision System. Final data reflect changes made within the Prior Year Revision System and additional quality control procedures and will not change. Some tools allow users to access only final data. Table 1 summarizes how provisional and final data are used by various data tools. The IPEDS resource page “Timing of IPEDS Data Collection, Coverage, and Release Cycle” provides more information on data releases.


    Table 1. How provisional and final data are used in various data tools

  1. Select institutions – Users may want to select specific institutions for their analyses. Several tools allow users to limit the output for a selected list of institutions while others include all institutions in the output.
     
  2. Multiple years – While some tools provide a single year of data, many tools provide access to multiple years of data in a single output.
     
  3. Raw data – Some data tools provide access to the raw data as submitted to IPEDS. For example, Look Up an Institution allows users access to survey forms submitted by an institution.
     
  4. Institution-level data – Many data tools provide data at the institution level, since this is the unit of analysis within the IPEDS system.
     
  5. All data available – Many data tools provide access to frequently used and derived variables, but others provide access to the entirety of variables collected within the IPEDS system.

Data Extraction

  1. Save/upload institutions – Several data tools allow a user to create and download a list of institutions, which can be uploaded in a future session.

  2. Save/upload variables – Two data tools allow a user to save the variables selected and upload in a future session.
     
  3. Export data – Many data tools allow a user to download data into a spreadsheet, while others provide information within a PDF. Note that several tools have limitations on the number of variables that can be downloaded in a session (e.g., Compare Institutions has a limit of 250 variables).
     
  4. Produce visuals – Several data tools produce charts, graphs, or other visualizations. For example, Data Trends provides users with the opportunity to generate a bar or line chart and text table.


Below is a graphic that summarizes these considerations for each IPEDS data tool (click the image to enlarge it). 

 

To find training opportunities—including video tutorials, workshops, and keyholder courses—check out the IPEDS Training Center. Plus, access the IPEDS Distance Learning Dataset Training modules for more guidance on how to use IPEDS data. For additional questions, call the IPEDS Data Use Help Desk at (866) 558-0658 or e-mail ipedstools@rti.org.

 

By Tara B. Lawley, NCES, and Eric S. Atchison, Arkansas State University System and Association for Institutional Research IPEDS Educator

How Often Do High School Students Meet With Counselors About College? Differences by Parental Education and Counselor Caseload

There are many factors that can affect students’ decisions to apply to college, such as income, school engagement, and coursework.1 Similarly, previous research has reported that students whose parents did not hold a college degree (i.e., first-generation college students) enrolled in college at a lower rate than did peers whose parents held a college degree.2 However, high school counselors may help students choose colleges and apply to them, meaning that students who meet with a counselor about college could be more likely to attend college.3 Counselors may help potential first-generation college students plan for college by providing information that continuing-generation students already have access to via their parents who had attained college degrees themselves. Despite the potential benefits of meeting with a counselor, a school's counselor caseloads may affect its students' counseling opportunities.4

What percentage of high school students met with a counselor about college? How did this percentage vary by parental education and counselor caseload?

Around 47 percent of 2009 ninth-graders were potential first-generation college students whose parents did not hold a college degree (table U1). These students met with a counselor at a lower rate than did students whose parents held a college degree. Figure 1 shows that 72 percent of students whose parents did not hold a college degree met with a counselor, compared with 76 and 82 percent of students whose parents held an associate’s degree and a bachelor’s degree or higher, respectively.


Figure 1. Percentage of students who met with a counselor about college in 2012–13, by average counselor caseload level at the school and parents' highest education level

NOTE: Caseload is a continuous variable based on counselor reports of the average number of students per counselor at the school. Each caseload category accounts for roughly one-third of the sample in the unweighted data. Low caseload refers to counselors responsible for 40 to 299 students, medium caseload refers to counselors responsible for 300 to 399 students, and high caseload refers to counselors responsible for 400 or more students. The category high school degree or less incudes high school diploma or GED and those who started college but did not complete a degree. Respondents who did not know whether they met with a counselor are excluded from the analyses. These represent approximately 8 percent of weighted cases. 
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, High School Longitudinal Study of 2009 (HSLS:09) Base year, First Follow-up, and 2013 update.


During the senior year of most of the cohort of 2009 ninth-graders, the average counselor caseload at schools attended by these students5 was 375 students per counselor. The average caseload at public schools was 388, and the average caseload at private schools was 202.

