IR in the Know

IR in the Know keeps you up to date on current and emerging issues related to higher education data collection, analyses, and reporting with a brief summary of topics and links to more detailed information. IR in the Know is presented in three categories: (1) Reports and Tools offers summaries of resources and research useful to IR professionals; (2) Emerging Topics presents information on developing ideas and discussions from the field; and (3) Policy Watch alerts readers to national policy news and topics that may warrant attention. We welcome your feedback and suggestions. If you discover a resource or article you think might be useful to other IR professionals, please send an email to

June 18, 2018

Reports and Tools

A Major Step: What Adults Without Degrees Say About Going (Back) to College (Kristina Powers)

As the number of high school students is expected to decrease, more institutions are trying to better understand the needs of adult students as part of efforts to attract them. It is no surprise that adult students have multiple and competing priorities when considering or attending college. This Public Agenda research brief, based on phone interviews with adult students, provides insights into the challenges, needs, and considerations of adult students. Institutional researchers with involvement in and/or responsibility for strategic enrollment management and planning may find value in these insights about adult learners. 

Indicators of Higher Education Equity in the United States (Alli Bell)

The Pell Institute and the Alliance for Higher Education and Democracy at the University of Pennsylvania have published Indicators of Higher Education Equity in the United State – 2018 Historical Trend Report. This report is accompanied by the Equity Indicators Website, with data on equality and opportunity in higher education. The main indicators are enrollment, enrollment by institutional type, financial aid, college costs, attainment by family characteristics, and comparing the U.S. to other countries.

Institutions’ Use of Data and Analytics for Student Success (Dai Li)

As most institutions collect abundant amounts of data to better serve students and make data-informed decisions, it is critical for the profession to understand the readiness of higher education institutions to use data across various functional areas. Three higher education associations—AIR, NASPA, and EDUCAUSE—partnered to survey higher education institutions about their use of data. The first key finding of this national landscape analysis is that IR, IT, and student affairs all contribute to institution-wide goals of improving student success. Second, over 90% of the institutions invest in data and analytics projects, but do not measure resulting costs. Third, 85% of the institutions reported that first-year students are the leading focus of multiple student success studies. Other popular areas of study following the first year are academic progress and success, efficiency of degree completion and career pathways and post-graduation outcomes. The report also leads discussions on student success projects, organizational structures, levels of coordination, and institutional efficiency based on key findings. 

Report: Colleges to Survive Through Hybrid Experience (Kristina Powers)

The year 2040 sounds far away, but institutions are already thinking about students who are not even born yet and their higher education needs. This Education Dive article provides a brief overview of a recent Georgia Tech report that considers five initiatives to address the higher education needs of students in 2040: Whole-Person Education, New Products and Services, Advising for a New Era, Artificial Intelligence and Personalization, and A Distributed Worldwide Presence. The author notes other reports and writers who have addressed one or more of these topics.

The 2018 Trends Report (Alli Bell)

The Chronicle of Higher Education released its fourth annual Trends Report, which looks at 10 key shifts in higher education that are being employed by college leaders to address issues they face in innovative and imaginative ways. The 10 trends for 2018 are: the American campus, under siege, students in charge, loss of global prestige, peer review in flux, era of deregulation, student success up front, spotlight on hazing, rebranding the Ph.D., data scientists in demand, and black-college renaissance.

NCES Updates

College Map Updated

There has been a recent update to the postsecondary institution search tool, College Map, which can help future undergraduate and graduate students visually and quickly locate their college or university. College Map supplements College Navigator by mapping institutions with a physical location. Exclusively online institutions are not mapped, but appear in the results pane if users select to include online institutions in their search results. College Map has been updated with 2016-17 provisional IPEDS data. Feel free to give it a test run on your desktop or mobile devices.

IPEDS TRP “Capturing and Clarifying Dual Enrollment Data” – Open for Comment

Suggestions from the most recent meeting of the IPEDS Technical Review Panel are currently open for comment: TRP #55 Capturing and Clarifying Dual Enrollment Data. Comments are due by July 5, 2016 should be sent to Janice Kelly-Reid, IPEDS Project Director at RTI International,

New IPEDS Brochures Released

NCES is pleased to announce the release of two new IPEDS brochures. These are two in a series of brochures designed to inform data users (e.g., researchers, policy makers, members of the media, the general public, etc.) about the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) and other NCES surveys.  The Student Financial Aid Brochure uses graphics and plain language to describe the student groups for which IPEDS aid data are collected; the various types of aid data collected; differences in the data due to institutional calendar year; and aid data key terms. The Data Collection and Release Procedures Brochure describes the  IPEDS data collection periods; the data validation and review processes; the 3 data releases; when to expect dissemination; and where to retrieve the latest data.

May 15, 2018


2018 Survey of Community College Presidents (Archie Cubarrubia)

Inside Higher Ed and Gallup recently released the results of their fourth annual survey of community college presidents. The survey captures presidents’ views on a variety of topics including enrollment trends, free community college programs, barriers to student transfer, the future of the community college presidency, challenges for community colleges, and standards for success used by external stakeholders. Data for the survey were collected in early 2018 through a web survey. The detailed findings in the report provide useful benchmarks against which institutional research (IR) professionals at community colleges can compare their respective institutions’ views regarding specific focus areas. In addition, IR professionals at institutions that frequently receive students who transfer from community colleges should review the report to determine ways they can help improve students’ transfer and transition experiences.

Chronicle Data Updated with Salary Data for 2016-17 (Elizabeth Clune-Kneuer)

The Chronicle of Higher Education updated Chronicle Data to include 2016-17 salary information. The data are available for full-time faculty, adjunct faculty, and staff salaries in four different categories: College, State, Sector, and Carnegie Classification. Data are presented for average salaries as well as for individual institutions. 

Creative Problem Solving in Schools: Essential Skills Today’s Students Need for Jobs in Tomorrow’s Age of Automation (Kristina Powers)

Over-reliance on technology to solve our problems is less than ideal. Many people describe experiences during which their automated navigation programs led them down the wrong paths. “Technology alone is not the answer, but it pays a key role” is one of take-away from Adobe’s report on the need for creative problem solving. The report makes the case for the inclusion of creative problem solving skills in K-12 curricula and identifies barriers to doing so. Higher education institutions have a role to play in this effort, not only teaching teachers, but in bringing creative problem solving skills into college classrooms. This report is true to form given the word “creative” in the title and is creative in format and design.

Defining Access: How Test-Optional Works (Dai Li)

The number of institutions using Test-Optional Policies (TOPs) to replace standard tests in the admission progress, such as SAT and ACT, has grown dramatically in recent years, and described in this NACAC report (Steven T. Syverson, Valerie W. Franks, and William C. Hiss). The FairTest List 2018, which identifies schools with TOPs, includes more than 1,000 institutions that range from the highly selective, to regional public, and for-profit. These institutions deemphasize standard tests and high school rankings in admission, and use holistic approaches, such as portfolio admissions, that encourage applicants to provide evidence of individual talents or competencies. The momentum of TOPs is “fed in part by several overlapping changes in how academic promise and outcomes are being evaluated”.

The focus of this study is whether TOPs increase the number of applications from diverse backgrounds than the traditional test score approach. The authors collected student-record level data from 28 institutions with enrollment sizes that range from 1,500 to 20,000 and admissions selectivity that ranged from 15% to 90%. They found that well-executed TOPs can lead to increases in the numbers of overall applicants as well as the representation of diverse backgrounds in applicant pools and freshmen classes. The authors also noted that students who are first-generation, receive Pell grants, and non-white are less likely to submit test scores. These non-submitters are often admitted to college at lower rates yet yield at “substantially higher rates”. Ultimately, non-submitters graduated at rates equivalent to or marginally higher than test score submitters. Based on their findings, the authors suggest that TOPs work well at many types of institutions. he focus of this study is whether TOPs increase the number of applications from diverse backgrounds than the traditional test score approach. The authors collected student-record level data from 28 institutions with enrollment sizes that range from 1,500 to 20,000 and admissions selectivity that ranged from 15% to 90%. They found that well-executed TOPs can lead to increases in the numbers of overall applicants as well as the representation of diverse backgrounds in applicant pools and freshmen classes. The authors also noted that students who are first-generation, receive Pell grants, and non-white are less likely to submit test scores. These non-submitters are often admitted to college at lower rates yet yield at “substantially higher rates”. Ultimately, non-submitters graduated at rates equivalent to or marginally higher than test score submitters. Based on their findings, the authors suggest that TOPs work well at many types of institutions.

Exploring IPEDS Outcome Measures in the WICHE Region (Carrie Mata)

The April 2018 edition of WICHE Insights focuses on Exploring IPEDS Outcome Measures in the WICHE Region. Peace Bransberger and Colleen Falkenstern provide background information about the newest IPEDS Survey—Outcome Measures (OM)—and explore how it allows the federal data system to capture success of non-traditional cohorts, which was a known limitation of the Graduation Rates Survey. Main takeaways include the fact that the majority of public college undergraduates in the region were left out of traditional graduation rate measures, and the finding that non-first-time students were more likely to achieve credentials than first-time students. Those wanting a more complete understanding of OM data will benefit from this article.

NCES Updates

NCES Releases 2015-16 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS:16) Data
NCES released data from the 2015–16 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS:16), a comprehensive nationally representative survey of student financing of postsecondary education in the United States. To use the data in PowerStats, QuickStats, or TrendStats, visit the DataLab.


Five Issues Facing Higher Education in 2018 (Carrie Mata)

Jason Allaire, an enrollment counselor at Cornerstone University Professional and Graduate Studies, considers five issues facing higher education in this blog post. He proposes that colleges have always dealt with challenges that vary based on time and place, and explores particular challenges in 2018, such as the rising cost of education, declining completion rates, the growing privatization of public colleges and universities, new teaching methods and curricula, and the role of the university in issues of free speech and campus civility. These challenges encourage us to think critically about higher education and to understand how education is essential to the fabric of our country.

‘Talent’ Has Become the New Theme Uniting Education and Employment (Kristina Powers)

Competition among higher education institutions has intensified as institutions find ways to maintain or obtain market advantages. Yet another shift is the inclusion of employers in the conversation and in graduate preparation—in new ways. Many organizations claim that higher education has not heard their requests, and therefore, they plan to take training and educating into their own hands. This includes large companies, such as IBM, which has introduced the term “new collar”. This EdSurge column by Sean Gallagher, founder and executive director of Northeastern University’s Center for the Future of Higher Education and Talent Strategy, describes issues and concepts converging on the creation of talent as both higher education institutions and employers become producers. As institutional researchers, it is important to consider how we will help institutional leaders think ahead to have competitive advantages when preparing students for employment.


April 17, 2018


The Condition of Education: College Enrollment Rates (Archie Cubarrubia)

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) updated its analysis of college enrollment rates in The Condition of Education report using data from the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey. NCES defines college enrollment as “the percentage of 18- to 24-year-olds enrolled as undergraduate or graduate students in 2- or 4-year colleges.” NCES found a 6 percentage point increase in the college enrollment rate for this population between 2000 and 2016, with differences by race/ethnicity. Enrollment rates increased by 17 percentage points for Hispanic 18- to 24-year-olds in colleges and by 6 percentage points for Black 18- to 24-year-olds. Despite these increases, gaps in enrollment rates by race/ethnicity continue to persist. Institutional research (IR) professionals can compare enrollment rates of 18- to 24-year-olds at their institutions with these national figures, and initiate or participate in institutional conversations about ways to continue improving enrollment rates for 18- to 24-year-olds, particularly among underrepresented populations.

The Condition of Education: Undergraduate Degree Fields (Archie Cubarrubia)

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) updated its analysis of undergraduate degrees conferred by postsecondary institutions in The Condition of Education report using data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) Completions component. NCES found that postsecondary institutions conferred 1.0 million associate degrees and 1.9 million bachelor’s degrees in 2015–16, an increase of 74 percent for associate degrees and 54 percent for bachelor’s degrees since 2000–01. The top three fields of study for associate degrees in 2015–16 were liberal arts and sciences, general studies, and humanities; health professions and related programs; and business. The top three fields of study for bachelor’s degrees in 2015–16 were business; health professions and related programs; and social sciences and history. Growth in degrees conferred varies by field of study, by student race/ethnicity, and by student gender. Institutional research (IR) professionals can analyze the distribution and trends of undergraduate degrees conferred by their respective institutions compared with peer or aspirational institutions. IPEDS data are readily available through tools offered on the Use the Data site.

Is Cutting Tuition a Good Idea? An Insider’s Perspective (Kristina Powers)

Higher education administrators and researchers know affordability is a key factor when students are deciding to attend college. Thus, it makes sense for an institution to consider every aspect—including tuition—when trying to maintain a competitive edge. The author of this Encoura article uses data to highlight key points when considering reducing tuition.

Providing a “Leg Up”: Parental Involvement and Opportunity Hoarding in College (Dai Li)

The authors of a recently published Sociology of Education article explored the experiences of first-generation students and students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds with a qualitative approach. They interviewed 59 parents from 41 families of students living on the same residence hall floor at a large four-year public institution. The study provided rich information on parental involvement in their children's within- and post-college experiences. The authors found that a socioeconomic class difference in the parental generation leads to qualitatively different college experiences in the child generation.

Affluent parents, referred to as a "college concierge," use their class privileges to provide academic, social, and career support to their children through and after the college. Whereas less affluent parents, "college outsiders," are less prepared and less involved. The Effectively Maintained Inequality (EMI) that contributes to distinct experiences within one institution is profoundly demonstrated. Even though student success is not determined by parents' class, students from affluent families show higher rates of graduation and placement.


Reducing 'Distance' is Key to Online Learner Success (Kristina Powers)

Enrollment and persistence rates increase for some students when educational opportunities are geographically close. Online education offers the least distance possible—in one’s own home. However, researchers and administrators are considering a new type of distance for online students: measuring distance in terms of connection and engagement with the institution. Transactional distance refers to “space felt between instructors and students.” This short Education Dive article introduces readers to the topic, briefly discusses strategies, and concludes with reference resources for those interested in digging deeper.


March 19, 2018


Annual Grapevine Compilation of State Fiscal Support for Higher Education Results for Fiscal Year 2017-2018 (Dai Li)

Grapevine is a collaborative project of the Center for the Study of Education Policy at Illinois State University and the State Higher Education Executive Officers (SHEEO). It surveys 50 states on an annual basis to compile data on state support for the operation of higher education. The most recent Grapevine report indicates that the state support for higher education nationwide increased by 1.6% from FY 2017 to FY 2018, which is the lowest annual increase in five years. The majority of the increase came from three states: California, Florida, and Georgia. Increases ranged from 0.2% in Kentucky to 11.3% in Florida. Nineteen states decreased support, and Ohio's -14.6% was the deepest cut. From FY 2013 to FY 2018, state support for higher education increased overall by 20.7%, with increased that ranged from 1.1% to 52.5% in 40 states.  

College Enrollment Surges Among Low-Income Students (Kristina Powers)

Higher education enrollments have changed significantly over the last few decades. A recent Forbes article​ highlights that “low-income students now enroll in college at a higher rate than their middle-income peers.” The article also offers disaggregated data by income level and post-high school pursuits (college vs. employment).

College Navigator Updated with 2016-17 Provisional Data (Leah Ewing Ross)

College Navigator has been updated to include 2017-18 student expenses and 2016-17 completion data. A public-access site hosted by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) and fueled primarily by Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) data, College Navigator is searchable by a variety of categories, including state, program, tuition and fees, and more.

Federal Education Data Collection: Celebrating 150 Years (Alli Bell)

In 1870, the federal government began collecting statistics on the condition of education in the United States. What began as a simple data collection by the Department of Education headed by a commissioner and three staff members has evolved over the past century and a half to the data collection carried out today by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). This history of the federal education data collection chronicles that evolution.

IPEDS Trend Generator Updated with 2016-17 Provisional Data (Elizabeth Clune-Kneuer)

The IPEDS Trend Generator has been updated to include 2016-17 Provisional Release Data. It is formatted with a subject-and-question format to obtain information. The following subjects are included within the Trend Generator: Postsecondary Institutions, Student Enrollment, Degrees and Certificates Awarded, Graduation and Retention Rates, Financial Aid, Institutional Revenues, Institutional Expenses, and Employees and Instructional Staff. Users can limit results by different variables, build tables, or show multi-year trends. 

Trends in High School Dropout and Completion Rates in the United States: 2014 (Alli Bell)

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) released a report that provides trends in high school dropout and completion using 2014 data. The report highlights data from the Current Population Survey (CPS), the American Community Survey (ACS), and the U.S. Department of Education, and features details about rates and trends. Overall, the data show that dropout rates are highest for low-income families and have declined over the past 40 years, and completion rates have increased; both rates vary by race/ethnicity and income; the average freshman graduation rate has increased, but ranges from 68 percent to 93 percent across the states; and 76 percent of the people who attempted the GED in 2013 passed it.

Understanding the New College Majority: The Demographic and Financial Characteristics of Independent Students and their Postsecondary Outcomes (Kristina Powers)

Traditional students have not been the majority of college-going students since 2011. According to an Institute for Women’s Policy Research report​, non-traditional students passed the 50 percent mark in 2012. The report highlights the characteristics of independent students, including their attendance patterns and success rates.

