NCES Blog

National Center for Education Statistics

Expanding Student Success Rates to Reflect Today’s College Students

By Gigi Jones

Since the 1990s, the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) has collected and published graduation rates for colleges and universities around the country. These rates were based on traditional college students—first-time, full-time degree- or certificate-seeking undergraduate students (FTFT) who, generally, enrolled right after high school.

While these data are insightful, some have argued the FTFT graduation rate only provides a part of the picture because it doesn’t consider non-traditional students, including those who are part-time students and transfers. This is an important point because, over the past decade, the number of non-traditional students has outpaced the increase in traditional students, mostly driven by growth in those who have transferred schools.  

The new IPEDS Outcome Measures survey was designed to help answer these changes. Starting with the 2015-16 collection cycle, entering students at more than 4,000 degree-granting institutions must be reported in one of four buckets, also called cohorts (see Figure below).

The FTFT cohort is similar to what has been collected since the 1990s, but the Outcome Measures adds three new student groups to the equation: 

  • First-time, part-time students (FTPT), who attend less than a full-time credit workload each term (typically less than 12-credits) and who have no prior postsecondary attendance; 
  • Non-first-time students, also known as transfer-in students, who are enrolled at a full-time level (NFTFT); and
  • Non-first-time students, also known as transfer-in students, who are enrolled at a part-time level (NFTPT).

For these four cohorts, postsecondary institutions report the awards conferred at two points of time after the students entered the institution: 6 years and 8 years. If students did not receive an award, then institutions must report their enrollment status one of three ways: 1) Still enrolled at the same institution; 2) Transferred out of the institution; or 3) Enrollment status is unknown.

These changes help respond to those who feel that the FTFT graduation rates do not reflect the larger student population, in particular public 2-year colleges that serve a larger, non-traditional college student population. Since 2008, steps have been taken to construct and refine the data collection of non-traditional college students through a committee of higher education experts (PDF) and public Technical Review Panels (see summaries for panels 37, 40 and 45).

The 2016-17 preliminary Outcome Measures data were released on October 12, as part of a larger report on IPEDS winter data collection. The data for individual schools can be found on our College Navigator site.  The final data for 2015-16 will be released in early 2018. Sign up for the IES News Flash to be notified when the new data are released or follow IPEDS on Twitter. You can also visit the IPEDS Outcome Measures website for more information. 

While this is an important step in the process, we are continuing to improve the data collection process. Starting with the 2017-18 Outcome Measures collection, the survey includes more groups (i.e., Pell Grant v. Non-Pell Grant recipients), a third award status point (4-years after entry), and the identification of the type of award (i.e., certificates, Associate’s, and Bachelor’s). Watch for the release of these data in fall 2018. 

EDITOR'S NOTE: This post was updated on October 12 to reflect the release of Outcome Measures data.

New Data Explore Adults’ Nondegree Credentials

By Lisa Hudson

Despite a national interest in nondegree credentials—such as postsecondary certificates, occupational certifications, and occupational licenses—there hasn’t been comprehensive, national data on these programs. However, a new report from NCES fills this gap using data from our new Adult Training and Education Survey (ATES).

These data show that 27 percent of adults have a nondegree credential and that 21 percent have completed a work experience program (such as an apprenticeship or internship). The ATES data also show that the completion of degree programs and nondegree programs are related. For example, having a certification or license is more common among adults who have a college degree than among adults with lower levels of education.  

The ATES is one component of the NCES National Household Education Surveys Program (NHES), which collects information on education-related topics that cannot be addressed through school-based surveys. It includes a suite of surveys designed to capture data related to learning at all ages. This most recent NHES administration, conducted from January to September 2016, was the first administration of the ATES. This survey was completed by a national sample of about 47,700 adults between the ages of 16 and 65.

The data show that nondegree credentialing and work experience programs are particularly common in the health care field. In fact, health care was the most common field in which both certifications and licenses were held, and the most common field for which adults had completed a work experience program.

The ATES also found that adults perceive nondegree credentials to be useful for many labor market outcomes. For example, 82 percent of adults who have a certification or license reported that it was very useful for “getting a job”, 81 percent reported that it was very useful for “keeping you marketable to employers or clients”, and 66 percent reported it that was very useful for “improving your work skills” (see figure). 

The ATES data will be available to researchers in the coming months. Check the NHES website for updates.