Students attending schools with low counselor caseloads met with a counselor about college at a higher rate than did students at schools with high counselor caseloads, when comparing students whose parents had similar attainment levels. For example, at schools with low caseloads, 79 percent of students whose parents held a high school degree or less met with a counselor about college, compared with 70 percent of these students at schools with high caseloads. This pattern is also true for students at schools with low caseloads compared with medium caseloads (i.e., 86 vs. 76 percent of students whose parents held an associate’s degree and 89 vs. 81 percent of students whose parents held a bachelor’s degree), except among students whose parents held a high school degree or less (79 percent was not statistically different from 74 percent). Finally, students whose parents held a high school degree or less met with a counselor at a lower rate than did students whose parents held a bachelor’s degree or higher in each caseload category (i.e., 79 vs. 89 percent for low caseload schools, 74 vs. 81 percent for medium caseload schools, and 70 vs. 77 percent for high caseload schools).

For more information about counselor meetings and college enrollment, check out this Data Point: High School Counselor Meetings About College, College Attendance, and Parental Education.

This blog post uses data from the High School Longitudinal Study of 2009 (HSLS:09), a national study of more than 23,000 ninth-graders and their school counselors in fall 2009. Student sample members answered surveys between 2009 and 2016. Sample members or their parents reported on whether the student met with a counselor about college during the 2012–13 school year (most students’ 12th-grade year).

While data presented here are the most recent data available on the topic, NCES will have new data on high schoolers’ experiences in the 2020s coming soon. In particular, data from the High School and Beyond Longitudinal Study of 2022 (HS&B:22), which also includes information about students’ visits to school counselors, is forthcoming.

Until those data are released, we recommend you access HSLS:09 student and counselor data to conduct your own analyses via NCES’s DataLab.

 

By Catharine Warner-Griffin, AnLar, and Elise Christopher, NCES


[1] See, for example, Fraysier, K., Reschly, A., and Appleton, J. (2020). Predicting Postsecondary Enrollment With Secondary Student Engagement Data. Journal of Psychoeducational Assessment, 38(7), 882–899.

[2] Cataldi, E. F., Bennett, C. T., and Chen, X. (2018). First-Generation Students: College Access, Persistence, and Postbachelor’s Outcomes (2018-421). U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics.

[3] Tang, A. K., and Ng, K. M. (2019). High School Counselor Contacts as Predictors of College Enrollment. Professional Counselor, 9(4), 347–357.

[4] Woods, C. S., and Domina, T. (2014). The School Counselor Caseload and the High School-to-College Pipeline. Teachers College Record, 116(10), 1–30.

[5] These schools are only those sampled in the base year (i.e., students’ 2009 schools).

Using Federal Education Data to Inform Policymaking: Part 1–Benefits and Advantages

While federal, state, and district policymakers have used education data as the backbone of their policy and funding decisions for years, there’s nothing quite like a global pandemic to highlight the criticality of reliable data and illuminate the gaps in our collective knowledge. 

But where can policymakers find education datasets that are large enough for comparative or trend analyses while still specific enough to measure timely issues in local contexts? How can policymakers extract and interpret information from these education datasets? The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) is a perfect resource for these data and information needs.  

In this two-part blog series, we’ll discuss the role of NCES as the primary federal entity for collecting and analyzing essential education data in the United States and highlight a specific NCES survey—the National Teacher and Principal Survey (NTPS)—which is designed to support state and district policymakers.

Federal, state, and district decisionmakers need reliable, trustworthy data to inform education funding and policy regulations. In order to enact good laws that best serve all of our students and school staff, they need data that are as diverse and representative as our schools. As a federal statistical agency, NCES fulfills a Congressional mandate to collect, analyze, and report statistics on the condition of U.S. education and is the primary source that policymakers and other decisionmakers rely on for education data. These efforts include administrative data collections and cross-sectional, longitudinal, and assessment surveys that gather information to help the education sector better understand early childhood, K–12, and postsecondary education nationally and internationally.

The NTPS exemplifies the utility of NCES data. NTPS data are available both nationally and by state (via the NTPS State Dashboard and DataLab) and are used by policymakers and researchers to make funding and other policy decisions. NCES also helps decisionmakers, researchers, and the public use and make sense of the data by providing access to NTPS datasets and publishing reports, such as numerous NTPS reports, the Condition of Education, and the Digest of Education Statistics.