NCES Updates

New Commissioner of Education Statistics (Leah Ewing Ross)

The White House announced that President Trump appointed James “Lynn” Woodworth as Commissioner of Education Statistics. Prior to beginning this role, Woodworth served as a quantitative research analyst at Stanford University’s Center for Research on Educational Outcomes (CREDO). He is a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps and worked as a high school music teacher and band director before completing his Ph.D. in education policy at University of Arkansas and joining CREDO. Woodworth will fulfill the remaining portion of a six-year term that ends in June 2021.

February 7, 2018

Reports and Tools

CDR: What is it Good For? Absolutely Something. A Primer on the Value of the Cohort Default Rate, Its Shortcomings, and Solutions (Carolyn Mata)

The cohort default rate (CDR) is considered critical for understanding the scope and scale of student loan default. This measure is used for a variety of purposes; however, mainly it is used as an accountability metric for Title IV eligibility, and to make schools aware of the rates at which their students fail to pay their debts. This article by The Institute for College Access and Success examines how the CDR is calculated, the consequences of defaulting on student loans, how holding institutions accountable for high default rates has worked to reduce default, and why Congress and the Administration should address weaknesses in the CDR.

Data Feedback Report Update: 2017 (Elizabeth Clune-Kneuer)

On January 29, 2018, Data Feedback Reports (DFR) were sent via email to all IPEDS Keyholders and Coordinators, and on February 8 they were emailed to all Chief Executive Officers (CEOs). The reports contain information provided during the 2016-17 IPEDS collection cycle, and assist higher education professionals in easily reviewing information about their own institutions and peer institutions as comparisons. DFRs can also be obtained from the IPEDS Data System by navigating to the “Use the Data” tab and selecting the “Data Feedback Report” option. AIR offers online tutorials on the DFR; additional IPEDS Training is also available. If questions regarding DFRs arise, please contact the IPEDS DFR team at or through the IPEDS Help Desk or 1-877-225-2568 or 

The Master’s as the New Bachelor’s Degree: In Search of the Labor Market Payoff (Kristina Powers)

Often the attention on higher education costs are isolated to undergraduate education, specifically four-year degrees. This American Enterprise Institute report focuses on the value of a master’s degree and may be of use for institutions seeking to understand the earnings of graduate students.

2018 Survey of College and University Chief Academic Officers (Dai Li)

Inside Higher Ed recently released the report of its 8th annual Survey of College and University Chief Academic Officers (CAOs). This quantitative research, administered by Gallup, seeks to understand how CAOs view the current challenges facing their institutions and higher education. The survey features 15 questions related to finances, academics, strategies and policies. The report reflects responses from CAOs of 277 public institutions, 233 private institutions, and 16 for-profit institutions. Compared to the 2017 findings, CAOs are slightly more positive about the financial situations of their institutions. Over five years, CAOs state their institutions have grown emphasis on improving the effectiveness of academic programs. They also anticipate that STEM, professional, and pre-professional programs will receive more allocation than arts and sciences programs. In addition, CAOs are more positive about assessment efforts undertaken by their institutions and believe the quality of teaching and learning has improved because of assessment efforts.

What I Learned This Year: Four Analyst Reflections (Kristina Powers)

This article from encoura Eduventures Research focuses on key topics that impact higher education institutions by featuring four analysts’ thoughts. Responses include a healthy amount of facts and information to substantiate comments (rather than being simply an opinion piece). The topics covered include adult enrollment, convenience modalities, grit, and chasing technological advances.

January 16, 2018

Reports and Tools

Who Are Student Loan Defaulters? (Dai Li)

Today, approximately eight million Americans are in default on more than $178 billion student loans, according to the Office of Federal Student Aid. The Education Department produces only the institutional indicator of student repayment status, the Cohort Default Rate, without depicting the defaulters until recently. In early October 2017, the second follow-up of the Beginning Postsecondary Students entering higher education in the academic year 2003-04 (BPS:04/09) released data on loan repayment outcomes within 12 years. The new data makes it possible to unveil the demographics of the defaulters, longitudinal tracking of how long it took borrowers to default, and what happened after defaulting. It shows that the defaulters are more likely to be older, Pell Grant recipients, and come from underrepresented backgrounds. The median amount that the defaulters borrow is $9,600, only half of what the median non-defaulters borrow. Three out every ten defaulters are African American, and nearly half of the defaulters do not complete the degree. Additional information can be found in this Center for American Progress report.

A Look at Latino Student Success (Archie Cubarrubia)

In December 2017, The Education Trust released a report comparing graduation rate data for Latino students among select four-year institutions. Using IPEDS data and analysis from The Education Trust’s College Results Online database, the report looks at gaps in graduation rates among Latino and White student populations. The report also identifies institutions with “significantly higher-than-average graduation rates for Latino students and little to no completion rate gap between Latino and White students.” Institutional research (IR) professionals should be aware of enrollment and graduation rates of Latino students at their institutions, especially compared with those at peer and aspirational institutions. In addition, IR professionals should initiate or participate in institutional conversations about other ways to document and report student success for underrepresented populations.

Signature 14 Completing College: A National View of Student Completion Rates – Fall 2011 Cohort (Alli Bell)

The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center released a report on the six-year outcomes for students that started their postsecondary education in the fall of 2011. Overall, completion rates increased for the first time since the Great Recession—to 54.8 percent—but were still lower than the pre-recession high of 56.1 percent. This increase was driven mostly by students who started at four-year public and four-year private non-profit institutions, while there was a decrease in the total completion rate for students who started in two-year public institutions. Asian and white students had higher completion rates than Hispanic and black students, and black students were the only group more likely to discontinue enrollment than complete a credential within six years. In addition to these completion rates, the 2011 cohort saw an increase in the traditional-age of students as well as the number of registered full-time students. These changes in enrollment and completion show the recovery of higher education from the Great Recession as well as the need for continued tracking of increasingly mobile students across institutions.

Measuring Student Outcomes in Community Colleges (Elizabeth Clune-Kneuer)

The Voluntary Framework of Accountability (VFA) is a data collection of student outcomes for two-year colleges by the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC).  There are three categories of main differences between the VFA and the Department of Education’s (ED) Outcome Measures (OM).  One is the cohorts presented. The VFA utilizes course activity if a student completes at least 12 credits within two years as a measure of if a student is seeking a credential. Prior to the 2017-18 Outcome Measures collection, the survey utilized an entering fall cohort while the current (2017-18) OM survey has been modified to include a full year cohort. Further information regarding the changes in the OM survey can be obtained here. The second main difference between the two data collections are the outcomes. The VFA has nine different outcomes while OM has four. The third main difference between the two collections is that the VFA disaggregates the cohorts by several different sub-populations. Additional information about the VFA and differences between the VFA and OM collections can be obtained via this AACC Community College Daily article.

NCES Updates

Summary of Technical Review Panel #54: Exploring Topical Issues in Higher Education Open for Comment

Suggestions from the most recent meeting of the IPEDS Technical Review Panel are posted and are currently open for comment.  Suggestions are from Technical Review Panel #54, “Exploring Topical Issues in Higher Education” that was held October 3 and 4, 2017, in Washington D.C.  The TRP discussed current trends in higher education, including using IPEDS data with other data sources, institutional research and information technology structure, monitoring data developments in student financial aid, institutional performance measures, and collecting and analyzing data on transfer students. Comments from interested parties should be sent to Janice Kelly-Reid, IPEDS Project Director at RTI International, at, and are due by January 25, 2018.

Enrollment and Employees in Postsecondary Institutions, Fall 2016; and Financial Statistics and Academic Libraries, Fiscal Year 2016 (IHEP – Postsec Data Weekly Data Roundup 1.5, 1/5/18)

This First Look report uses fully edited and imputed data from IPEDS spring 2017 data collection. The data show that in Fall 2016, Title IV institutions enrolled approximately 17.3 million undergraduate and about 3 million graduate students. Of the 17.3 million undergraduates, 62 percent were enrolled in four-year institutions, 36 percent in two-year institutions, and nearly two percent in less-than-two year institutions.

Graduation Rates for Selected Cohorts, 2008–13; Outcomes Measures for Cohort Year 2008; Student Financial Aid, Academic Year 2015–16; and Admissions in Postsecondary Institutions, Fall 2016 (IHEP – Postsec Data Weekly Data Roundup 1.5, 1/5/18)

This First Look report is a revised version of the preliminary report released in October 2017 using fully edited and imputed data from IPEDS 2016–17 data collection. The data show that of first-time full-time students who enrolled in two-year institutions in 2012, 19 percent graduated within two years and 36 percent graduated within four years. The report also notes that approximately 60 percent of first-time students who enrolled in 2010 seeking a bachelor’s degree or equivalent, earned such a degree from the institution where they first enrolled within six years.

Emerging Topics

The Data-Enabled Executive: Using Analytics for Student Success and Sustainability (Alli Bell)

As colleges and universities continue to face increasing threats to their existence, their leaders will be increasingly pressured to make more widespread use of data analytics. Increasing demands for, and use of data, has uncovered information about institutions’ performance – only intensifying the need for data-driven decision making. This report published by the American Council for Education offers observations about the use of data analytics in higher education. There are a number of barriers that must be overcome, especially around infrastructure and culture. However, once those barriers are overcome, executives can use that information to improve student outcomes, promote equity and inclusion, and improve productivity.

Policy Watch

HEA Replacement for Cohort Default Rate Leaves More Questions Than Answers (Dai Li)

In the first week of December 2017, House Education and Workforce Committee Chairwoman Virginia Foxx released the Promoting Real Opportunity, Success, and Prosperity through Education Reform Act (PROSPER Act), which calls to replace the Cohort Default Rate (CDR). CDR is the commonly used institutional measure of college loan repayment, with a new measure known as Programmatic Loan Repayment Rate. In this Third Way report, the authors assert that CDR inadequately reflects students’ ability to manage their debt. Instead, the proposed Programmatic Loan Repayment Rate addresses the loopholes in the CDR through three means. First, the new measure looks at the loan repayment status at the program level rather than the institutional level. Second, the new measure captures students who are in default or delinquent at the end of the third year after graduation. Third, the new measure would no longer allow borrowers to defer to enter forbearance due to economic hardship, except for the enrollment in an income-driven repayment plan. Although the Programmatic Loan Repayment Rate is imperfect in addressing all loopholes of CDR, the authors believe it would be a step in the right direction to improve the institutional accountability of federal funds.​ See the January 2018 lead story for more information.

December 11, 2017

Reports and Tools

Degree of Opportunity: Lessons Leaned from State-Level Data on Postsecondary Earnings Outcomes (Dai Li)

Using the detailed and comprehensive academic and labor-market data of Florida, Texas, and Tennessee collected by College Measures, Mark Schneider and Rooney Columbus examined the five-year earnings and expected 20-year return on investment for students completing baccalaureate and sub-baccalaureate credentials with regards to degree completion, major or field of study, institutional selectivity, and occupation after the college. They found that many sub-baccalaureate credentials provide a short and less expensive path to the middle class. Majors matter greatly to the earnings regardless of the credential level, and the skills-oriented fields are typically more remunerative than traditional academic fields. Finally, many quality programs at regional universities and community colleges are high-return programs in addition to those offered by the state flagship universities. It is the outcome that labor market rewards. Even though the results are compelling, the authors reminded readers of several caveats when interpreting the results.


Suggestions from the most recent meeting of the IPEDS Technical Review Panel are posted and currently open for comment. Suggestions are from Technical Review Panel #54, “Exploring Topical Issues in Higher Education” that was held October 3 and 4, 2017, in Washington DC.  Comments from interested parties should be sent to Janice Kelly-Reid, IPEDS Project Director at RTI International, at, and are due by January 25, 2018.

Emerging Topics

AAU-APLU Public Access Working Group Report and Recommendations for Ensuring Public Access to Research Data (Archie Cubarrubia)

In November 2017, the Association of American Universities and Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities Public Access Working Group—made up of senior research administrators and faculty from select member institutions—released its report and recommendations for ensuring public access to research data. In its report, the work group explains the value of shared data in support of open, collaborative scholarship as a public good but notes that an infrastructure for collecting and sharing research data must be created. In addition, the work group observes the need for a “significant culture shift” at institutions and for investments in infrastructures, policies, and practices that facilitate data sharing. The work group advocates for shared principles and “minimal levels of standardization” in its 10 recommendations. Institutional research (IR) professionals should initiate or participate in institutional conversations to facilitate greater public access to research data while ensuring compliance with applicable statutes and regulations.

Policy Watch

Reforming the American Community College: Promising Changes and Their Challenges (Dai Li)

Enrolling nearly one-third of all students in American higher education, community colleges play a crucial role in college access, baccalaureate opportunities, remedial education, job preparation and other educational services. However, their role is impaired by the inadequate credential completion. Only 39% of students who first entered a community college completed a credential of any kind within six years. A recent working paper released by Community College Research Center summarized four strategies to address those challenges: constructing clear pathways for students involving improved advising and instruction; restructuring occupational education; revamping transfer articulation and reshaping developmental education. The strategies present a powerful roadmap to improve community colleges but may again face major conceptual, financial and political challenges.

The Future of Undergraduate Education (Teri Lyn Hinds)

The American Academy of Arts and Sciences organized its Commission on the Future of Undergraduate Education to take a broad view of undergraduate education in all of its manifestations and to recommend ways to ensure that students in every program and institution receive the education they need to succeed in the twenty-first century. In their final report, the Commission offers a comprehensive national strategy encompassing three broad recommendations to achieve their goal:  ensure that all students have high-quality educational experiences; increase overall completion rates and reduce inequities among different student populations at every level of undergraduate education; and manage college costs and improve the affordability of undergraduate education. The 112-page report includes a wide variety of recommendations and highlights multiple promising practices across all aspects of higher education.

Trump Taps Mark Schneider to Lead Institute of Education Sciences (Elizabeth Clune-Kneuer)

Mark Schneider has been nominated for the role of the director of the Institute of Education Sciences by President Donald Trump.  This position would be for a term of six years.  Dr. Schneider is a current vice president and institute fellow at the American Institutes for Research (AIR).  From 2005 to 2008, he has served as the commissioner for the National Center for Education Statistics.  The Institute of Education Sciences is a part of the Department of Education and the organizational chart can be found here. Current action to monitor the nomination process can be obtained through the following link.

Legislation to re-authorize the Higher Education Act introduced (Teri Lyn Hinds)

Members of the House have introduced several pieces of legislation related to the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act in recent weeks. House Republicans have introduced a comprehensive reauthorization bill, Promoting Real Opportunity, Success, and Prosperity through Education Reform (PROSPER) Act and House Democrats has introduced a series of bills under their Aim Higher initiative. The legislation is far-reaching and contains many possible items of interest to institutional researchers and summaries are available from a variety of higher education associations, including ACE. While no companion legislation has yet been released in the Senate, the Higher Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee held a hearing in November on FAFSA simplification.

November 13, 2017

Reports and Tools

State College and Admission Report (Elizabeth Clune-Kneuer)

The National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) has posted the 2017 edition of the State of the College Admission Report. In this report, there are four sections: college applications, recruitment and yield strategies, factors in admission decisions, and college counseling in secondary schools. There is an executive summary that is also available that has an overview of the report. Key findings include continued growth in applications from first-time freshmen (up 7% from the previous year) and a 13% increase in international student applications, a slight increase in the percentage of applicants offered admission, and a slight decline in the percentage of accepted applicants enrolling.

College Board Trend Reports (Elizabeth Clune-Kneuer)

The College Board has produced two sets of Trend Reports: Trends in College Pricing and Trends in Student Aid.  Within the Trends in College Pricing report, there are seven sections: Published Prices- National, Variations in Published Prices, Net Price, Institutional Finance, Enrollment and Income, Faculty and Staff, & Inflation Adjustment.  Within the Trends in Student Aid, there are six sections: Total Aid, Federal Aid, Grants, Loans, Education Tax Benefits and Savings Plans, & Inflation Adjustment.  There are additional sub-categories contained within most of these reports with additional detailed information.

Version 4.0 of the What Works Clearinghouse Procedures and Processes Handbooks (Teri Lyn Hinds)

The What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) standards and procedures are designed to be rigorous and reflective of best practices in research and statistics, while also being aspirational to help point the field of education effectiveness research toward an ever-higher quality of study design and analysis. The new Standards Handbook (PDF) includes several improvements, including updated and overhauled standards for cluster-level assignment of students; a new approach for reviewing studies that have some missing baseline or outcome data; and revised standards for regression discontinuity designs. The new Procedures Handbook (PDF) includes a revised discussion of how the WWC defines a study.  All of the changes are summarized on the WWC website (PDF).

Emerging Topics

A Look at Pell Grant Recipients’ Graduation Rates (Alli Bell)

The Pell Grant program represents a major federal investment in higher education, but little is known about recipients’ success. Robert Kelchen and the Brookings Institution analyzed Pell graduation rates and found that the average graduation rate for Pell recipients (51.4 percent) was lower than non-Pell recipients (59.2 percent). At some colleges, however, Pell recipients had a higher graduation rate than non-Pell recipients. Kelchen also analyzed the gap in graduation rates between white and black students and found that the average gap among the colleges with at least 50 black and 50 white students in their cohorts was 13.5  percent. 