Getting to Know and Use the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System

By Sarah Souders

More than 3,915,918 individuals were employed by degree-granting postsecondary institutions in 2015. These employees provided services and support to the 19,977,270 students attending the nation’s 4,562 degree-granting institutions.

We know this information—and much more—because of the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), a program in the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). In fact, these data points only scratch the surface of information collected and updated annually by IPEDS. Each year, IPEDS issues 12 surveys to all postsecondary institutions receiving Title IV Federal Aid[1] and some institutions that participate by choice. The surveys provide data on a broad range of topics, from enrollment, admissions, and cost to grad rates, faculty, and human resources.  These data are reported by gender, race/ethnicity, institution type, and more.

But we don’t just want people to know about the data – we want them to use it!

The “Use the Data” landing page (see image below) provides many options for analysis. Users can look up and compare institutions, view trends and statistical tables for specific data points, download a complete survey file, customize a data file, or download a report summarizing the data for specific institutions.

Screen shot of IPEDS Use the Data website

There are many options for analysis given the extensive data collection and number of tools. One tool, the IPEDS Trend Generator, allows users to select a subject and question to observe trends over time. The trend generator allows users to explore enrollment trends, among many other topics.

Below is an example of a bar graph that can be generated using this tool. With the click of a couple of buttons, you can quickly learn that the number of students attending postsecondary institutions (as measured by 12-month enrollment) has been declining in recent years, after peaking in 2010-11 at 29,522,688 students. By 2014-15, enrollment decreased to 27,386,275 students, a decline of more than 2 million students.  

In addition to producing graphical displays, data from the Trend Generator can quickly be exported to an Excel file.

Chart showing trend data on postsecondary enrollment

Users also have the option to create custom data files which can be exported to Excel, SAS, STATA, or SPSS files. Users can choose individual or specific institutions using their own criteria, or groups of similar institutions can be selected at once by using predetermined categorizations. Some pre-set groupings include whether the institution is the state’s land grant institution, a Historically Black College and University, or a tribal college. Institutional groupings can also be selected by geographic characteristics and other groupings, such as highest degree offered, availability of distance education, and Carnegie classification. The full list of institutional groupings can be found on the IPEDS website

After selecting the institutions, users can choose the variables to be analyzed. In the screenshot below, you can see that the variable “number and salaries of non-medical full-time staff” allows users to select breakouts by academic rank, such as professor, associate professor, lecturer, etc. These breakouts can provide greater detail with regard to current and average salary. Once the variables are selected, the desired data file is complete and can be exported into one of the available formats.

Screenshot of IPEDS categories

The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System contains a multitude of data which can be accessed for all levels of analysis, whether you are an experienced statistician or just a casual user. If you are using the data and have questions or comments, contact the IPEDS Help Desk by phone at 1-877-225-2568 or by email: ipedshelp@rti.org .

Sarah Souders was a 2017 summer intern for NCES. She is a student at The Ohio State University. 

[1] Title IV of the HEA authorizes the federal government’s primary student aid programs, which are the major source of federal support to postsecondary students. Title IV aid includes programs like Pell Grants, Stafford Loans, Perkins Loans, Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants, and Federal Work Study. If an institution accepts aid from programs authorized by Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended (20 USC 1094, Section 487(a)(17) and 34 CFR 668.14(b)(19)), then they are required to complete all IPEDS surveys.

 

Celebrate National Library Month: The Future of Libraries

By Christopher Cody and Bao Le

April is National Library Month! Did you know that NCES collects data on libraries?

While libraries have traditionally provided the public with a physical space for learning and accessing resources and information, the role of the library has expanded with advances in technology. With the dawn of the digital age, libraries have been working to meet the challenges of expanding access, learning opportunities, and overall public connection.[i] Academic libraries in particular, which are libraries located within postsecondary institutions, have embraced technological improvements, as shown in data collected by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).

The Academic Libraries (AL) Survey has a rich history at NCES, starting in 1966 when we began conducting the surveys on a three-year cycle as part of the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). The survey moved around a bit, but is now fully housed in IPEDS and is currently administered on a yearly cycle.