The NTPS collects data about school conditions and the demographics of public and private K–12 teachers and principals directly from school staff themselves, providing critical data on educators’ perspectives and experiences in schools every day.

The NTPS has been collected in one form or another since 1987–88—when it was known as the Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS)—and was last conducted during the 2020–21 school year amid the coronavirus pandemic. The 2023–24 NTPS is currently being conducted.

Let’s use the NTPS to answer a few common questions about the role of federal education data.

1. Why do federal data matter to district policymakers if states and districts have their own local collections?

In a postpandemic world cleaved into “before” and “after,” policymakers at all levels need information on the condition of education across the country to craft policies that are truly reflective of the needs, challenges, and strengths of students and staff.

Since education in the United States is primarily a state and local responsibility, it can be difficult to make comparisons between states if we don’t have a federal agency collecting the data in a systematic and comparable way across the country. The NTPS, for example, publishes both public school data at the national and state levels and representative public and private school, principal, and teacher data for several characteristics (e.g., type of community in which a school is located; percentage enrollment of students of color; staff characteristics like race/ethnicity and years of experience).  

Figure 1 shows an NTPS-based example of how using common questions across all school systems supports important cross-state comparisons. This is just one of hundreds of similar comparisons that have been made using NTPS data on topics such as teachers’ classroom experiences and principals’ challenges filling needed teacher vacancies. Comparisons can also focus on different school, principal, and teacher characteristics (e.g., type of community in which a school is located; level of training for staff; race/ethnicity of staff).


Figure 1. Percentage of public schools that provide instruction beyond the school day for students who need academic assistance: 2020–21

SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Teacher and Principal Survey (NTPS), “Public School Data File,” 2020–21.


The primary responsibility of state or district education decisionmakers is to use trustworthy data to support the needs of their local schools and families Thankfully, state, district, and school leadership don’t need to assume the full financial and logistical responsibility on their own when there are federal data available that can help with state and local data needs. The same federal education data underpinning congressional funding decisions, policy choices, and guidance can be used for numerous state, district, and school policy and practice decisions as well—if education leaders know where to look.

Federal, state, and district education agencies and schools all serve different roles in the education sector but have similar and mutually beneficial responsibilities and goals on behalf of students and school staff (figure 2).


Figure 2. Mutually beneficial relationships


NCES and its predecessors have been congressionally mandated since 1867 to collect, analyze, and report data on the condition and progress of U.S. education for policymakers to use as a tool when making decisions to support our students and our school staff. National and state-level estimates from NCES surveys support state and district data efforts and strategic goals. For example, the California State Senate used state-level NTPS school start time data1 to inform SB:328 (a bill to require California school districts to shift middle and high school start times to no earlier than 8:30 a.m.), which was passed in 2017 and amended in 2021.  

2. How do federal data benefit everyone in the education sector?

NCES produces unique data and information products that rely on statistics produced from data collected through state or district records and a suite of surveys, the majority of which come directly from responses given by educators, students, and families. For example, NCES produces an annual report to Congress called the Condition of Education. The Condition of Education summarizes and makes sense of data from more than 25 data collections administered by NCES and other government agencies. Federal policymakers also rely on other NCES reports, such as the annual Digest of Education Statistics, Projections of Education Statistics, and Report on Indicators of School Crime and Safety. For an example of the indicators available in the Condition of Education, see the figure below, which is from Characteristics of Traditional Public, Public Charter, and Private School Teachers.


Figure 3. Percentage distribution of teachers in traditional public, public charter, and private elementary and secondary schools, by highest degree earned: School year 2020–21

 

1 Education specialist degrees or certificates are generally awarded for 1 year’s work beyond the master’s level. Includes certificate of advanced graduate studies.
NOTE: Excludes teachers who teach only prekindergarten. Data are based on a head count of full-time and part-time teachers rather than on the number of full-time-equivalent teachers. Detail may not sum to totals because of rounding. Although rounded numbers are displayed, the figures are based on unrounded data.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, National Teacher and Principal Survey (NTPS), “Public School Teacher Data File” and “Private School Teacher Data File,” 2020–21. See Digest of Education Statistics 2022, tables 209.10 and 209.21.