Room and Board Cost Reports from the Urban Institute (Teri Lyn Hinds)

A pair of research briefs from the Urban Institute explore living expenses for on-campus and off-campus undergraduate students. In The Price of Room and Board: Understanding Trends in On-campus Living Charges, authors Kristin Blagg, Matthew Chingos, and Victoria Lee draw on new analyses of data on colleges and universities and previous research to assess four potential explanations for the rise in on-campus living expenses. Their results suggest that institutions may have multiple motivations to raise room and board charges and that room and board charges increase at a steadier rate than tuition and fees. Kristin Blagg and Victoria Rosenboom explore Who Lives Off Campus: An Analysis of Living Expenses among Off-campus Undergraduates, estimating typical living costs for seven subgroups of students based on dependency status, attendance pattern, and accommodation type (with or without parents) using the 2011–12 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS). Based on these results, they assess how well the current requirements for living-costs allocation appear to support different types of off-campus students. They show that some of the local variation in institution-reported living costs may be due to the type of student served by a given institution, but that much of this variation is still unexplained.

Policy Watch

Unleashing the Power of Administrative Data: A Guide for Federal, State, and Local Policymakers (Archie Cubarrubia)

Robert Doar and Linda Gibbs of the American Enterprise Institute make the case for greater use of administrative data, which they define broadly as “information collected by government entities charged with administering a public program.” They argue that although administrative data are not collected exclusively for evaluative or statistical purposes, they may be useful because they typically cover populations of program participants, are routinely updated, and are often longitudinal. They discuss the challenges of “unlocking the full potential of administrative data” including issues regarding privacy and data security, data curation, culture and governance framework, and capacity. They then recommend five actions for policymakers to scale the use of administrative data sets. Institutional research (IR) professionals should understand the potential impacts of increased use of administrative datasets in federal, state, and local policymaking, including what data are collected and how. In addition, it may be helpful for IR professionals to consider the administrative data sets to which they have access at their institutions and determine whether more insights could be gleaned from such datasets.

The State Imperative: Aligning Tuition Policies with Strategies for Affordability (Alli Bell)

The national association for State Higher Education Executive Officers (SHEEO) released their semi-regular report on tuition policies across the states. The final report outlines the philosophies behind tuition setting (maintaining affordability is a main theme), factors affecting tuition levels, and the locus of tuition-setting authority in the state. New to this year’s report are recommendations for policymakers as they think about tuition setting. SHEEO recommends that states consider tuition setting policies as part of a larger affordability strategy, coordinate institutional revenue sources, consider the impact of tuition policy on state financial aid and students, implement tuition freezes carefully and only after considering institutional revenue needs, establishing transparency with institutional expenditures and tuition policy.

October 16, 2017


Federal Student Aid Posts New Reports to FSA Data Center (Elizabeth Clune-Kneuer)

The Federal Student Aid, an Office of the U.S. Department of Education, has posted seven new reports that are available on the Federal Student Aid (FSA) Data Center. Four reports relate to the federal student loan portfolio and are disaggregated by: school type, borrower age, borrower debt size, and borrower location. Two reports are available related to grant and loan disbursements and are disaggregated by: age of federal student aid recipient and location of federal student aid recipient. One report is available related to direct loan disbursements by program of study.

Academic Library Impact: Improving Practice and Essential Areas to Research (Teri Lyn Hinds)

This new report from the Association of College & Research Libraries identifies priority areas and suggests specific actions for academic librarians and administrators to take in developing programs, collections, and spaces focused on student learning and success. It includes effective practices, calls out exemplary studies, and indicates where more inquiry is needed, with proposed research designs intended to be a springboard for action.

NCES Updates (Teri Lyn Hinds)

Winter 2016-17 Provisional Data Release and First Look Publication (This Week in IPEDS, October 12, 2017)

On October 12th, the National Center for Education Statistics released IPEDS data collected during Winter 2016-17, including the first release of Outcome Measures data. The release includes: Graduation Rates for Selected Cohorts, 2008-13; Outcome Measures for Cohort Year 2008; Student Financial Aid, Academic Year 2015-16; and Admissions in Postsecondary Institutions, Fall 2016 First Look (Provisional Data). Visit the NCES website to view the data. The data are also available through the IPEDS Use the Data page.

FSA Releases Official Cohort Default Rates for Schools

On September 25, 2017, the Department of Education released official cohort default rates (CDRs) for the FY2014 cohort were to schools. At the same time, ED announced that the FY2014 national CDR is 11.5% and made available a summary of the FY 2014 official cohort default rates by state and by institution type and a briefing on the national default rates. College Navigator has been updated with the new data as well. Institutions may obtain an electronic loan record detail report, which contains the data used to calculate a school’s CDR, via the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS) Professional Access website. Assistance in accessing the NSLDS site or with downloading an electronic loan record detail report is available through NSLDS Customer Service at 1-800-999-8219.

Adult Training and Education: Results from the National Household Educations Surveys Program of 2016

Using data from the Adult Training and Education Survey (ATES) administered as part of the 2016 National Household Education Surveys Program (NHES:2016), this report focuses on nondegree credentials and work experience programs. Nondegree credentials include two types of work credentials—certifications and licenses—and postsecondary educational certificates. Characteristics of the adults who earn these credentials and complete these programs are also presented, including sex, race/ethnicity, age, level of education, labor force and employment status, earnings, job sector, and occupational field. The report is descriptive in nature and provides data showing that 27% of adults reported having a nondegree credential and that a majority of adults (82%) reported that work credentials were very useful in securing a job.

Repayment of Student Loans as of 2015 Among 1995–96 and 2003–04 First-Time Beginning Students

This First Look report presents selected findings about the repayment of federal student loans using data from the 2015 Federal Student Aid Supplements to two Beginning Postsecondary Students Longitudinal Studies (BPS) conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). The report focuses on two cohorts of borrowers: those who began their postsecondary education in the 1995–96 academic year (BPS:96/01) and those who began in the 2003–04 academic year (BPS:04/09). The report presents estimates of both cohorts’ cumulative borrowing, repayment, and default statuses as of June 30, 2015, some 20 years after the 1995–96 cohort and 12 years after the 2003–04 cohort began postsecondary education.

First-Generation and Continuing-Generation College Students: A Comparison of High School and Postsecondary Experiences

Using data from a nationally representative cohort of 2002 high school sophomores, this brief provides an updated look at background and educational characteristics, planning for college, postsecondary enrollment, and postsecondary completion patterns of two groups of students: first-generation college students and continuing-generation college students with at least one parent with a bachelor’s degree or a higher level of educational attainment. The brief also explores how postsecondary plans, attendance, and completion may vary between first-generation college students and their peers whose parents have college degrees. In addition, the brief presents student-reported information regarding the reasons why some 2002 high school sophomores who were postsecondary enrollees did not obtain a credential by 2012.

Emerging Topics

Hidden in Plain Sight: Understanding Part-time College Students in America (Teri Lyn Hinds)

Thirty seven percent of undergraduates (6.5 million students out of the 17 million students enrolled in American colleges) seeking a college degree or other educational credential are attending college part-time, but only about one-quarter of exclusively part-time students earn a degree within eight years of starting college. Of those who attend part-time for only a portion of their college career, just more than half eventually earn a degree, compared to about 80 percent of exclusively full-time students who attain a degree. In this report, the Center for American Progress details what is known about part-time students and their experiences, and explores what still needs to be learned to help them persist to earning a college credential. In addition to examining available data, the report shares the specific stories of part-time students at Maryland’s Community College of Baltimore County, a large community college where 7 in 10 students attend part-time. 

What Happens to Students Who Take Community College "Dual Enrollment" Courses in High School? (Teri Lyn Hinds)

Using student enrollment and degree records from the National Student Clearinghouse, this report is the first to look state by state at who enrolls in community college “dual enrollment” courses and what happens to them after high school. Tracking more than 200,000 high school students who first took a community college course in fall 2010 for six years, through summer 2016 (five years after high school), the authors found that 88% of students continued in college after high school, and most earned a certificate or degree or transferred from a two-year college to a four-year college within five years. What type of college former dual enrollment students attended after high school and how many completed a college credential varied greatly by state, and many states showed big disparities in credential completion rates between lower and higher income students. The report and an interactive infographic that allows exploration of state-by-state findings are available.

Policy Watch

The Promise of Evidence-based Policymaking: Report of the Commission on Evidence-based Policymaking (Teri Lyn Hinds)

The final report of the Commission on Evidence-based Policymaking is the result of over a year of work to study and develop a strategy for strengthening government’s evidence-building and policymaking efforts. The Commission determined that greater use of existing data is now possible in conjunction with stronger privacy and legal protections, as well as increased transparency and accountability. The Commission believes that improved access to data under more privacy-protective conditions can lead to an increase in both the quantity and the quality of evidence to inform important program and policy decisions. This report describes the Commission’s findings and presents recommendations for fundamental improvements to the Federal government’s evidence-building systems and capabilities. Specifically, the Commission’s report includes recommendations on (1) how the Federal government can provide the infrastructure for secure access to data, (2) the mechanisms to improve privacy protections and transparency about the uses of data for evidence building, and (3) the institutional capacity to support evidence building.

Policy Snapshot: Outcomes-Based Funding (Archie Cubarrubia)

Neal Holly and Mary Fulton of the Education Commission of the States summarize state legislative activity related to outcomes-based funding (OBF), which allocates state investments in higher education based on institutions’ performance on certain metrics. The authors provide a status of various OBF legislation considered in 2016 and 2017 and examples from several states, including Michigan, Rhode Island, Arkansas, Kentucky, Texas, and Utah. As more states implement OBF policies, it may be helpful for institutional research (IR) professionals to review their states’ performance models, including metric definitions, processes for data collection and validation, and how institutional performance is ultimately determined. IR professionals may also be asked to estimate the impacts of such policies and identify ways to improve institutional performance on certain student success metrics. Finally, it may also be helpful for IR professionals to monitor OBF legislation being considered in neighboring states.

State Innovations for Near-Completers (Carrie Mata)

In Promising Practices: State Innovations for Near Completers, the author explores the current landscape as it related to the population of students who attend college but do not complete before leaving along with state efforts to bring these former students back into the fold. Via interviews with state-level staff, the author examines the initiatives themselves as well as policy considerations for future efforts across the country. In 2017, five states introduced seven bills focused on re-engaging students with some college credit, but no credential. Of those seven bills, one was enacted, two are pending, and four failed. Affordability is the most often expressed barrier to returning to college for many near-completers and legislation generally focuses on providing financial support for these students. Three states are considered leaders in this arena – Indiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee – and the author provides a more in-depth analysis of the initiatives in those three states. Key strategies include a clear marketing campaign, state-level data utilization, financial incentives and stakeholder support.

September 14, 2017

Reports and Tools

Snapshot Report – Certificate and Associate Degree Pathways (Alli Bell)

The National Student Clearinghouse Research center recently released this report on certificate and associate degree pathways. The analysis was based on the data reported through the DegreeVerify service. The data indicate that of the students who earned an associate degree as their first award in the 2010-11 academic year, 65.1 percent enrolled at a four-year institution and most of them (41.4 percent of the population that earned an associate degree as their first credential) completed a bachelor’s degree. Of the people who earned a bachelor’s degree, 66.4 percent did so within three years of earning their associate degree. Students who earned a certificate as their first credential also completed additional education – 63.3 percent of them enrolled in an additional college course and 26.7 earned an associate degree, bachelor’s degree, or both. Of the people who went on to earn an associate degree, 80 percent did it within three years of earning their certificate; of those who went on to earn a bachelor’s degree, 72 percent did within four years of earning their certificate. The report provides some additional detail on these students.

CFPB Data Point: Student Loan Repayment (Teri Lyn Hinds)

To learn more about the behavior of student loan borrowers, a new CFPB Data Point report analyzes data from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) Consumer Credit Panel (CCP). These data contain detailed information on the balances and payment status of the student loans held by de-identified consumers in the panel over a 14-year period. Key findings include: repayment rates between more recent cohorts remain consistent with previous cohorts; borrowers with greater indebtedness repay their loans more slowly, but those making large enough payments are repaying their loans more quickly than previous cohorts; there is an increase in borrowers with smaller loan balances who are not making payments large enough to reduce their balances; and the average age of borrowers has increased in more recent cohorts. Taken together, these results suggest that most borrowers have continued to repay their student loans over the 14-year period analyzed in this Data Point, despite changes in the macro economy and the student loan market.

NCES Updates

College Applications by 2009 High School Freshmen: Differences by Race/Ethnicity (Teri Lyn Hinds)

This NCES Data Point uses data from the High School Longitudinal Study of 2009 (HSLS:09) 2013 Update collection to look at college applications by high school freshmen four years later. The HSLS:09 is a nationally representative, longitudinal study of over 23,000 9th-graders from 944 public and private schools in 2009. This study follows students throughout their secondary and postsecondary years, examining student trajectories including high school graduation and college enrollment broken out by race/ethnicity.

Emerging Topics

Measuring Student Success in Postsecondary Competency-Based Education Programs: Toward a Student Outcomes Metrics Framework (Alli Bell)

Competency-based education (CBE) is experiencing a resurgence in the postsecondary field. In order for these programs to grow and be accepted as high-quality and fulfilling their value proposition to students, they must demonstrate their effectiveness. The American Institutes for Research and the Institute for Competency-Based Education at Texas A&M University-Commerce has released a brief that proposes a CBE Student Outcomes Metrics (SOM) Framework for research on CBE programs. The SOM Framework includes metrics that describe access, price, debt, progression, quality, completion and post-completion access for students. Across these types of metrics, the SOM Framework suggests that these can be used to evaluate programs. These levels are: within program metrics, across program metrics, and across-field metrics. The metrics in this framework are intended to defining measures that can be applicable to both CBE programs and more traditional programs and move toward metrics that align with CBE’s focus on demonstration of mastery of competencies. Ultimately, this framework should be considered preliminary and a tool for advancing the conversation, but is a step toward being able to fully assess and demonstrate effectiveness of these programs.

Prior-Prior Year Toolkit (Elizabeth Clune-Kneuer)

The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) has a Prior-Prior Year Toolkit to assist administrators in successful shift to the Early FAFSA utilizing Prior-Prior Year income.  The use of Prior-Prior income, or tax income from two years prior, will enable students to complete the FAFSA forms earlier than using the tax income from the prior year.  There are a variety of resources contained within this website such as: suggested checklists and timelines, webinars, News from NASFAA, Research, Videos, Department of Education Resources, and External Resources. 

This is What Today’s College Students Really Look Like (Carrie Mata)

Today’s typical college student looks very different from those in the past. Rather than a change in clothing and hair styles, the differences are more likely to be the student’s demographic. While many still imagine a college student to be in their late teens, living in a dorm, the reality is that many of today’s college students are older, perhaps married with a family, and employed. A recent article, This is What Today’s College Students Really Look Like, examines recent Lumina Foundation findings on today’s college student demographics and combines this with interviews of students, organizations, and researchers in the area of higher education. This intriguing article examines the reasons for this change, how student balance ever-growing responsibilities, and issues of affordability.

Policy Watch

A Lost Decade in Higher Education Funding State Cuts Have Driven Up Tuition and Reduced Quality (Teri Lyn Hinds)

In the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ latest report, the authors posit that declines in state spending on public colleges and universities has contributed to higher tuition and reduced quality on campuses as colleges have had to balance budgets by reducing faculty, limiting course offerings, and in some cases closing campuses. Overall state funding for public two- and four-year colleges in the 2017 school year (that is, the school year ending in 2017) was nearly $9 billion below its 2008 level, after adjusting for inflation and increases in federal student aid and tax credits has not kept up. After establishing their case for each state, the authors conclude that state tax and budget choices in the coming years must recognize the importance of investing in human capital and quality education systems.

August 14, 2017

Reports and Tools

Pulling Back the Curtain: Enrollment and Outcomes at Minority Serving Institutions (Carrie Mata)

Pulling Back the Curtain examines how students who enroll at a minority serving institution (MSI) move through the postsecondary education system. The primary focus of the Pulling Back the Curtain is to examine enrollment and outcome patterns. Two key findings stand out. First, the majority of students (65%) at MSIs alternate enrollment between part- and full-time as necessary. The likelihood of mixed enrollment varies based on whether the students enroll at two-year vs. four-year institutions and if those institutions are public versus private. The second key finding is that completion rates at MSIs are higher than the federal graduation rate suggests; that students at MSIs move through to completion differently than students at non-MSI colleges and universities. Making use of the National Student Clearinghouse, the study examines the patterns of these students and concludes that when using a  NSC Total Completion rate (which accounts for the successful completion of programs by students who transfer out of their original institution) rather than the Federal Graduation Rate (which examines only the completions from the institution from which they began as a first-time, full-time student), the Completion Rate is at times triple compared to the Federal Graduation Rate for students at MSI institutions.   The authors argue that when examining outcomes at MSI colleges and universities, the diverse enrollment patterns of those students must be taken into account which may require looking at outcomes differently than the traditional graduation rate method.

