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Appendix A

To address the research questions, the Working Group analyzed subbaccalaureate certificate data reported in the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) between 2007-08 and 2010-11 to identify institutions for a more in-depth review of certificate programs and IPEDS data reporting processes. Using data on certificates awarded, student enrollment, and institutional sector, the Working Group identified nine institutions to interview. The nine institutions represented a mix of public, private nonprofit, and for-profit institutions, 2-year institutions (the institutions that report the highest number of subbaccalaureate certificates) and 4-year institutions that have awarded such certificates, as well as state system offices. Table A-1 shows the institutions that agreed to participate in the study.

Table A-1. Subbaccalaureate certificates awarded, 12-month undergraduate enrollment, and number of programs at participating institutions, in 2009-10 and 2010-11

The Working Group developed a set of questions for the institutional interviews that gathered information on the following topics:

  • Types of certificate programs offered, extent to which those programs are Title IV eligible, and whether the institution reports non-Title IV eligible programs in IPEDS;
  • Extent to which certificate programs are terminal, transferrable, or "stackable"/embedded;
  • Interpretation of IPEDS definitions and instructions related to subbaccalaureate certificates, certificates that have been reported to IPEDS, and what certificates should not be reported to IPEDS;
  • Decisions made at an institutional level on how certificate programs are defined, and which CIP codes are selected for certificate programs that are related to multiple CIP codes;
  • How certificates that are either intermediate qualifications (e.g., for course completion or bundles of courses) or state-sponsored programs are reported;
  • How data on subbaccalaureate certificates reported to Completions are aligned with the Graduation Rate component of IPEDS; and
  • Experiences with IPEDS training and keyholder information related to reporting Completions data, and the adequacy of current IPEDS definitions.

During the interviews the Working Group also gathered information on other industry-sponsored certificates or noncredit certificates awarded at the institution, and whether the institution collects and reports data on those certificates to other organizations or agencies.

The Working Group also examined other federal collections of certificate data and compared the definitions and data elements to those used in IPEDS. Specifically, the Working Group reviewed the National Center for Education Statistics sample surveys and other federal data collections (i.e., Census and Workforce Investment Act), and data collected by other research organizations studying certificate completion (i.e., Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce and Complete College America).