IPEDS’s AL Survey offers an abundance of data to track the advancement of libraries, including data on topics such as collections/circulations, expenses, and interlibrary services. These data show a clear progression of libraries into the digital age. Here are some highlights:

  • In 1996, “80 percent of institutions with an academic library had access from within the library to an electronic catalog of the library’s holdings, 81 percent had internet access within the library.”[ii]
  • In 1996, about 40 percent had library reference service by e-mail. Just 10 years later, 72 percent of academic libraries provided library reference service by e-mail or the internet.[iii]
  • In 2006, only 6 percent of all academic library collections were e-books. By 2014-15, about 23 percent of all collections were e-books and 31 percent of the total library collections were from electronic and digital sources (e-books, e-media, and databases) as shown in Enrollment and Employees in Postsecondary Institutions, Fall 2014; and Financial Statistics and Academic Libraries, Fiscal Year 2014: First Look (Provisional Data).
  • In 2014-15, postsecondary institutions housed approximately 1.1 billion items in physical library collections (books and media) and about 521 million items in electronic library collections (digital/electronic books, databases, and digital electronic media).

 

Over the past 20 years, libraries have evolved to ensure information is accessible to the public through the latest mediums of technology.


So in honor of National Library Month, take advantage of the abundant historical academic and school library data available through NCES located on the Library Statistics Program page. More recent academic library data can be accessed by visiting the Use the Data portal on the IPEDS website.

 

[i] Clark, L., Levien, R. E., Garmer, A. K., and Figueroa, M. (2015). Re-Thinking the Roles of U.S. Libraries. In D. Bogart and A. Inouye (Eds.), Library and Book Trade Almanac: formerly The Bowker Annual 2015, 60th Edition (pg. 3-22). Medford, NJ: Information Today Inc.

[ii] Cahalan, M. W., Justh, N. M., and Williams, J. W. (1999). Academic Libraries: 1996 (NCES 2000-326). National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC.

[iii] Holton, B., Hardesty, L., and O’Shea, P. (2008). Academic Libraries: 2006 (NCES 2008-337). National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC.

Virtual schools: Measuring access to elementary and secondary education in online environments

By Mark Glander

Many people are familiar with the increasing availability of online education at the postsecondary level, but did you know that the number of virtual elementary and secondary schools is also growing? Virtual schools can offer flexibility to students who may have difficulty accessing or attending traditional schools, or as an alternative to homeschooling for parents who elect not to enroll their children in traditional brick and mortar schools. As the number of schools offering virtual education increases, it is important to be able to track these schools.

To gain a better understanding of the role virtual schools play in public elementary and secondary education, NCES added a flag identifying these schools to its Common Core of Data (CCD). The CCD is an annual collection of data from all public schools, public school districts, and state education agencies in the United States. The recently released School Year 2013–14 collection includes the new virtual school flag. For this purpose, a virtual school is defined as, “A public school that offers only instruction in which students and teachers are separated by time and/or location, and interaction occurs via computers and/or telecommunications technologies. A virtual school generally does not have a physical facility that allows students to attend classes on site.”

Twenty-eight states and the District of Columbia reported having one or more virtual schools for a total of 478 virtual schools in the U.S. in 2013–14. Florida reported the most of any state with a total of 182. A new data item is often under-reported in the first year of collection; ten states and other jurisdictions did not report having any virtual schools or reported virtual schools as not applicable (California, Delaware, North Dakota, Texas, Washington, the Department of Defense Education Activity, American Samoa, Guam, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands). 

All but 12 of the reported schools were “regular” schools, meaning they offered a general academic curriculum rather than one focused on special needs or vocational education. 

The CCD distinguishes several types of local education agencies, defined by their level of governance.  Almost all virtual schools were administered by regular, local school districts (350 schools). Most other virtual schools were administered by independent charter school districts (116 schools), which are districts composed exclusively of charter schools.

The two states with the largest number of students in virtual schools were Ohio (38,169) and Pennsylvania (36,596).  Idaho had the largest percentage of students in virtual schools (2.4 percent), followed by Ohio (2.2 percent), and Pennsylvania (2.1 percent).

CCD identifies four school levels:  primary, middle, high, and “other”.  “Other” includes schools that span these categories and schools with high school grades but no 12th grade. A total of 309 of the 478 virtual schools had a school level of "other".  These schools accounted for 84 percent of students in virtual schools.

To see tables summarizing the above data, please visit our web page – http://nces.ed.gov/ccd/data_tables.asp.

To learn more about the CCD, please see our latest report, or visit our web page.  You can also access CCD data files for additional information about public elementary and secondary schools.