A College Education Provides a Lifetime of Value (Teri Lyn Hinds)

NACUBO has launched the Value of Higher Education initiative that aims to counter the negative discourse surrounding the value of higher education, promote its myriad benefits, and shape public opinion toward a more positive perception of its contribution. The site provides communication tools, including infographics, success stories, and fact sheets, for use by business officers and other campus leaders in developing op-eds, presentations, or interviews with the media. The tools are grounded in data provided by the College Board, the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce, NCES, and the Institute for College Access and Success (TICAS).

NCES Updates

Suggestions from Technical Review Panel #53
Suggestions from the most recent meeting of the IPEDS Technical Review Panel are posted here and are currently open for comment.  Suggestions are from Technical Review Panel #53, “Evaluating Distance Education Elements in the IPEDS Data Collection” that was held June 20 and 21, 2017, in Washington DC. Comments from interested parties should be sent to Janice Kelly-Reid, IPEDS Project Director at RTI International, at, and are due by September 9, 2017.

Postsecondary Institutions and Cost of Attendance in 2016–17; Degrees and Other Awards Conferred, 2015–16; and 12-Month Enrollment, 2015–16: First Look (Preliminary Data) (Elizabeth Clune-Kneuer)
On July 18th, the National Center for Education Statistics published the First Look of preliminary data from the IPEDS fall 2016 collection.   These preliminary released data include the following three surveys: Institutional Characteristics (2016-17 academic year), Completions (during July 1, 2015 to June 30, 2016), and 12-Month Enrollment (2015-16 academic year).  These provisional release data are available through the IPEDS Use the Data page.

IPEDS Listserv (This Week in IPEDS, July 25, 2017)
As a reminder, interested individuals are invited to join the IPEDS listserv. The purpose of the IPEDS listserv is to provide a public forum to facilitate discussion of IPEDS-related questions and topics among IPEDS keyholders, coordinators, and other interested individuals. To subscribe or unsubscribe, please visit the IPEDS listserv. The listserv is not intended for posting or answering institution-specific inquiries, which are best addressed directly to the IPEDS Help Desk. Please continue to contact the IPEDS Help Desk with specific questions at 1-877-225-2568 or As a courtesy to others, the IPEDS Listserv should only be used for IPEDS-related issues.

Emerging Topics

New Report on Student Success Ratings (Kristina Powers)

The 2017 report on student success rates, including top scorers and emerging trends was released by Eduventures, an independent research and advisory firm. The article links to their searchable institution database of public and private-not-for-profit four-year institutions and rankings report which compares predicted vs actual retention rates. Based on their regression analyses, researchers find two emerging trends: Improvement in graduation is cooling, improvement in retention is heating up and private institutions with highly focused missions beat the street on serving high risk students.

How Boundaries Between Colleges and Companies Will Continue to Blur (Kristina Powers)

Interest is growing by employers to offer education benefits that are aligned with the work of their employees. As a result, employers are collaborating with higher education institutions to increase the skillsets and education levels of their workforce. The Center for the Future of Higher Education and Talent Strategy housed at Northeastern University focuses on this emerging topic. This article includes some highlights about college and company partnerships from the recorded interview (posted in the article) with the Center’s director, Sean Gallagher.

Policy Watch

The Open Access Dilemma (Archie Cubarrubia)

Reporter Timothy Pratt highlights the complexities of student success at community colleges, where students’ college readiness and pressures from policymakers to improve student outcomes can pose challenges to these institutions’ open access missions. He shares the perspectives of students, practitioners, and researchers to address the following fundamental questions: “At what point does a commitment to open access become a license to enroll students unlikely to succeed? Is ‘college for everyone’ really college at all?” He explores issues related to misalignment between a high school diploma and expected levels of student performance in college; the impacts of remedial education on college affordability—especially for students receiving financial aid; and whether placement exams are “effective measures of readiness.”

State Longitudinal Data Systems (Alli Bell)

In this report, the Education Commission of the States (ECS) examines the recent legislative activity regarding State Longitudinal Data Systems (SLDS) across the United States. Six bills in five states (AL, CA, NJ, RI and VA) were introduced in 2016. Of these, one is pending and one – a bill in California that authorizes the department of consumer affairs to make licensure information available to the California Community Colleges – has been enacted. In 2017 there was more legislative activity related to SLDS. Sixteen states (AL, CA, CT, ID, ME, MD, MA, MI, MS, NV, NJ, NC, SC, UT, VA, and WA) considered legislation. Of these, MD, NV, SC, and VA have all enacted bills.

Fiscal and State Policy Issues Affecting Postsecondary Education: State Outlook (Teri Lyn Hinds)

AASCU’s latest policy report provides an overview of the national and state economic and revenue conditions affecting public colleges and universities along with information on tuition changes for a number of public college and university systems and a review of leading policy changes that have occurred in the states this year. Both state budget outlooks and higher education funding have continued recent trends toward improvement and tuition increases have slowed, but state continue to face significant budget challenges. State legislatures paid increasing attention to international and immigrant students, especially those with DACA protections, campus sexual assault response and prevention, guns on campus, and intellectual diversity and free speech on campus. 

July 10, 2017

Reports and Tools

Reports on Effective Use of State Postsecondary Data Systems (Wendy L. Weiler)

The State Higher Education Executive Officers Association (SHEEO) has published three reports on the effective use of data collected by state postsecondary systems. These reports represent an in-depth analysis of varying aspects of data use in three states. The first report explores issues of data privacy, confidentiality and security in the state of Arkansas. The second focuses on transparency and accountability of data in North Carolina. The third discusses North Dakota’s use of its data in data-driven decision-making processes. These three reports are part of a larger series and have been informed by data collected from a seven-state survey conducted by SHEEO.

Learning to Work, Working to Learn (Archie Cubarrubia)

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation has released a report highlighting promising partnerships between higher education institutions and employers designed to help students complete their programs and become better prepared to succeed in the workforce. The Chamber recommends more meaningful employer engagement beyond traditional roles as advisory board participants such as through integration of work-based learning experiences into the curriculum and co-curriculum and active involvement in career services offices. Examples from the University of Arizona, DePaul University, Mount Holyoke College, University of Texas at Austin, Western Governors University, and other institutions are provided. 

Snapshot Report - First-year Persistence and Retention (Wendy L. Weiler)

The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center has published a new analysis of the fall 2015 entering student cohort’s persistence and retention rates. The data is presented by starting attendance intensity, race/ethnicity, and age for the postsecondary universe and then additionally broken out by sector. The NSC Research Center defines retention as the percentage of students who return to the same institution for their second year, and define persistence as students who return to any institution for their second year.

ED & NCES Reports & Updates

Fulfilling the Promise, Serving the Need: Advancing College Opportunity for Low-Income Students (Carrie Mata)

It is often the belief that American colleges and universities serve an equalizing function in our society – they are gateways to social mobility and allow for economic opportunity among all social classes regardless of race. However, a new report, Fulfilling the Promise, from the Department of Education, argues that many of our nation’s colleges and universities are missing the mark as they remain out of reach for low-income students, while other provide the access but not what is necessary to move students to completion. American taxpayers have an interest in higher education as a public good and as such the federal government invests nearly $30 billion dollars in grants for low-income students. Fulfilling the Promise delves more deeply into this issue by discussing the issues faced, the role of the federal government, what institutions are doing to promote access and success, and how we can improve the system by recognizing opportunities.

Deadline Approaching: Customize Your Comparison Group for the 2017 Data Feedback Report (This Week in IPEDS, June 28, 2017)

The deadline for creating a comparison group is July 14, 2017. While creating a custom comparison group is not required, creating a customized group may make the DFR more useful for your campus leaders. There are two ways to create a custom comparison group: 1) by using the IPEDS Data Center's Customize DFR or 2) through the Data Collection System's Tool menu and scroll down to locate Comparison Group Edit/Upload. Instructions for creating a custom comparison group are located under the Data Collection System's Help menu. Unsure about which institutions to include in your comparison group? Take advantage of AIR’s online tutorial and handout on suggested practices when creating comparison groups.

Emerging Topics

What Do Students Think of Guided Pathways? (Archie Cubarrubia)

A number of institutions have begun implementing guided pathways, an approach that transforms the entire student experience from application to completion and provides students comprehensive, intentional support at each step in their academic journey. Guided pathways are designed to facilitate learning and completion through clear program maps and learning outcomes, predictable course schedules, and comprehensive academic and student support. The Community College Research Center (CCRC) has compiled resources on the guided pathways movement. Most recently, CCRC released a research brief on students’ views on guided pathways based on interviews of first-year students at the City Colleges of Chicago. These resources may be helpful to institutional research professionals tasked with monitoring the impacts and effectiveness of guided pathways at their institutions.   

How Gainful Employment Reduces the Governments Loan Forgiveness Costs (Teri Lyn Hinds)

In this brief, The Center for American Progress attempts to quantify the savings that gainful employment could generate from reduced long-term loan forgiveness costs. Using Department of Education data released in January 2017, the authors estimate that the typical graduate who received federal financial aid at each one of the 2,042 career training programs that fail to abide by the gainful employment rule has a student loan burden that would qualify for payment relief under income-driven repayment (IDR)a group of programs that allow borrowers to make lower monthly payments based upon their income and forgive remaining amounts after 20 or 25 years in repayment. According to the analysis, graduates in non-passing gainful employment programs would pay back so little of their loan under an IDR plan that they would end up receiving approximately $22,000 in forgiveness after 20 or 25 years in repayment. The authors project the government will receive $1.5 billion less on these loans in present discounted terms compared with what taxpayers would receive from those loans repaid under the standard 10-year payment plan. While it is a powerful benefit for struggling borrowers, the authors conclude that without the gainful employment rule, IDR risks becoming a bail out for low-quality institutions and programs.

Policy Watch

From Patchwork to Tapestry: Collaborating to Maximize Data Utility (Teri Lyn Hinds)

This brief from the Workforce Data Quality Campaign shows how a few data systems in Illinois inform education, workforce, and social service program policy and practice, and how organizations have collaborated to improve them. Recommendations informed by this case study encourage stakeholders to identify their data needs, determine whether any can be met by existing systems, collaborate when possible, and advocate for further rationalizing systems.

In the Interest of Few: The Regressive Benefits of Federal Student Loan Refinancing (Teri Lyn Hinds

In the Interest of Few, a report from New America, builds on existing research on student loan refinancing by providing a detailed breakdown of Senator Elizabeth Warrens student loan refinancing plan, which would allow existing borrowers to refinance existing student loans, thereby opting to lower the interest rates on their outstanding loans to current, historically-low rates. The analysis provides a breakdown of the changes to borrowers interest rates, monthly savings, and total savings over the remaining repayment period, along with analyses of how each of these figures varies according to borrower demographics. Results indicated that although many households would be eligible for refinancing, a large portion of the benefits would go to a small number of households with high debt balances. The authors conclude that increased outreach to low-income borrowers about the benefits of income-based repayment plans would be more beneficial than refinancing for the population of borrowers most at risk of default.

June 13, 2017

Reports and Tools

Undergraduate Financial Aid in the United States (Wendy L. Weiler)

Inspired by growing student enrollment and aid investment levels, lengthening time to degree, and inequalities in degree attainment, this paper by author Judith Scott-Clayton and published by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, seeks to explore financial aids role in the future of undergraduate education. Specifically, the paper examines the sources, types, and recipients of aid, highlighting the key issues and controversies related to evaluating the effectiveness of financial aid programs and its relationship to educational effectiveness as a whole.

Putting Your Major to Work: Career Paths after College (Teri Lyn Hinds)

A new report and accompanying interactive by the Hamilton Project research examines how students’ career paths after college explain earnings variation within majors. By exploring students from the same major who transition into different occupations and subsequently different incomes, the authors demonstrate that different career paths and the associated earnings differences are pervasive and important for understanding both the benefits of college majors and of college itself. The findings have practical implications for prospective students and their families by helping them understand the ways that college majors and occupations interact and provide a better sense of the career paths taken by graduates with similar academic interests. Users of the interactive can view the most common occupations for a given major, comparing earnings by occupation at different stages in the life cycle and for men and women separately. Data from the American Community Survey (ACS) 2011–2013 3-year sample, which contains information about detailed major, occupation, earnings, hours, and demographic variables, were used. The sample is 3 percent of the U.S. population, which allows the authors to estimate outcomes even for relatively uncommon majors (171 in total) and occupations (217 in total).

National Veteran Education Success Tracker: A Report on the Academic Success of Student Veterans Using the Post-9/11 GI Bill (Teri Lyn Hinds)

The National Veteran Education Success Tracker (NVEST) Project is a comprehensive study of the academic success of student veterans using the Post-9/11 GI Bill. The NVEST Project sought to answer two questions: How well do student veterans who used the Post-9/11 GI Bill between August 2009 and December 2013 perform in post-secondary education and is the Post-9/11 GI Bill worth taxpayers continued support? The NVEST Project provides evidence that student veterans, using the Post-9/11 GI Bill, perform better than their peers and that federal investment in higher education through this program is producing demonstrable results. Through analyzing nearly one million individual veteran records, the NVEST Project demonstrates that student veterans using the Post-9/11 GI Bill are more likely to graduate. In the first six years, the Post-9/11 GI Bill has funded nearly 450,000 post-secondary degrees or certificates andat current funding levelswill pay for approximately 100,000 degrees each subsequent year.

NCES Updates

The Condition of Education 2017 (Wendy L. Weiler)

Published annually and using the most recent data available, The Condition of Education 2017 presents the chief trends and statistics in education. In this edition, data from pre-kindergarten through postsecondary education is presented across fifty different indicators; international comparative data and some labor force outcomes are also included. Further, this iteration takes an in-depth look at four topics risk factors and academic outcomes in K 3, homeless children and youth in public schools, first-time postsecondary students persistence after three years, and disability rates and employment status by educational attainment that are of contemporary interest.

TRP Suggestions Posted (This Week in IPEDS, May 17)

Suggestions from the most recent meeting of the IPEDS Technical Review Panel are posted at this website and are currently open for comment. Suggestions are from Technical Review Panel #52, "2017 Sub-baccalaureate Certificates" that was held March 28 and 29, 2017, in Washington DC. Comments from interested parties should be sent to Janice Kelly-Reid, IPEDS Project Director at RTI International, at and are due by June 12, 2017.

Emerging Topics

Designing Higher Education Risk-Sharing Proposals (Teri Lyn Hinds)

Growing student debt and increasing concerns by policy-makers and consumers about the value of higher education have led many to argue for a risk sharing, new approach to dividing the costs when and risks associated with pursuing college degrees. Some advocates posit that a risk-sharing regime would cause institutions to have more skin in the game, increasing incentives to ensure that students are set up to succeed, at least financially, though there is disagreement about the best way to construct a risk-sharing regime. The Center for American Progress coordinated the publication of a body of research on risk sharing to develop a set of concrete and detailed risk-sharing proposals that could be used to inform policymaking. The eight proposals were authored by individuals and organizations from a variety of positions within the higher education policy community, including academic researchers, think tank scholars, and analysts from advocacy and trade organizations.

Policy Watch

Heres How a Student Unit Record System Could Change Higher Ed (Teri Lyn Hinds)

Advocates have long argued that students and families need more and better data to make informed decisions about college, including information about the employment outcomes of students. Proposals to repeal the federal ban on such information being published have been bounced around for years, but have not yet seen success. However, a new bipartisan push, announced last week, to overturn the prohibition has breathed new life into the effort and reinvigorated its supporters. This article from The Chronicle of Higher Education reviews what a federal student unit record might look like and what would be different from the current system of institution-level data collection, as well as describing concerns around student data privacy raised by opponents of the proposed legislation.

Policy Snapshot: Need-Based State Financial Aid (Teri Lyn Hinds)

Most states support at least one state financial aid program that incorporates student financial need as an eligibility criterion. In some states, the cost to attend a postsecondary institution can also factor in to determination of financial need. States invest in need-based financial aid programs to promote access and success for students who might not otherwise be able to afford postsecondary education. Nationally, expenditures in state financial aid programs continue to steadily increase, however, the share of state-funded dollars awarded based on need remains relatively stable - only fluctuating by about 4 percentage points. State-by-state examination of the need-based aid programs is provided in this policy snapshot from the Education Commission of the States.

Improving Oversight & Transparency at the U.S. Department of Educations Office of Federal Student Aid: NASFAA Recommendations (Teri Lyn Hinds)

In this white paper, the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) benchmarks the Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) against other federal performance-based organizations (PBOs), interviews former federal officials and employees, and examines complaints from federal partners, Congress, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), and other federal watchdog groups. NASFAA concludes organizational and structural changes are needed in order to help FSA meet its congressionally mandated objectives as a PBO. The report outlines several recommendations to strengthen accountability and transparency at FSA, including the creation of an independent oversight board and increasing transparency for stakeholders.

May 8, 2017

Reports and Tools

State Tuition, Fees and Financial Assistance Policies: Initial Findings (Teri Lyn Hinds)

The State Higher Education Executive Officers Association (SHEEO) has released initial findings from its 9th iteration of a survey to its membership on state tuition and fee policies since 1979. Common themes among respondents when describing their state’s overall philosophy about tuition rate setting were: ensuring affordability, covering institutional revenue needs, maintaining quality, and a desire to keep tuition as low as possible. However, many respondents acknowledged the impact of state funding levels on achieving these philosophical aims rating it as the most significant factor in the tuition setting process. A more robust final report on the survey will be released in July 2017 and will include an overview of the results of the full survey, case studies of selected states, and additional recommendations for how states can align tuition policy with overall strategies to address college affordability and increase attainment.

