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Digest of Education Statistics: 2018
Digest of Education Statistics: 2018

NCES 2020-009
December 2019

Appendix A.2. National Postsecondary Student Aid Study

The National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS) is a comprehensive nationwide study of how students and their families pay for postsecondary education. Data gathered from the study are used to help guide future federal student financial aid policy. The study covers nationally representative samples of undergraduates, graduates, and first-professional students in the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, including students attending less-than-2-year institutions, community colleges, and 4-year colleges and universities. Participants include students who do not receive aid and those who do receive financial aid. Since NPSAS identifies nationally representative samples of student subpopulations of interest to policymakers and obtains baseline data for longitudinal study of these subpopulations, data from the study provide the base-year sample for the Beginning Postsecondary Students (BPS) longitudinal study and the Baccalaureate and Beyond (B&B) longitudinal study.

Originally, NPSAS was conducted every 3 years. Beginning with the 1999–2000 study (NPSAS:2000), NPSAS has been conducted every 4 years. NPSAS:08 included a new set of instrument items to obtain baseline measures of the awareness of two new federal grants introduced in 2006: the Academic Competitiveness Grant (ACG) and the National Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent (SMART) grant.

The first NPSAS (NPSAS:87) was conducted during the 1986–87 school year. Data were gathered from about 1,100 colleges, universities, and other postsecondary institutions; 60,000 students; and 14,000 parents. These data provided information on the cost of postsecondary education, the distribution of financial aid, and the characteristics of both aided and nonaided students and their families.

NPSAS:90 included a stratified sample of approximately 69,000 eligible students (about 47,000 of whom were undergraduates) from about 1,100 institutions. For each of the students included in the NPSAS sample, there were up to three sources of data. First, institution registration and financial aid records were extracted. Second, a Computer Assisted Telephone Interview (CATI) designed for each student was conducted. Finally, a CATI designed for the parents or guardians of a subsample of students was conducted. The purpose of the parent survey was to obtain detailed information on the family and economic characteristics of dependent students who did not receive financial aid, especially first-time, first-year students. In keeping with this purpose, parents of financially independent students who were over 30 years of age and parents of graduate/first-professional students were excluded from the sample. Data from these three sources were synthesized into a single system with an overall response rate of 89 percent.

For NPSAS:93, information on 77,000 undergraduates and graduate students enrolled during the school year was collected at 1,000 postsecondary institutions. The sample included students who were enrolled at any time between July 1, 1992, and June 30, 1993. About 66,000 students and a subsample of their parents were interviewed by telephone. NPSAS:96 contained information on more than 48,000 undergraduate and graduate students from about 1,000 postsecondary institutions who were enrolled at any time during the 1995–96 school year. NPSAS:2000 included nearly 62,000 students (50,000 undergraduates and almost 12,000 graduate students) from 1,000 postsecondary institutions. NPSAS:04 collected data on about 80,000 undergraduates and 11,000 graduate students from 1,400 postsecondary institutions. For NPSAS:08, about 114,000 undergraduate students and 14,000 graduate students who were enrolled in postsecondary education during the 2007–08 school year were selected from more than 1,730 postsecondary institutions.

NPSAS:12 sampled about 95,000 undergraduates and 16,000 graduate students from approximately 1,500 postsecondary institutions.

NPSAS:16 sampled about 89,000 undergraduate and 24,000 graduate students attending approximately 1,800 Title IV eligible postsecondary institutions in the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. The sample represents approximately 20 million undergraduate and 4 million graduate students enrolled in postsecondary education at Title IV eligible institutions at any time between July 1, 2015, and June 30, 2016. Public access to the data is available online through PowerStats (

Further information on NPSAS may be obtained from

Aurora D'Amico
Tracy Hunt-White
Longitudinal Surveys Branch
Sample Surveys Division
National Center for Education Statistics
550 12th Street SW
Washington, DC 20202