The Condition of Education and other NCES reports and data products provide information on key topics in education to the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, the White House Domestic Policy Council, and senior staff within many federal agencies including the Department of Education, Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), National Institutes of Health (NIH), Department of Justice (DOJ), and Department of Agriculture (USDA). Some of the recent policy initiatives and research initiatives supported by NTPS data include the following:

 

In part 2 of this blog series, we will present the challenges and opportunities created by using federal education data to inform policymaking at the federal, state, and district levels. 


NCES would like to thank every district, school, administrator, teacher, parent, and student who has previously approved or participated in an NCES survey. We wouldn’t be able to produce our reports and data products without your participation.

We are currently conducting the 2023–24 NTPS to learn more about school and educator experiences following the pandemic. Find more information about the NTPS, including findings and details from prior collections.

 

By Maura Spiegelman and Julia Merlin, NCES


[1] The California State Senate Bill 328 referenced data from the Schools and Staffing Survey (SASS), which was the direct predecessor to the NTPS.

Releasing CCD Nonfiscal Data

The Common Core of Data (CCD) contains basic information on public elementary and secondary schools, local education agencies (LEAs), and state education agencies (SEAs) in the United States. The CCD collects fiscal and nonfiscal data about all public schools, public school districts, and state education agencies in the United States. Both IPEDS and CCD provide a sampling frame to many survey collections, including many conducted by NCES and the Department of Education. This blog post, one in a series of posts about CCD nonfiscal data, focuses on CCD’s two major releases and their corresponding components. For information on how to access and use CCD data, read the blog post Accessing the Common Core of Data (CCD).
 

Data Releases

CCD nonfiscal data are published in two releases every school year—as preliminary files and as provisional data files—within the CCD Data File tool. Understanding the differences between the two releases is important to understand how CCD nonfiscal data are released.

  • The preliminary files contain basic information about schools and districts, such as name, address, phone number, status, and NCES ID number. Many schools and districts utilize information from the directory file, such as the NCES ID, to apply for grants or other opportunities for their schools. Therefore, it is important that these files are released first, even if the data are still preliminary. 
     
  • The provisional data files are the full release of the CCD nonfiscal data. These data files provide school-, district-, and state-level data on topics like enrollment, staffing, and free or reduced-price lunch. These files are much more detailed and include data that are broken down by characteristics such as grade, race/ethnicity, and gender—as well as by combinations of these characteristics. These files are not updated unless there is a significant change to the data.

Each file release includes a version that indicates the type of release. The first preliminary files have “0a” in the file names, and revised preliminary files include “0b,” “0c,” and so on. The first provisional files have “1a,” in the file names, and revised provisional files include “1b,” “1c,” and so on. Note, however, that releasing revised files is rare.
 

Components of a Release

It is important to utilize the various components that accompany each release to find additional information that is specific to the file and can help you better understand the data. In addition, there are other resources available that provide more ways to access and understand the data.
 

Documentation Components

Every data file will have documentation files that provide information about the data. These include the following:

  • release notes—basic information about the data release, including details about any changes to the files, such as a change in a variable’s description or a variable that was added to the file; summary tables that include national totals and tables with selected frequencies are also included.
     
  • state data notes—information on data anomalies that are discovered during NCES’s collaboration with the states; broken down by state and by file type, these notes describe things like changes to how data were collected by the state.
     
  • companion files—included in each data file component, these files include a list of all the variables in the data file—including a brief description—and frequency tables; you should start with the companion files to better understand what variables are in each data file.


Resources and Tools

Along with the release of the CCD nonfiscal data files, additional resources are also updated to improve access to the data.

  • Summary Tables: Released with the provisional data files, Summary Tables provide a national-level look at the data. These tables show the operational status of schools and districts by type as well as the number of schools, students, and teachers by state.
     
  • Locators and ElSi: There are two primary tools that can be used to access CCD data: the Locators (School Locator and District Locator) and the Elementary/Secondary Information System (ElSi). These tools are updated as the data files are released. The Locators are updated with each release, while ElSi is updated with the release of the provisional data files. Learn more about these tools.
     
  • Online Documentation: The online documentation provides some general information about CCD. This information is not year specific, but it provides a detailed explanation about how the data are collected, processed, and reviewed.
  • Reference Library: The reference library includes detailed documentation on various components of the CCD files that applies to multiple years, levels, and components of the data collection. The library includes crosswalks, documentation describing changes to the collection, and guidance for utilizing the data files, such as how to aggregate free or reduced-price lunch data.