State Higher Education Finance Report & Data: FY2016 (Teri Lyn Hinds)

The fourteenth annual State Higher Education Finance (SHEF) report from the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association (SHEEO) provides a comprehensive review of state and local funding, tuition revenue, enrollment trends, and degrees for public higher education. State and local governments provided nearly $90 billion in Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 to support higher education—a slight decrease in real terms from the FY 2015 level, marking the first decline in overall state and local support for higher education in four years. Overall, 33 states increased their support per student, compared with 40 states who did so in 2015, and 17 (including Illinois, which was able to enact only a small “stopgap” budget for 2016) plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico reduced support. Tuition income showed its lowest increase in many years, growing by 2.1% in 2016. Despite that, the share of total educational expenditures supported by tuition rose to 47.8%, near its all-time high, due to a decline in community college enrollment and an increase in enrollment in four-year institutions, whose tuition usually is higher than that charged by two-year colleges. Read the full report and access the data on the SHEF website.

Indicators of Higher Education Equity in the US: 2017 Historical Trend Report (Teri Lyn Hinds)

In this annual update to Indicators of Higher Education Equity, the Pell Institute and Alliance for Higher Education and Democracy (AHEAD) of the University of Pennsylvania report the status of higher education equity in the United States and identify changes over time in measures of equity; identify policies and practices that promote and hinder progress; and illustrate the need for increased support of policies, programs, and practices that not only improve overall attainment in higher education but also create greater equity in higher education opportunity and outcomes. The report focuses on measures of family income and highlights differences by race/ethnicity and socioeconomic status using an index developed by the National Center of Education Statistics (NCES). The 2017 report accompanies the launch of an Equity Indicators Website that provides access to the data files and links to the last three years’ reports.

Improving the Odds: An Empirical Look at the Factors That Influence Upward Transfer (Teri Lyn Hinds)

In this first brief of a series of three, ACE explores outcomes for recent high school graduates who begin their postsecondary education at community colleges, focusing specifically on the process of transferring from a two- to four-year institution. The authors explore student- and institutional-level factors that influence the likelihood of upward transfer for students who enroll in community college directly after high school. Drawing from the results of a multilevel regression model and supporting literature, the report concludes by recommending five strategies for high school educators, faculty and staff at colleges and universities, and policymakers to consider to increase upward transfer rates, many of which begin in high school.

NCES Updates

The Debt Burden of Bachelor’s Degree Recipients (Teri Lyn Hinds)

This Statistics in Brief examines the student loan repayment status and outstanding debt of 2007–08 bachelor’s degree recipients 4 years after they completed their degree. The data used in this study are drawn from a nationally representative, longitudinal survey of students who completed the requirements for a bachelor’s degree during the 2007–08 academic year—the Baccalaureate and Beyond Longitudinal Study (B&B:08/12). The brief reports that some 4 years after completing their degrees, 72 percent of 2007–08 bachelor’s degree recipients had borrowed for postsecondary education (as undergraduates or graduate students) and 63 percent of bachelor’s degree recipients still had student loan debt. Additionally, among borrowers who were in repayment, employed, and did not enroll in further education, the average debt burden (i.e., their monthly loan payment as a percentage of their monthly salary) was 10 percent, though about 22 percent of employed graduates who had not enrolled in additional postsecondary education after receiving their bachelor’s degree and were repaying their student loans carried a debt burden over 12 percent, a level that is considered burdensome

IPEDS Access Databases, Trend Generator Updated (This Week In IPEDS, April 21)

The "Access Database" function has recently been updated with the following data:  2015-16 Provisional Data; 2014-15 Final Data; 2010-11 Final Data. These database files are available via the IPEDS Use The Data page. From the Survey Data menu, choosing "Access Database" from the drop-down menu will take you to the landing page, where you will find information about the functionality, as well as information about the downloadable files available. Updated data, from the 2015-16 IPEDS data collection, are now available in the IPEDS Trend Generator as well.

Custom Comparison Groups for the 2017 Data Feedback Report due July 14 (This Week In IPEDS, April 21)

Create or update your institution’s custom comparison group for your annual Data Feedback Report (DFR), a benchmarking tool to compare your institution’s IPEDS data with your peers. Around early winter, the DFR is emailed to IPEDS Keyholders and Coordinators, before a copy is sent to the CEO/President. If a custom comparison group is not created, a NCES-created comparison group will be used as a default group. While creating a custom comparison group is not required, a customized group may make the DFR more useful for your campus leaders. The deadline for creating your customized comparison group is July 14, 2017. For detailed instructions on how to make changes, log into the IPEDS Data Collection System and click on the Custom Comparison Groups under the Help menu. For additional assistance in creating and/or uploading your institution’s custom comparison group contact the IPEDS Data Use Help Desk (866 558-0658 or







April 10, 2017

Reports and Tools

Snapshot Report: Contribution of Two-Year Public Institutions to Bachelor’s Completions at Four-Year Institutions (Wendy L. Weiler)

This latest snapshot report from the National Student Clearinghouse examines the role of two-year institutions in postsecondary success, specifically in their contribution toward students’ bachelor degree attainment. NSC provides data on the percentage of bachelor’s degree earners with previous incidence of enrollment at a public two-year institution, disaggregated by state. Other data presented displays the recentness and duration of the two-year enrollment.

Using Data to Increase Student Success (Teri Lyn Hinds)

APLU and the Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP) developed a series of 14 case studies from leading colleges, universities, and systems to highlight how higher education institutions are driving progress on campus through the effective use of student-level data. The series spotlights the importance of student-level data in the development and implementation of programs and strategies to improve student learning and increase degree completion. Each case study describes how the institution or system turned student data into actionable information and discusses tools that improved student decisions and outcomes. Institutions have used student data to: create a campus culture of data use and institutional improvement; develop free, online tools to provide personalized assistance for students; deliver critical information to faculty, staff, and students; diagnose barriers to student progress; and implement an alternative test-optional admission process. See the April 2017 eAIR lead story for more information.

Trends in Revenues at US Colleges and Universities, 1987-2013 (Teri Lyn Hinds)

This Economic Commentary paper from the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland studies trends in inflated-adjusted revenues per student at US colleges and universities in broad revenue categories between 1987 and 2013. The findings show that, as is widely perceived, tuition revenue has risen over time at both public and private institutions. In recent years, tuition revenue at public institutions has been nearly as large a source of revenue as state and local government funding has been. Revenue from state and local governments has fluctuated at public institutions but has generally fallen over time, whereas funding from the federal government has risen. Investment returns are a large and highly variable source of revenue, especially for private institutions.

ED & NCES Updates

OMB Comment Period: Proposal for revisions to OMB's Standards for Maintaining, Collecting, and Presenting Federal Data on Race and Ethnicity (This Week in IPEDS, March 31, 2017)

A Federal Register Notice (FRN) published in March by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget's (OMB) Federal Interagency Working Group for Research on Race and Ethnicity (Working Group) updates the public on the current review of the 1997 Standards for Collecting, Maintaining, and Presenting Federal Data on Race and Ethnicity. If approved, the proposed changes would affect the race and ethnicity categories submitted to the federal government by postsecondary institutions. Under the guidance of OMB, which maintains the standards for Federal data on race and ethnicity, the Working Group has been examining the current race and ethnicity standards and exploring various options for improving the Federal statistics collected on them. IR practitioners are encouraged to review the FRN to understand what is being examined and to provide comments on the proposals. The White House's Related OMB Material site contains information about the FRN, the Working Group's Interim Report, and additional materials. NCES has also published a blog that details the proposed changes. To provide official comments, please follow the instructions on The FRN has a 60-day comment period, closing at 11:59pm on April 30, 2017.

Data Feedback Report (DFR) Update (This Week in IPEDS, March 10, 2017)
The 2016 Data Feedback Report (DFR) was emailed to Keyholders and Coordinators on March 8, 2017. The reports will be emailed to CEOs on March 21, 2017. All reports are also available in the Use The Data portal of the IPEDS website
. The 2016 Data Feedback Reports are based on the data collected during the 2015-16 IPEDS collection cycle. As a reminder, the Data Feedback Report is intended to provide institutions a context for examining the data they submitted to IPEDS. The purpose of this report is to provide institutional executives a useful resource and to help improve the quality and comparability of IPEDS data. If there are any questions, please contact the IPEDS Data Feedback Report team at or the IPEDS Help Desk.

Winter 2015-16 Provisional Data Release and First Look Publicationnter 2015-16 Provisional Data Release and First Look Publication (This Week in IPEDS, March 10, 2017)
On February 28, the National Center for Education Statistics
released IPEDS data collected during Winter 2015-16: Graduation Rates for Selected Cohorts, 2007-12; Student Financial Aid, Academic Year 2014-15; and Admissions in Postsecondary Institutions, Fall 2015: First Look (Provisional Data). All data are also available through the IPEDS Use the Data page at the Provisional Release level.

Emerging Topics

Predictive Analytics in Higher Education: Five Guiding Practices for Ethical Use (Teri Lyn Hinds)

As predictive analytics efforts spread across higher education, it is essential to set ground rules of ethical practices so that student data could be used to curtail academic success rather than help ensure it. A new framework from New America Foundation aims to lay out some important questions to consider as administrators formulate how to use predictive analytics ethically. The framework emphasizes that ethical use is an iterative, complex process and is intended to start conversations on campus. The five guiding practices include: have a vision and plan, build appropriate infrastructure, work to ensure proper use of data, design models and algorithms that avoid bias, and intervene with care to meet institutional goals and improve student outcomes.

Does the Federal Work-Study Program Really Work – and for Whom? (Wendy L. Weiler)

In this brief by the Center for Analysis of Postsecondary Education and Employment (CAPSEE), the authors delved in to the Federal Work-Study (FWS) data to evaluate the program’s effectiveness - defined as the program’s equity in the distribution of funds. The authors highlight the program’s impact on college attainment and post-college outcomes, particularly for those students attending public institutions and hailing from low-income backgrounds. The analysis then goes on to detail how the process for allocating funds can act as a barrier to those students who stand to benefit the most from program participation.

Policy Watch

Limited Means, Limited Options: College Remains Unaffordable for many Americans (Wendy L. Weiler)

The Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP) released a report on college affordability that focuses on the scope of income inequality and its relative impact on college access. Accounting for variations in household income and family size, this analysis used data from over 2,000 colleges and concludes that not only does college affordability vary dramatically between students from different family income bands, but this inequity enables a wealthy student to have far greater options with respect to college enrollment choice than those students from lower income backgrounds. Their analysis further makes recommendations to address these affordability barriers to student access and completion.

America’s Student Debt Explosion: Understanding the Federal Government’s Role (Teri Lyn Hinds)

In a new report, the Bipartisan Policy Center argues that while much of the current debate about higher education financing is focused on issues of access and affordability, including reducing college costs and expanding aid, especially to low-income and minority students, a closely related issue goes undiscussed: the role that the federal loan system has played in facilitating the rapid growth of student debt and the potential long-term consequences of that growth for the federal budget. The paper reviews the evolution of the federal role in financing higher education and how legislative actions and the federal budget process have led to heavy reliance on loans. It then analyzes trends in student borrowing and repayment, noting some of the potential implications for students, for the broader economy, and for the federal budget—in particular, the difficulty of estimating the cost of student loans to the federal government. The paper examines some of the reasons why borrowing has increased and repayment rates have decreased over time, and it presents pros and cons for several possible policy approaches that may improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the student loan programs, reducing excessive reliance on debt and easing the federal government’s potential budgetary exposure.

The 2017 Gubernatorial State of the State Addresses and Higher Education (Teri Lyn Hinds)

In this annual publication, AASCU provides a review of the state of the state gubernatorial addresses to learn how governors are prioritizing higher education in 2017. The publication provides higher education related highlights for each state individually.







March 9, 2017

Reports and Tools

National Veteran Education Success Tracker: A Report on the Academic Success of Student Veterans Using the Post-9/11 GI Bill (Wendy L. Weiler)

With research provided by the Student Veterans Association, this detailed report focuses on the National Veteran Education Success Tracker (NVEST), a project that seeks to understand student veteran academic outcomes as they relate to the use of Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits. The researchers collected and analyzed data from nearly one million individual veteran records, and found that those using these benefits perform better than their peers that do not. The report consists of a literature review of previous research efforts, an explanation of the NVEST methodology, and detailed data such as postsecondary enrollment, progress and completion, accumulation of debt, and lifetime earnings – just to name a few.

The Role of Community Colleges in Postsecondary Success (Teri Lyn Hinds)

In this Community College Outcomes Report, the National Student Clearinghouse provide the latest research, resources, and metrics to describe the progress community colleges are making in their myriad missions.  Recognizing the diverse populations attending community colleges, metrics must include more than just the first-time, full-time graduation rate. In this report, the Clearinghouse provides metrics related to college persistence, transfer and mobility, and certificate and degree completion to tell a more complete story about the progress of community college attendees.

Grapevine Data Update for Fiscal Year 2016-17 (Wendy L. Weiler)

A collaboration between the State Higher Education Executive Officers (SHEEO) and the Center for the Study of Education Policy, Grapevine is an annual compilation of state level tax support for higher education. On the Grapevine webpage you will find a wealth of tables that present data on initial allocations and estimates reported by states over several fiscal years. This data is presented nationally, by state, and by region.

ED & NCES Updates

IPEDS Graduation Rates & Media Primer Brochures (Wendy L. Weiler)

Originally developed as a way to understand the achievement of student athletes in comparison to college students as a whole, graduation rate metrics have grown and evolved over time. Today, this metric is often used as an important indicator of higher education performance, but many do not understand who it represents or how it is calculated. This easy to read brochure published by NCES is designed to solve that issue, serving as a great training tool and reference guide for those new to the field as well as for various stakeholder groups that rely on it. IPEDS has also released a Media Primer Brochure which provides general information about the collection and resources (e.g., publications and tools) that use IPEDS data. Both are also listed under “Data Products” on the “Publications and Products” page.

Evidence Snapshot: Dual Enrollment Programs (Teri Lyn Hinds)

This Evidence Snapshot provided by the What Works Clearinghouse provides outcomes from dual enrollment programs. Dual enrollment programs allow high school students to take college courses and earn college credits while still attending high school. Dual enrollment programs were found to have positive effects on students’ degree attainment (college), college access and enrollment, credit accumulation, completing high school, and general academic achievement (high school), with a medium to large extent of evidence. For the staying in high school, college readiness, and attendance (high school) domains, dual enrollment programs had potentially positive effects with a small extent of evidence. Dual enrollment programs were found to have no discernible effects on general academic achievement (college) with a small extent of evidence.

A Profile of the Enrollment Patterns and Demographic Characteristics of Undergraduates at For-Profit Institutions (Teri Lyn Hinds)
This Statistics in Brief profiles the demographic, background, and enrollment characteristics of undergraduates attending for-profit postsecondary institutions in 2012. Based on data from the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS), the report examines the change in for-profit enrollment over time and the degree programs and fields in which students at for-profit institutions were enrolled in 2012, as well as students’ demographic, socioeconomic, family, and background characteristics. The report includes comparisons among levels of for-profit institutions (i.e., less-than-2-year, 2-year, and 4-year) and comparisons of students enrolled in for-profit institutions with students enrolled in public and nonprofit institutions.

Enrollment and Employees in Postsecondary Institutions, Fall 2015; and Financial Statistics and Academic Libraries, Fiscal Year 2015: First Look (Provisional Data) (Wendy L. Weiler)

This First Look publication offers fully reviewed, edited, and imputed IPEDS data collected for fall 2016. The report consists of selected findings on the characteristics of enrolled students (e.g., race/ethnicity, gender, attendance status, age and student level), as well as institution revenue and expenses, employee information and academic library collections, expenditures and services. In addition, the detailed data is presented in a series of four comprehensive tables.

Graduation Rates for Selected Cohorts, 2007-12; Outcome Measures for Cohort Year 2007; Student Financial Aid, Academic Year 2014-15; and Admissions in Postsecondary Institutions, Fall 2015: First Look (Provisional Data) (Teri Lyn Hinds)
This First Look provides users with access to fully reviewed, edited, and imputed IPEDS findings from the provisional data for four of the five survey components of the IPEDS winter 2015–16 data collection: Graduation Rates (GR), 200 Percent Graduation Rates (GR200), Student Financial Aid (SFA), and Admissions (ADM). Findings for the Outcome Measures (OM) component are not presented in this First Look because the data collected did not meet NCES data standards due to inconsistencies between reported OM data and GR and GR200 data from the same institution. Fifty-nine percent of first-time, full-time bachelor’s-degree-seeking students completed a degree at the institution they started at in Fall 2009 within 6 years. Average net price for first-time degree/certificate-seeking students awarded any grant aid for the 2014-15 academic year ranged depending on institution type: $12,400 (public 4-year); $21,00 (private nonprofit 4-year); or $22,100 (private for-profit 4-year).

