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Integrated Post-secondary Education Data System (IPEDS)

IPEDS is a system of interrelated surveys conducted annually by the U.S. Department’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). IPEDS gathers information from every college, university, and technical and vocational institution that participates in the federal student financial aid programs. The Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended, requires that institutions that participate in federal student aid programs report data on enrollments, program completions, graduation rates, faculty and staff, finances, institutional prices, and student financial aid. Many institutions that do not receive federal funding also participate and report their data to IPEDS voluntarily.

Emsi uses IPEDS data to provide information about postsecondary institutions, especially in regard to college completions by program type and demographic (race and gender). Completions include degrees (associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral), certificates, and any other formal award.

In addition, Emsi uses the CIP system to create program-to-occupation crosswalks, which map programs of study to occupations and reveal one measure of education supply and demand.

Strengths of IPEDS

  • Because the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended, requires that institutions that participate in federal student aid programs report data to IPEDS, the data is a very comprehensive source.
  • IPEDS data has several uses, including providing the market research information necessary for universities and colleges to evaluate new and existing programs.
  • IPEDS allows you to view information for an individual institution, compare institutions side-by-side, or view trends for certain variables.

Weaknesses of IPEDS

  • Institutions self-report their information to IPEDS, so the possibility of error exists, particularly in regard to the reported programs of study.
  • There is about a year lag between when IPEDS collects its data and when it is released.
  • IPEDS is not comprehensive of all education and training programs (e.g. MakerSquare and other non-traditional education and training programs are not included in this data).
  • Programs that are offered online are flagged as such, but its enrollments and completions cannot be split out to show number of brick-and-mortar completions vs. number of online completions.
  • The CIP taxonomy is not intuitively organized; its classifications do not necessarily match up with the exact names of majors, and similar programs may not be found within the same six-, four-, or even two-digit series.

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