Be sure to follow NCES on TwitterFacebookLinkedIn, and YouTube and subscribe to the NCES News Flash to stay up-to-date on future CCD releases and resources.

 

By Patrick Keaton, NCES

NCES Releases a New Interactive Data Visualization Tool on Revenues, Expenditures, and Attendance for Public Elementary and Secondary Education

To accompany the recently released Revenues and Expenditures for Public Elementary and Secondary Education FY 2020, NCES has created an interactive data visualization tool to highlight the per pupil revenues and expenditures (adjusted for inflation) and average daily attendance (ADA) trends from the fiscal year (FY) 2020 National Public Education Financial Survey.

This tool allows users to see national or state-specific per pupil amounts and year-to-year percentage changes for both total revenue and current expenditures by using a slider to toggle between the two variables. Total revenues are shown by source, and total current expenditures are shown by function and subfunction. Clicking on a state in the map will display data for the selected state in the bar charts.

The tool also allows users to see the ADA for each state. It is sortable by state, ADA amount, and percentage change. It may also be filtered to easily compare selected states. Hovering over the ADA of a state will display another bar graph with the last 3 years of ADA data.

Revenues and Expenditures

Between FY 2019 and FY 2020, inflation-adjusted total revenues per pupil increased by 1.8 percent (to $15,711). Of these total revenues for education in FY 2020, the majority were provided by state and local governments ($7,461 and $7,056, respectively).

The percentage change in revenues per pupil from FY 2019 to FY 2020 ranged from +15.4 percent in New Mexico to -2.4 percent in Kentucky. Total revenues per pupil increased in 38 states and the District of Columbia and decreased in 12 states between FY 2019 and FY 2020.


[click to enlarge image]Image of revenues tab of the Finance Visualization Tool showing revenues per pupil for public elementary and secondary education in FY 2019 and FY 2020


In FY 2020, current expenditures per pupil for the United States were $13,489, up 0.5 percent from FY 2019, after adjusting for inflation. Current expenditures per pupil ranged from $8,287 in Utah to $25,273 in New York. After New York, current expenditures per pupil were highest in the District of Columbia ($23,754), Vermont ($22,124), New Jersey ($21,385), and Connecticut ($20,889). After Utah, current expenditures per pupil were lowest in Idaho ($8,337), Arizona ($8,694), Oklahoma ($9,395), and Nevada ($9,548).

The states with the largest increases in current expenditures per pupil from FY 2019 to FY 2020, after adjusting for inflation, were New Mexico (+9.3 percent), Illinois (+5.7 percent), Kansas (+4.0 percent), Texas (+3.7 percent), and Indiana (+3.7 percent). The states with the largest decreases were Delaware1 (-12.8 percent), Connecticut (-2.7 percent), Arizona (-2.4 percent), Alaska (-2.0 percent), and Arkansas (-1.9 percent).

Average Daily Attendance (ADA)

During FY 2020, many school districts across the country closed their school buildings for in-person learning and began providing virtual instruction in an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19. In order to collect the most consistent and measurable data possible, the U.S. Department of Education provided flexibility for states to report average daily attendance data for the 2019–20 school year.

Between FY 2019 and FY 2020, ADA decreased in 14 states, with the largest decrease at 2.4 percent in New Mexico. ADA increased in the remaining 36 states and the District of Columbia, with the largest increase at 4.1 percent in South Dakota. In 43 states, the ADA in FY 2020 was within 2 percent of the previous year’s ADA.


[click to enlarge image]

Image of Average Daily Attendance tab of the Finance Visualization Tool showing average daily attendance for public elementary and secondary education by state in FY 2020


To explore these and other data on public elementary and secondary revenues, expenditures, and ADA, check out our new data visualization tool.

Be sure to follow NCES on TwitterFacebookLinkedIn, and YouTube and subscribe to the NCES News Flash to stay up-to-date on the latest from the National Public Education Financial Survey.

 

By Stephen Q. Cornman, NCES, and Malia Howell and Jeremy Phillips, U.S. Census Bureau


[1] In Delaware, the decline in current expenditures per pupil is due primarily to a decrease in the amount reported for employee benefits paid by the state on behalf of local education agencies (LEAs). The state reviewed this decline and provided corrected data that will be published in the final file.