Emerging Topics

Early Momentum Metrics: Why They Matter for College Improvement (Teri Lyn Hinds)

The Community College Research Center at Teachers College, Columbia University posits that long-term outcomes measures such as graduation and employment or workforce outcomes do little to help us gauge the effectiveness of reforms or guide continuous improvement for both institutions and students. In this brief, they propose three measures of “early momentum” which, while useful individually, together provide a more complete picture of the impact of reforms on students. The measures include credit momentum, defined as attempting at least 15 semester credits in the first term or at least 30 semester credits in the first academic year; gateway momentum, defined as taking and passing pathway-appropriate college-level math and college-level English in the first academic year; and program momentum, defined as taking and passing at least 9 semester credits in the student’s field of study in the first academic year. The report presents evidence that these metrics predict long-term success and discusses how they can help focus reforms on building strong early foundations for student success.

Policy Watch

How Governments Support Higher Education Through the Tax Code (Teri Lyn Hinds)

This report from the Pew Charitable Trusts asserts that to fully understand the range of assistance provided to higher education institutions and students, one must have an understanding of the billions of dollars made available through both spending programs and the tax code. Much attention is given to spending programs, but tax provisions, especially those provided by states, are often overlooked or misunderstood. To help integrate these tax expenditures into broader discussions of higher education finances and policy, this report catalogues federal and state higher education income tax provisions and examines their extensive linkages across the levels of government.


























































February 9, 2017

Reports and Tools

Estimating Returns to College Attainment: Comparing Survey and State Administrative Data Based Estimates (Wendy L. Weiler)

Authors Judith Scott-Clayton and Quai Wen, on behalf of the Center for Analysis of Postsecondary Education and Employment (CAPSEE), published a study that utilized the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (1997) to provide new, representative estimates of the returns to degrees and to examine the accuracy of similar estimates that utilized single-state, administrative data.  Overall, the researchers found evidence that administrative data based estimates of returns to college were generally valid and revealed broad patterns that were quite stable.  The researchers concluded that the comparative advantage of national survey data was in the analysis of the nonpecuniary returns to attainment such as better fringe benefits, greater job satisfaction, and more schedule flexibility - data elements not typically included in state administrative data.

Unpacking Relationships: Instruction and Student Outcomes (Wendy L. Weiler)

The American Council on Education publication authored by Natasha Jankowski, the Director of the National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment, examines the relationship between instructional approaches and student outcomes.  Specifically, the analysis outlines relationships between performance expectations and pedagogical approaches that enhance outcome attainment, with an emphasis on assignment and course design to help students attain intended proficiencies through active engagement in learning environments. The paper argues for a mutually shaping relationship between student accomplishment and intentional, scaffolded use of engaging pedagogies such as active, applied, and experiential learning, high-impact practices, reflection, and timely formative feedback.

2016 NACUBO-Commonfund Study of Endowments (Wendy L. Weiler)

The National Association of College and University Business Officers released the latest iteration of their annual report on educational endowments. The data, submitted voluntarily by over 800 colleges and universities, indicated the annual endowment return for fiscal 2016 fell 1.9%, and has fallen 5% over the past ten years. Despite lower returns, the majority of institutions reported that they increased spending from their endowment funds by 8.1% (median). The study also looks at investment returns by category, asset allocation, trends over time, and provides comparisons by endowment size groupings.

ED & NCES Updates

Updated Repayment Rate Data for College Scorecard and Financial Aid Shopping Sheet (Teri Lyn Hinds)

In mid-January, the Department of Education updated the repayment rate data on the College Scorecard as well as the  Financial Aid Shopping Sheet Institutional Metric Data attachment from the November 14, 2016 Electronic Announcement. The repayment rates were updated to correct to an error in the original college scorecard coding, which led to the undercounting of some borrowers who had not reduced their loan balances by at least one dollar, and therefore inflated repayment rates for most institutions. Over 90 percent of institutions on the College Scorecard tool did not change categories (i.e., above, about, or below average) from the previously published rates. However, in some cases, the nominal differences were significant. Institutions’ revised repayment rates are available on their College Scorecard profiles. Certificate-only institutions can download the data on the College Scorecard Data page.

Additional Proposed Changes for the 2017-18, 2018-19, and 2019-20 Data Collections Open for 30-Day Comment Period (This Week in IPEDS, January 26, 2017)
See the Federal Register posting [Federal Register Volume 82, Number 11, Pages 5547-5548] opening the 30-day public comment period on the request to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for clearance for the 2017-18, 2018-19, and 2019-20 IPEDS data collections. Details on proposed changes to the IPEDS data collections related to the Outcomes Measures survey can be found in the Supporting Statements posted on the Federal Register website (go to and search for “IPEDS”).  Comments should be submitted through the Federal Register site and are due by February 17, 2017 11:59 PM ET.

2014-15 Final Data Released (This Week in IPEDS, January 26, 2017)
All revised data from the 2014-15 Prior Year Revision System, Winter and Spring survey components, are now available through the NCES
Use the Data portal. The following are now available as “Final” releases: Student Financial Aid and Net price 2013-14; Graduations Rates, 2014; Admissions, 2014; Fall Enrollment 2014; Finance Fiscal Year 2014; Human Resources, 2014-15; and Academic Libraries 2014.

Emerging Topics

Student and Parent Perspectives on Higher Education Financing: Findings from a Nationally Representative Survey on Income-Share Agreements (Teri Lyn Hinds)

Income-share agreements (ISAs) are a new higher education financing tool intended to supplement or replace student loans. Because the private market for ISAs is small, little is known about the potential demand for the product. The American Enterprise Institute (AEI) commissioned a nationally representative survey of 400 college and high school students and 400 parents of current and future college students to assess their interest in ISAs. The survey revealed there is little awareness of ISAs, but when given detailed information about ISAs comparing them to traditional student loans, over half of respondents indicated a preference for ISAs. Respondents were uncertain about the relative risks and the survey was unable to determine if there were indicators that would predict whether a given individual would prefer an ISA over a traditional student loan.

Policy Watch

Use of Student Unit Records Data to Improve Higher Education Outcomes (Teri Lyn Hinds)

In this episode of Radio Higher Ed, Data Quality Campaign’s Aimee Guidera and the Institute for Higher Education Policy’s Mamie Voight discuss the value and nuances of adopting a federal student unit record system.  Their conversation covered the motivations for creating a system, the current status of data collection, and remaining challenges.  They also elaborated on infrastructure requirements and improvements possible without a Federal system.  Implications of non-adoption and evolution of the Congressional climate necessary for adoption were also considered.

Trump’s Infrastructure Proposal Could Create 11 Million New Jobs: Will the New Jobs Lead to Sustainable Careers? (Teri Lyn Hinds)

In this paper from the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce, President Trump’s proposed plan to spend up to $1 trillion over the next 10 years on America’s infrastructure, including transportation, energy, telecommunications, and border security, is examined from the perspective of job growth. The authors assert that the jobs created will consist of both those directly related to infrastructure as well as jobs in offices and retail services. The examination indicated the proposal would likely revive, at least temporarily, the blue-collar economy, with slightly over half (55%) of the new jobs likely going to high school graduates and dropouts, but that slightly less than half (45%) of the new jobs would require at least some postsecondary education and training. The report provides additional data and details on the industries and jobs likely to be impacted, as well as an analysis of whether the American workforce stands prepared to provide workers for the new positions and whether the new jobs will be sustainable.


























































January 11, 2017

Reports and Tools

ED & NCES Updates

TRP Suggestions Posted (This Week in IPEDS, December 20, 2016)

Suggestions from the most recent meeting of the IPEDS Technical Review Panel are posted and currently open for comment. Suggestions are from Technical Review Panel #51, “Gender” that was held October 25 and 26, 2016, in Washington DC. Comments from interested parties should be sent to Janice Kelly-Reid, IPEDS Project Director at RTI International, at, and are due by February 3, 2017.

Federal Student Aid Feedback System Preliminary Report (Teri Lyn Hinds)

In December, the Department of Education released a preliminary report about the Federal Student Aid feedback system launched in July 2016 that allows federal student aid customers to submit complaints, provide positive feedback, and report allegations of suspicious activity. The report includes information on how the Department has used information learned through the system to improve customer service and communications, expand their ability to analyze data, make operational improvements, and strengthen consumer protections. This preliminary report provides insight into the more than 4,800 cases submitted by customers between April 11 and Sept. 30, 2016 and will be used to refine the Department’s analysis of system data ahead of publishing the required report in 2017.

Emerging Topics

Assessing Tuition- and Debt-Free Higher Education (Christine Keller)

The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators has released the final report of its Assessing Tuition- and Debt-Free Higher Education Task Force, which reviewed the landscape of state and local tuition-free and debt-free college programs to find lessons that could apply at the national level. The review covered 11 plans and found a number of common approaches among them. The report found that new programs must do more to coordinate federal, state, local, and private resources. It concludes that if future plans for free college are built on current aid programs, a targeted reduction in the complexity of existing processes will be necessary.

Policy Watch

Accreditation in the Policy Crosshairs (Teri Lyn Hinds)

Voluntary accreditation has been the primary mechanism for quality assurance for over a century in American higher education. This piece by AASCU’s Barmak Nassirian provides a brief history of US accreditation, its promises and pitfalls, especially in the intersection of state and federal funding and the rise of the for-profit sector, and its contribution to the rise of accountability as a central policy issue. The article provides background on why certain known-inadequate metrics have been adopted and highlights some recent attempts to respond to increased calls by legislators for ensuring positive student outcomes.

State-Federal Partnerships in Postsecondary Education:  Paper Series (Christine Keller)

To support policymaking efforts, Education Commission of the States coordinated the creation of 10 policy briefs focused on the interaction between state- and federal-level policies affecting higher education. The briefs were authored by a diverse group of education policy leaders representing state and federal perspectives as well as public and private viewpoints.  The series is intended to serve as a resource for future policy actions.

Sharing the Risk of Student Loans Defaults:  Paper Series (Christine Keller)

With concerns about student debt struggles on the rise, some policy makers argue that the federal government, taxpayers, and students need a new system that better holds institutions of higher learning accountable for loan failures while also rewarding those institutions that succeed with vulnerable borrowers.  Led by the Center for American Progress (CAP), a series of nine papers explore the topic of risk sharing in higher education using a range of different approaches. Below are the authors in the series with links to their papers.

December 12, 2016

Reports and Tools


Knocking on the College Door: Projections of High School Graduates (Teri Lyn Hinds)

The 9th edition of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE) Knocking at the College Door projects the numbers of high school graduates by state and race/ethnicity through the class of 2032. Key findings include an expected plateau in the overall number of graduates for the next decade, a shift in the racial and ethnic make-up of graduates toward a more diverse population fueled primarily by increases in Hispanic and Asian/Pacific Islander graduates, and variations by geographic region and by the mix of graduates from public and private high schools. Data are available for download in Excel or raw data files, including data for the state indicators included in the report.

Improving Connections to Student Aid: Helping Low-Income Students Benefit from National Investments in Workforce Training (Wendy L. Weiler)

In this paper published by CLASP’s Center for Postsecondary and Economic Success, Lauren Walizer explores sub-associate credentialing programs, the fastest growing segment in postsecondary education. The author specifically looks at program costs and student struggles to find ways to finance their education, usually resulting in multiple funding sources that still leave unmet need – a scenario Walizer calls “the spaghetti solution”. The paper provides evidence to argue for policy changes that would secure dedicated and more coordinated funding streams for workforce training programs.

How and Why Does Two-Year College Entry Influence Baccalaureate Aspirants’ Academic and Labor Market Outcomes? (Wendy L. Weiler)

The authors of this working paper from the Center for Analysis of Postsecondary Education and Employment (CAPSEE), look at the outcomes of students that intend to follow a community college pathway toward a baccalaureate degree. Specifically, the publication examines various obstacles to baccalaureate completion such as the logistical challenges of identifying a four-year transfer destination, transfer credit issues, and post-transfer “academic shock” among others. Finally, the authors perform a cost-benefit analysis for two-year entrants versus those that enroll at the baccalaureate institution as freshmen and find that the community college pathway sharply reduces the likelihood of earning a bachelor’s degree but does not have a significant impact on students’ short-term labor market performance.

ED & NCES Updates

Additional Proposed Changes for the 2017-18, 2018-19, and 2019-20 Data Collections Open for 60-Day Comment Period (This Week in IPEDS, 11/21)

See the Federal Register posting [Federal Register Volume 81, Number 220, Page 80049] opening the 60-day public comment period on the request to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for additional changes to the 2017-18, 2018-19, and 2019-20 IPEDS data collections. Detail on the proposed changes can be found in the Supporting Statements posted on the website. Comments should be submitted through the site linked above and are due by January 17, 2017.

Outcome Measures (OM) Data Revisions to be Requested (This Week in IPEDS, 11/21)

As noted in the October 4, 2016 This Week in IPEDS, the Outcome Measures data collected in 2015-16 have not yet been released due to data inconsistency issues.  In order to address these issues, NCES and the IPEDS Help Desk will soon be contacting institutions via email and requesting that institutions revise their data using the Prior Year Revision System. Institutions that receive such an email are asked to review the email carefully and revise their data during the upcoming IPEDS Winter data collection.

Fall 2015 Provisional Data Release (This Week in IPEDS, 11/21)

A First Look report on Postsecondary Institutions and Price of Attendance in 2015-16; Degrees and Other Awards Conferred: 2014-15; and 12-Month Enrollment: 2014-15 (Provisional Data) was released 11/15/16 and the data are available from the Use the Data portal.  Additionally, the “Reported Data” for Fall 2015 are now available in the Use the Data portal.

Employment Status of Postsecondary Completers in 2009: Examination of Credential Level and Occupational Credentials

This Data Point uses data from the 2009 follow-up to the 2004 Beginning Postsecondary Students Longitudinal Study to examine the rates of employment among students who do and do not earn a postsecondary credential, and among those who earn a credential in an occupational versus academic field. The Data Point also looks at the percent of students who get a job related to their field of study.

Use of Private Loans by Postsecondary Students: Selected Years 2003-04 Through 2011-12 (Wendy L. Weiler)

Using data from 2011-12, this Statistics in Brief release from NCES, builds upon a previous study that used data from 2003-04 and 2007-08 to examine private education loan patterns of borrowing by undergraduate and graduate level students. This study answers questions surrounding trends in private student loan borrowing over time, in comparison to federal loan borrowing, and differences in borrowing levels across institutional type, tuition amounts and family income levels.

Emerging Topics

FACT SHEET: Department of Education Announces Release of New Program-Level Gainful Employment Earnings Data (Teri Lyn Hinds)

The U.S. Department of Education released the first comprehensive set of data on program-level outcomes of career college graduates. The data show that graduates from programs at public institutions, particularly public community colleges, outperform graduates from comparable for-profit programs and that field of study remains a large influencer in student success post-graduation. The report concludes with next steps for the Department in keeping with the gainful employment regulation, including the release of debt-to-earnings metrics in January, release of a new disclosure template, and addition of data to the College Scorecard.

Gainful Employment Webinar Slides Available (AACC Washington Watch, 11/11)

The presentation slides as well as audio recordings of two webinars that the U.S. Department of Education conducted in October are now available for those who missed the webinars or who want to download the information. One of the webinars was Reading the Draft GE Debt-to-Earnings (D/E) Rates files and the second on submitting challenges to GE D/E rates.

Advancing Diversity and Inclusion in Higher Education: Key Data Highlights Focusing on Race and Ethnicity and Promising Practices (Teri Lyn Hinds)

This report from the Department of Education shows the continuing educational inequities and opportunity gaps in accessing and completing a quality postsecondary education. The key findings include reaffirmation that higher education is a key pathway for social mobility in the United States, but that racial and ethnic disparities in enrollment and attainment have grown in the last 50 years. Further, gaps in college opportunity have contributed to diminished social mobility (e.g., the ability to jump to higher income levels across generations) within the United States, and gaps in college opportunity are in turn influenced by disparities in students’ experiences before graduating from high school. The report includes several areas of focus that research suggests can help advance diversity and inclusion on college campuses.

Policy Watch

Skills for New Jobs: An Agenda for the Next President (Teri Lyn Hinds)

The National Skills Coalition, a group representing a diverse perspectives from business, labor, community colleges, community-based organizations, the public sector, and research and technical assistance organizations, is focused on expanding access to skilled jobs that pay well and can support a family—or at least can provide a proven first rung to a middle-class career. Their Skills for Good Jobs report presents a recommended action agenda for the incoming Trump Administration, including immediate actions for the first 100 days, the first year, and the full term. Presented as a blueprint consisting of eight key points, each with a 2020 goal, the report details suggested proposals designed to expand access to skilled jobs that pay well and can support a family.

FACT SHEET: New Federal Guidance and Resources to Support Completion and Success in Higher Education (Teri Lyn Hinds)

This Fact Sheet from the Department of Education details the investments the Obama Administration has made to support college opportunity, affordability, and success, and provides information on additional resources the Department along with five additional federal agencies— the Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Department of Labor (DOL), and Department of the Treasury - to align federal supports and program delivery to promote college access and completion. An appendix to the Fact Sheet also provides graduation rates and cohort default rates by state and sector for students attending predominantly four-year institutions from the College Scorecard. 

November 8, 2016

Reports and Tools


Trends in Student Aid 2016 (Wendy L. Weiler)

The College Board released the latest edition of its Trends in Student Aid for 2016. This annual publication chronicles how students pay for their education by source of aid and documents changes in funding sources and levels over time. The data – collected through a voluntary survey sent to institutions - disaggregates data by undergraduate and graduate level students where applicable, as well as by higher education sector. In addition to the PDFreport, the College Board also provides the raw data history relating to the published tables and figures in an Excel file available for download.

Trends in College Pricing 2016 (Wendy L. Weiler)

Trends in College Pricing is an annual publication produced by The College Board that provides information on the published cost of college attendance as well as net price. Data is disaggregated by sector and region, and trends are documented over time.  In addition, data on institutional enrollment, revenues, expenditures, faculty and staff are provided for added context. Comprehensive data relating to the publication’s tables and figures are also made available for download in Excel format.

College Completion Makes All the Difference to Financial Health (AACC Washington Watch, 10/28/2016)

The second annual national study focused on the financial health of young American adults, ages 22 to 35, found that overall this group was more financially secure in 2016 than the previous year. Financial factors studied included employment, earnings, credit score, home ownership, and college borrowing.  It turns out that completion of a college program makes all the difference in terms of financial health and the higher degree the more financial benefits. Young adults who did not earn any credential “are the most likely group to have poor financial health—including their peers with a high school education or less.” On a more positive note, about half of the non-completers said they planned on returning to pursue a degree in the future, and almost another third are considering doing so.

Student Debt and the Class of 2015 (Teri Lyn Hinds)

In this annual report from The Institute for College Access & Success (TICAS), the student loan debt of graduates from the class of 2015 are analyzed and recommendations to address rising student debt and reduce debt burdens are put forth. The report finds that a similar share of 2015 graduates (68%) had student loan debt than in the class of 2014, but that average debt loads had increased about 4% to $30,100 per borrower. The data vary across institution and states and additional state-level data is provided in a companion interactive map. Noted in the report are limitations of the data, namely that they rely on institutional self-report and the resulting exclusion of data on for-profit colleges and universities.

Black-white disparity in student loan debt more than triples after graduation (Teri Lyn Hinds)

A new study by the Brookings Institute finds that black college graduates owe $7,400 more on average than their white peers ($23,400 versus $16,000, including non-borrowers in the averages) when they first graduate, but over the next few years, the black-white debt gap more than triples to $25,000. Differences in interest accrual and graduate school borrowing lead to black graduates holding nearly $53,000 in student loan debt four years after graduation—almost twice as much as their white counterparts. While previous work has documented racial disparities in student borrowing, delinquencies, and defaults, in this report the authors provide new evidence that racial gaps in total debt are far larger than previously recognized, far larger now than in the past, and correlated with trends in the economy and in the for-profit sector. The report concludes with a discussion of policy implications.

ED & NCES Updates

SLDS Survey 2017-2019 comment period open (WDQC October E-news (10/21)

The National Center for Education Statistics has called for comments on the Statewide Longitudinal Data System (SLDS) Survey 2017-2019. Comments are due December 6. Please read the Federal Register Notice for more information, and visit to see supplemental documentation and to submit comments.

Emerging Topics

On the Path to Success: Early Evidence About the Efficacy of Postsecondary Competency-based Education Programs (Teri Lyn Hinds)

Despite the recent rise in popularity of competency-based education (CBE), there is little understanding of who is enrolling in CBE programs and whether these programs are resulting in improved student outcomes, especially when compared to outcomes from traditional programs. To address this gap in evidence, American Institutes for Research (AIR) partnered with CBE program leaders and institutional research staff at six institutions offering at least one CBE program, including one 2-year public community college and five 4-year institutions, including three private nonprofit institutions and two private for-profit institutions. The study explored who is enrolling in CBE programs, the outcomes of students in CBE programs compared to students in traditional programs, and what data are available to evaluate these outcomes. Broadly, the authors find that CBE programs broaden access, offer paths to credentials, and improve both cost and quality, but outline key challenges related to data and measurement in CBE contexts.

Draft Quality Standards for Competency-Based Educational Programs (Teri Lyn Hinds)

Drawing on the Shared Design Elements and Emerging Practices of Competency-Based Education, leading program designers and system administrators from five Competency-based Education Network (C-BEN) institutions representing an array of models released a first draft of Quality Principles and Standards for Competency-Based Programs. The C-BEN Quality Standards task force developed draft principles and standards that they believe are universal enough to apply to all CBE programs, regardless of model variations. These universal principles and standards will be augmented by additional stackable principles and standards based on model-specific, programmatic features in the future. The draft standards are open for comment until December 1, 2016.

Policy Watch

Commission on Evidence-based Policymaking 10/21 Hearing (Teri Lyn Hinds)

Several higher education associations had representatives testify before the Commission on Evidence-based Policymaking on October 21 regarding what they identify as hindrances to implementing sound evidence-based policymaking for higher education due to the legislative ban on the creation of a federal student unit-record data system. Among the groups testifying were the Institute for Higher Education Policy, Workforce Data Quality Campaign, American Institutes for Research, New America, The Education Trust, Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, and Young Invincibles. The hearing was webcast and a recording is available here. A second hearing occurred on November 4 on Key Issues Related to Evaluation, and a third hearing is scheduled for December 12 on Data Management and Infrastructure.

Data Policy Toolkit: Implementing the State Blueprint (Teri Lyn Hinds)

The Workforce Data Quality Campaign released a toolkit to offer information about policies and legislative templates that states can enact to improve state data infrastructure and promote data use. Despite huge gains in the development of state data systems in the last decade, there are still gaps, particularly missing information on non-credit training and programs that assist low-skilled workers, and the alignment of education and labor market demand information could be improved. The toolkit offers resources such as description of data challenges that can be addressed with state policy, examples of states that have enacted data policies, and templates that can be used by other states, in two categories: building data infrastructure and creating data tools.

October 13, 2016

Reports and Tools


Trends in Expenditures by US Colleges and universities, 1987–2013 (Wendy L. Weiler)

An edition of Economic Commentary published by the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland examined trends in spending by US colleges and universities between 1987 and 2013 in an effort to discern the reasons behind rising college costs. The results reveal that real spending per student has risen in most major spending categories across public and private sectors, but not uniformly between the categories themselves and not uniformly across higher education sectors. Results were calculated in both percentage change and change in dollars per student using Delta Cost Project data. 

AAAS Paper: A Primer on the College Student Journey (Christine Keller)

The Commission on the Future of Undergraduate Education provides a concise (albeit 50 pages) overview of student enrollment in and through college. The 10 takeaways provided in the report include 1) college attainment rates are troublingly low, 2) many students are underprepared for college, 3) many students are borrowing more, 4) students who do not graduate are most likely to default, 5) too few students graduate, 6) the vast majority of high school graduates go to college, 7) most student enroll, 8) students overwhelmingly attend public institutions, 9) adult and part-time students matter, and 10) it's not just about the baccalaureate.

ED & NCES Updates

Fact Sheet: Obama Administration Announces Release of New Scorecard Data (Teri Lyn Hinds)

Data behind the Obama Administration’s College Scorecard, released a year ago, was refreshed in September to incorporate graduation rates from the 2014-15 academic year, debt amounts and repayment rates from the 2014-15 award years, and earnings information from the 2013 tax year.

Release of 2015-16 Outcome Measures Data to Be Delayed (This Week in IPEDS, 10/4)

NCES has announced that it will release Outcome Measures (OM) data collected during the 2015-16 collection year concurrently with the 2016-17 OM data release.  In order to address data inconsistency issues identified during the initial year of OM data collection, the final OM data collected in 2015-16 will be released concurrently with the OM data collected in 2016-17. NCES anticipates both data years to be released late fall 2017.

IES Data Point: Changes in Pell Grant Participation and Median Income of Participants (Christine Keller)

The Institute for Education Sciences published a DataPoint, focused on Pell Grant participation based on four iterations of the National Postsecondary Student Aid Survey (NPSAS). Of note are the observations that the percentage of students receiving a Pell Grant increased while the median family income decreased over four observation periods.

Third Consecutive Year of Decline in Student Loan Defaults (AACC Washington Watch, 9/30)

The U.S. Department of Education (ED) announced the FY 2013 official cohort default rates (CDRs) this week and for the last three years, the 3-year rate has decreased across all sectors (11.3%, down from 11.8% the previous year), including public 2-year institutions (18.5%, down from 19.1% for FY 2012). No public institutions had CDRs above the one time threshold of above 40% (or 30% and above for three consecutive years). For more details, see the ED press release

Reaching the Limit: Undergraduates Who Borrow the maximum Amount in Federal Direct Loans: 2011-12 (Wendy L. Weiler)

In the U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics’ September publication of Stats in Brief, data is presented on undergraduate federal loan borrowing trends and student characteristics. This data comes out of growing concerns about student borrowing (both numbers of and amounts loaned), debate on the effects of loan limits on student enrollment and persistence, and prevalence of private loan borrowing and the reasons students turn to this loan type. This publication attempts to address some of these key issues by providing relevant data for further examination and discussion.

Emerging Topics

Public Opinion on Higher Education (Teri Lyn Hinds)

Survey data released in September by Public Agenda suggest that public confidence in higher education is waning as American’s are losing confidence in the necessity of a college education for workforce success. The data reveal that while the public are in favor of reduced costs for higher education for low and middle income families, including increased state support for higher education, they are simultaneously concerned about wasteful spending on campus. The data also show that Americans are in favor of increased data - such as graduation rates - being made available, but that they are less likely to support penalizing colleges and universities with lower outcomes.

Gainful Employment Rate Webinars (AACC Washington Watch, 9/30)

In advance of the draft gainful employment debt-to-earnings data and rates that will be sent to institutions later this year, ED has scheduled two webinars. The first is on October 18 at 1:30 p.m. (ET). It will focus on the data, and will be repeated on October 25. The second webinar will focus on the process institutions can use to submit challenges to the data used in the calculation of the rates, and will be presented on two different dates: October 20 and October 27 at 1:30 p.m. ET.

Analyzing College Endowments: Dos and Don’ts (Teri Lyn Hinds)

In September, the Education Writers Association produced a webinar unpacking the process of determining how much of a college’s endowment is spent on financial aid, a technique employed in a report from the Education Trust earlier this summer. The webinar includes information on finding and interpreting 990 form data, cross-checking 990 data with data provided by IPEDS and/or NACUBO as well as some of the tensions around endowments, college missions, and calls for increasing the amount of endowments disbursed for financial aid.

Policy Watch

Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking (C2ER Weekly Update, 9/15)

The Commerce Department is seeking public input to inform the newly-created Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking and provide the Commission with recommendations. The Commission considers how to increase the availability and use of government data for evidence-based policymaking activities. Comments must be received by November 14, 2016.

YI Student Agenda for Postsecondary Data Reform (Teri Lyn Hinds)

The Student Agenda for Postsecondary Data Reform created by Young Invincibles following roundtable discussions with current and aspiring college students around the country synthesizes and elevates students’ calls to action to improve how the United States collects and uses data in the higher education system. The Agenda calls for a number of reforms, including overturning the ban on student unit-record data collection, expanding information available at the program or major level, increased information about alternatives to traditional higher education pathways, and updating metrics so they are inclusive of all students, not just those who start full-time or who receive federal aid.

CLASP Brief: Redesigning State Financial Aid to Better Serve Nontraditional Adult Students (Christine Keller)

CLASP crafted a report focused on how states can better target their aid programs to meet the needs of nontraditional students. Among the observations, the authors identify how state policies can better aid and support nontraditional students. The report concludes with recommendations inclusive of policy ideas. Quantitative analyses of impact were not provided.

Postsecondary Success Advocacy Priorities (Teri Lyn Hinds)

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation released their Postsecondary Success Advocacy Priorities in September. The Foundation’s strategy is built on the belief that higher education needs significant, sustained, student-centered change to live up to its potential as an engine of economic development and social mobility. The strategy is designed to build human capital by focusing on three levers: innovative solutions, robust networks for implementation and scaling of solutions, and creation and alignment of incentives for institutions and systems to adopt and integrate solutions.

September 15, 2016

Reports and Tools


A Glimpse Inside the Coffers: Endowment Spending at Wealthy Colleges and Universities (Wendy L. Weiler)

In this report by The Education Trust, the authors present data on college and university “wealth stratification,” a concept often connected to individual citizens but new to describing the higher education institution-level environment. The brief identifies 138 institutions that held a half-a-billion dollars in endowment assets in 2013 and looks at their enrollment of Pell Grant students as well as their net price for low-income students. In addition to their report, they have made available their data file and a list of the institutions with their endowment valuations.

Two-Year Enrollment After Bachelor’s Degree (Wendy L. Weiler)

The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center has published another Snapshot Report, an ongoing series of short, data-centric briefs that seek to inform higher education stakeholders of institutional sector and student behavioral trends. This series of charts focuses on students that have attained bachelor’s degrees and subsequently enroll in two-year institutions, disaggregating the data by gender, age, enrollment intensity and type of credential earned, and sector of bachelor degree graduation, as well as field of study. The data covers AY 2000-01 through 2013-14.

2016-17 Occupational Outlook Handbook (AACC Washington Watch)

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics recently announced the availability of occupation-related information, including projections for job openings through 2024, in its 2016-17 Occupational Outlook Handbook. The website is the go-to place for job seekers as well as career job changers, counselors, students, parents, teachers, training officials, and researchers. The site offers information on select occupations, including the fastest growing occupations, and the number of new jobs, median pay, entry-level education, work environment, and licensure or certification requirements.

Are Public Master’s Institutions Cost Efficient? A Stochastic Frontier and Spatial Analysis (Wendy L. Weiler)

A study published in Research in Higher Education by authors Titus, M.A.; Vamosiu, A.; and McClure, K.R., examines costs and cost efficiency at 252 public master’s institutions covering a period of nine years. The authors provide evidence that there is regional cost clustering, economies of scale at the undergraduate level of education only, pervasive cost efficiency (at the institutions studied), and, where inefficiencies were identified, they tend to be long-term and persistent

Expectations Meet Reality: The Underprepared Student and Community Colleges (Teri Lyn Hinds)


Student readiness for college coursework and the strong need for developmental education for many students are the focus of this report from the Center for Community College Student Engagement, which notes that 68% of community college students require at least some developmental education. Even though more than two-thirds of students placed into developmental education feel that placement is appropriate, the majority of students are unsuccessful. The report explores new approaches for delivery of developmental education alongside student and faculty perceptions of their college readiness and realities of their experience with developmental education coursework. The report closes with a series of questions intended to guide colleges through exploration of their own data to find solutions that will increase completion rates for all students.

NCES Updates

OMB Approval Received for Proposed IPEDS Changes (This Week in IPEDS, 8/24/16)

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has approved clearance for the IPEDS 2016-17, 2017-18, and 2018-19 data collections. Details on the changes can be found in the Data Collection System under the “help” menu, as well as:

TRP #49: The Public Face of IPEDS: Web Tools and Publications Comment Period Open (Teri Lyn Hinds)

Suggestions from the most recent meeting of the IPEDS Technical Review Panel are posted and are currently open for comment. Suggestions are from Technical Review Panel #49, “The Public Face of IPEDS: Web Tools and Publications,” to discuss IPEDS web tools and publications and how potential changes would impact institutions, researchers, and the Department of Education. TRP #49 was held July 12 and 13, 2016, in Washington D.C. Comments from interested parties should be sent to Janice Kelly-Reid, IPEDS Project Director at RTI International, at and are due by Sept. 19, 2016.

TRP #50: Outcome Measures 2017-18: New Data Collections Considerations (Teri Lyn Hinds)

Suggestions from the most recent meeting of the IPEDS Technical Review Panel are posted and are currently open for comment. Suggestions are from Technical Review Panel #50, “Outcome Measures 2017-18: New Data Collections Considerations,” to discuss potential revisions and additions to the Outcome Measures data collection for the 2017-18 collection year and beyond. TRP #50 was held Aug. 23 and 24, 2016, in Washington D.C. Comments from interested parties should be sent to Janice Kelly-Reid, IPEDS Project Director at RTI International, at and are due by Oct. 12, 2016.

College Navigator Updated (This Week in IPEDS, 8/24/16)

College Navigator has recently been updated to include a portion of the data reported to IPEDS during 2015-16. The recent update includes enrollment from Fall 2015, retention rates, student-to-faculty ratios, and data on instructional staff. 

Fall 2015 Preliminary Data Released (This Week in IPEDS, 8/24/16)

A First Look report on Postsecondary Institutions and Price of Attendance in 2015-16, Degrees and Other Awards Conferred: 2014-15, and 12-Month Enrollment: 2014-15 (Preliminary Data) was released in July, and the data are available from the Use the Data portal. The release included Institutional Characteristics for the 2015-16 academic year and Completions and 12-Month Enrollment covering the period July 1, 2014, through June 30, 2015.

Emerging Topics

Feds Release Data Matching Guidance (Teri Lyn Hinds)

In late August, the U.S. Departments of Labor and Education released joint guidance to help states match data for the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) reporting. The guidance has been long awaited by states working to meet the new WIOA performance reporting requirements and continue progress on longitudinal data systems. The guidance provides clarity for existing laws and regulations, including the Family Educational Rights & Privacy Act (FERPA), Vocational Rehabilitation guidance, and Unemployment Compensation Confidentiality guidance, as they relate to WIOA reporting. Nine options for matching student data with unemployment records, each presented with graphics, are provided as examples, though they are not intended to be a definitive list. Workforce Data Quality Campaign released a summary of the guidance and is also offering assistance in brainstorming data matching solutions to interested parties.

Responsible Use of Student Data in Higher Education (Teri Lyn Hinds)

A series of resources, largely the proceedings from convenings held in 2014 and 2016 by Stanford University, Ithaka S+R, and the Asilomar Convention for Learning Research in Higher Education of 2014, has been made available to address both the unprecedented opportunities and questions regarding ethical collection, use, and sharing of increasingly granular student data. Among the topics included are: the use of data in scholarly research about student learning; the use of data admissions processes or predictive-analytics programs; and the ways colleges should treat nontraditional transcript data, alternative credentials, and other forms of documentation about students’ activities, such as badges, that recognize them for nonacademic skills. Included on the site are sample policies for responsible use of student data and messaging to students regarding use of their student data.

Policy Watch

Community Colleges: Multiple Missions, Diverse Student Bodies, and a Range of Policy Solutions (Teri Lyn Hinds)

In this Urban Institute report, key variables that differentiate community colleges and their significance for students are discussed, including the range of missions and programs across and differences in their student bodies. The authors then move to focus on student financing and national policies designed to address barriers to both affordability and broader concerns about student success, before concluding with some examples of community colleges, frequently in partnership with states and other stakeholders, working effectively on a student success agenda.

August 16, 2016

Reports and Tools

Early Labor Market and Debt Outcomes for Bachelor's Degree Recipients: Heterogeneity by Institution Type and Major, and Trends Over Time


A working paper released by the Center for Analysis of Postsecondary Education and Employment (CAPSEE) uses nationally representative data on baccalaureate recipients in 1993 and 2008 to examine labor market and debt outcomes four years after students graduate. The paper focuses on exploring differences by institution type and major field of study, as well as trends over time. Results indicate that the typical graduate fares well after college, both in terms of earnings and debt management. The patterns also confirm the typically positive returns to bachelors’ degrees, even for those graduating into the Great Recession and in light of growing debt loads. But the results also provide evidence that students’ choices about where to attend and what to study have become more consequential.

Investing in Higher Education: Benefits, Challenges, and the State of Student Debt

A report from the Obama Administration provides an analysis of recent trends in student borrowing and repayment outcomes and offers insights into the overall health of the student loan portfolio. For example, outstanding student debt had grown to $1.3 trillion in 2015, due in large part to rising enrollments and a larger share of students borrowing. However, 59 percent of borrowers continue to owe less than $20,000 in debt, with an average amount of $17,900 for undergraduate borrowers. Large-volume debt was more prevalent among graduate loans. The report also highlights areas of the student loan portfolio where, according to the Administration, students have benefited from the Administration’s efforts and identifies key areas where there is still work to be done.

Serving the Equity Imperative: Intentional Action Toward Greater Student Success

A policy brief from the State Higher Education Executive Officers (SHEEO) and Complete College America (CCA) utilizes CCA data to highlight five factors that contribute to the postsecondary attainment gap. The challenges described in the report include the overrepresentation of underserved students at under-resourced institutions and within the remediation system, as well as the impact of time on a student’s ability to complete a degree. In response to these challenges, the report provided five strategies for states and institutions to address equity gaps.

The American Freshman: Fifty-Year Trends 1966-2015

In May, the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA released a monograph highlighting national trends from 50 years of data on more than 15 million incoming first-year college students from the CIRP Freshman Survey. The data provides insight into how incoming first-year cohorts have changed over time in terms of demographics, pre-college experiences, academic preparation, lifelong goals and aspirations, and expectations for college life.

The College Scorecard and Return on Investment

A brief in the New England Journal of Higher Education uses College Scorecard data to assess the return on investment in education for four-year business schools and institutions in Massachusetts that offer degrees in business-related fields. The analysis used average annual cost and median salary after 10 years to calculate the "net present value" of attaining a college degree at the selected institutions.

NCES Reports

Undergraduates Who Do Not Apply for Financial Aid

This National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) report investigates the numbers and attributes of undergraduate students who did not apply for financial aid in 2011–12, using data from National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS:12), a large, nationally representative sample survey of students that focuses on how they finance their education. The analysis found that overall 20 percent of undergraduate students did not apply for any financial aid in 2011–12, ranging from 30 percent of students in public two-year institutions to 5 percent of those in for-profit institutions. Across all types of institutions, the two most cited reasons for not applying for aid were that students thought they could afford college without aid and students thought they were not eligible to receive aid.

Status and Trends in the Education of Racial and Ethnic Groups 2016

This National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) report uses a variety of federal data sources to profile current conditions and recent trends in the education of students by racial and ethnic group. It presents a selection of indicators that examine differences in educational participation and attainment of students in the racial/ethnic groups of White, Black, Hispanic, Asian, Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander, American Indian/Alaska Native, and two or more races. The report summarizes data on topics such as demographics; preprimary, elementary, and secondary participation; student achievement; student behaviors and persistence in education, postsecondary education; and outcomes of education. For example, the percentage of students completing high school and enrolling in college has increased over time for all racial and ethnic groups, but the rate of progress has varied and gaps persist on key indicators of educational performance.

Persistence and Attainment Among Postsecondary Subbaccalaureate Students

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) recently released a data brief that analyzed the persistence and attainment rates for subbaccalaureate students as compared to baccalaureate students. The brief used data from the Beginning Postsecondary Students Longitudinal Study (BPS), which tracked the progress of a cohort of sub baccalaureate students who enrolled in postsecondary education in 2003-2004. A key finding was that subbaccalaureate students had lower levels of persistence and attainment (56 percent) compared to baccalaureate students (79 percent). The analysis also found no measurable difference of persistence and attainment levels among sub baccalaureates across three broad areas of study (occupational, academic, and undeclared), but a higher rate of persistence and attainment among bachelor's students in an academic field of study.

Emerging Topics

Outcomes-Based Funding and Responsibility Center Management

This Lumina issue paper describes the potential alignment between incentives created by the Responsibility Center Management (RCM) model and the goals of outcomes-based funding approaches used by state policymakers. Outcomes-based funding allows states to convey and promote state goals and objectives for higher education by allocating state tax dollars to institutions based on measures of outcomes. Within higher education institutions, the RCM model involves mid-level managers in the responsibility and accountability for revenue generation as well as expense management. This paper outlines the case for policymakers to acquire a greater understanding of the RCM approach and how it could be used in concert with outcomes-based funding to support the development and delivery of new academic paradigms, expand access to underrepresented students, and, ultimately, increase educational attainment for a greater number of people.

The Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs

This searchable database is published by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Postsecondary Education and contains information gathered from recognized accrediting agencies and state approval agencies regarding the institutions, programs, internships, and residencies accredited by that agency.

Policy Watch

State Financial Aid: Applying redesign principles through state engagement

Over the past two years, Education Commission of the States (ECS) has supported a variety of state-level projects to redesign state financial aid. Conclusions drawn from this work demonstrate that state financial aid programs are an important policy tool for states to help defray the costs of postsecondary education for students. However, many states’ programs are misaligned with articulated strategic postsecondary education policy goals. This report shares lessons and strategies learned to help better align state financial aid programs and education policy goals.

July 19, 2016

Reports and Tools


How America Pays for College 2016 (Wendy L. Weiler)

Now in its ninth year, this annual publication by Sallie Mae and Ipsos takes a look at public attitudes toward college, with a particular focus on how much undergraduate families pay for a college education and how they finance it. This year’s study surveyed nearly 1,600 undergraduate students and their parents and reveals shifts in parental expectations and the ways in which families are approaching college affordability as compared to findings in their previous reports. In addition to the full report, an infographic is available that provides a quick snapshot of the more detailed analysis.

States of Denial: Where Community College Students Lack Access to Federal Student Loans (Wendy L. Weiler)

The Institute for College Access & Success (TICAS) published an issue brief in June turning a critical eye toward colleges that choose not to participate in the federal student loan program. These institutions, TICAS argues, leave students in a difficult position, forcing many to engage in riskier and more expensive tuition payment options like credit cards or private loans. The brief focuses on community college access to federal loans at the state level, disaggregating its analysis to demonstrate disproportionate effects by race/ethnicity and urbanicity within each state. They further examine why institutions might eschew federal loan participation and provide recommendations to address these issues.

Different Degrees of Debt: Student Borrowing in the For-profit, Nonprofit, and Public Sectors (Wendy L. Weiler)

In this Brown Center paper, authors Stephanie Riegg Cellini and Rajeev Darolia look at the volume of student loan debt – currently estimated at $1.2 trillion - analyzing borrowing behaviors and its distribution across postsecondary education sectors. This analysis seeks to understand how, why, and which students take on debt and investigate connections between debt, educational costs, and student backgrounds.

Momentum: The Academic and Economic Value of a 15-credit First-Semester Course Load for College Students in Tennessee (Christine Keller)

Using data from the Tennessee Board of Regents, researchers from Community College Research Center examine time-to-degree and estimate costs savings for students who have “momentum.” For the purpose of this study, “momentum” is defined as students who took 15 credits in their first semester. The results, controlling for individual differences, suggest there are savings to students in the form of paying less tuition as well as an increase in institutional revenues through increased student persistence.

When College Students Start Behind (Wendy L. Weiler)

In this report by The Century Foundation, authors Thomas Bailey and Shanna Smith Jaggars examine the effectiveness of remedial/developmental coursework at the community college level. They present findings from studies on four types of reforms under way at various colleges and provide evidence to support their conclusion that a wholesale redesign of the student experience at community colleges is needed to make a substantive difference in the outcomes of underprepared students.

Watching the Watchdogs - A Look at What Happens When Accreditors Sanction Colleges (Eric Yang)

This report by the Center for American Progress investigates the postsecondary accreditation system’s consistency, transparency, and effectiveness by reviewing 10 major institutional accrediting agencies. The analysis includes key actions from 2010 through 2015 for six of the seven regional accreditors and four of the five national accreditors. The report found that national accreditors were more likely to place schools on negative sanction and withdraw accreditation than the regional accreditors, while regional accreditors were more likely to keep schools on a negative status for a much longer period of time. The report recommends standardizing accreditors’ sanction terminology and creating a searchable database of accrediting decisions. 

Do Students Benefit From Going Backward?  The Academic and Labor Market Consequences of Four- and Two-Year College Transfer (Christine Keller)

Using data from one state, this CAPSEE paper examines the labor market outcomes of students who had a grade point average of less than 3.0 in their first term at a four-year institution and subsequently transfer to a two-year college. Among the findings, these transfers are likely to earn credentials, be female and major in health-related programs. The results suggest students transferring from four- to two-year institutions may result in increased college completion for these students.

Snapshot Report: Certificate and Associate Degree Pathways (Eric Yang)

This snapshot report analyzes data for students who earned an associate degree or certificate in 2009-10 and reveals that the associate-to-bachelor’s pathway was most frequently completed by students in the 20 and under age group, with nearly 61 percent earning a bachelor’s degree within six years. On average, it takes 2.8 years for a student from an associate’s degree program to complete a bachelor’s degree. The report also provides details on pathways from certificates to associates. 

NCES Updates (from This Week in IPEDS)

Proposed Changes for the 2016-17, 2017-18, and 2018-19 Data Collections Open for 30-Day Comment Period

A second 30-day public comment period on the request to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for clearance for the 2016-17, 2017-18, and 2018-19 IPEDS data collections has opened. Detail on the proposed changes can be found here, including an updated Part A detailing the proposed changes, and a document indicating the “Changes since the 60-day Public Comment Period.” Comments should be submitted through the site linked above and are due by July 25, 2016.

College Navigator Updated

College Navigator has been updated to include data reported to IPEDS during Winter 2015-16. This includes Graduation Rates 2015, Student Financial Aid 2014-15, Admissions 2015, and Net Price data for 2014-15. In addition, prior years Cost of Attendance (2012-13 through 2015-16) have been updated with student expense data collected through the Student Financial Aid survey component.

College Affordability and Transparency Center (CATC) Lists

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Postsecondary Education (OPE) publicly released the 2016 College Affordability and Transparency Center (CATC) lists on June 29, 2016. The CATC lists include lists of institutions ordered by tuition and fees and average net price (the cost of attendance after considering all grant and scholarship aid) charged to students. The 2016 lists are based on data collected during the 2014-15 IPEDS data collection cycle. Information on the methodology for creating the lists is included in the CATC.

Emerging Topics

Landscape Analysis of Emergency Aid Programs (Christine Keller)

Surveying student affairs-related administrators on college campuses, the researchers from NASPA: Student Affairs Administration in Higher Education gathered information on the status of emergency aid programs in place across institutions. They were concerned with identifying the prevalence of six types of emergency aid, including campus vouchers, completion scholarships, emergency loans, food pantries, restricted grants, and unrestricted grants. The paper concludes with five recommendations to strengthen and sustain the programs in the future.

Policy Watch

Serving the Equity Imperative: Intentional Action Toward Greater Student Success (Teri Lyn Hinds)

The State Higher Education Executive Officers (SHEEO) and Complete College America (CCA) released Serving the Equity Imperative: Intentional Action Toward Greater Student Success, a policy brief that utilizes the CCA data from 30 states to look at student success across race and ethnicity categories through the postsecondary education pipeline and highlights strategies for boosting success and closing achievement gaps. Analysis of the CCA dataset revealed that there is little difference in performance, including among different races and ethnic categories, for those who earn a postsecondary credential. However, at each step in the postsecondary pipeline, black and Hispanic students are slightly less likely to succeed. Over time, these gaps compound and create the equity gaps. The report reinforces five CCA policies that seek to boost completion rates.

Critical Issues for the Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking (Teri Lyn Hinds)

The Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP) has released a series of issues for The Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking to take action on as they begin their examination of Federal administrative and survey data specifically to address the management and use of data for measuring postsecondary education and workforce outcomes. The issues identified include expanding access to wage information, improving information on postsecondary student progress and outcomes, providing more accessible labor market information, harmonizing definitions and metrics across Federal laws, and clarifying privacy and security protections.

Federal Actions to Make Data Work for Students (Teri Lyn Hinds)

In this policy brief, the Data Quality Campaign (DQC) advocates that federal policymakers have a unique role in creating a culture that values and uses data for continuous improvement and that empowers families, educators, and education leaders with the high-quality information they need to make decisions. DQC believes federal policymakers must help develop the policies, guidance, resources, collaboration, and expertise needed to reduce state and local data burden, promote purposeful cross-sector and cross-state data linkages, and shine a light on promising practices and important skills. The brief presents nine recommendations within four policy priorities for federal policymakers: measure what matters; make data use possible; be transparent and earn trust; and guarantee access and protect privacy.

June 14, 2016

Reports and Tools
Student Responsiveness to Earnings Data in the College Scorecard (Wendy L. Weiler)

From Michael Hurwitz and Jonathan Smith of the College Board, this paper explores the influence of the updated College Scorecard data on students’ college application choices. The researchers used the volume and timing of students sending their SAT scores to a particular college as a proxy for measuring student interest in a college. Examining these “SAT score sends” from 2010 through 2016, the analysis treats the 2015 Scorecard update release as an “information shock” event to determine if any changes occurred in how many and when students sent their SAT scores to a college.  The results indicated that the Scorecard data on annual cost and graduation rate, both of which were previously available, did not impact the volume of SAT score sends received by colleges. However, the researchers found that for each 10 percent increase in earnings, there was a 2.4 percent increase in SAT score sends. When the findings were disaggregated by the characteristics of the students and high schools, the impact of the earnings data was almost entirely concentrated among well-resourced high schools and students.

Do Students Benefit From Going Backward: The Academic and Labor Market Consequences of Four- to Two-Year College Transfer (Teri Lyn Hinds)

Facilitating student transfer from two-year to four-year institutions has been a focus of research and policy in recent years. Much less attention has been given to the phenomenon of four-year to two-year (4–2) college transfer, which happens with about 16 percent of students. This paper from the Center for Analysis of Postsecondary Education and Employment (CAPSEE) uses public higher education data from one small state to examine the effects of 4–2 transfer on students who earned less than a 3.0 grade point average in the first term. Results indicate that these 4–2 transfer students are more likely than similar non-transfer students to attain two-year college credentials and that struggling students who transfer to two-year colleges are no less likely than struggling non-transfer students to earn a bachelor’s degree. Early employment outcomes also indicate that the labor market does not penalize 4–2 transfer behavior. The findings indicate that 4–2 transfer can improve college completion for students struggling in a four-year college environment

The Condition of College and Career Readiness 2015: African American Students (Wendy L. Weiler)

This publication, a collaboration between ACT and the UNCF (United Negro College Fund), is an extension of ACT’s annual Condition of College and Career Readiness series. The report focuses on African American high school graduates’ readiness for college and career as indicated by rigorous instruction, course selection and availability, and success in college and career. Among the many findings, authors cite that – across all racial groups – African Americans are least likely to meet the benchmarks in math and science needed to pursue STEM-related majors and careers. The report provides many recommendations to address issues revealed by the study

Toward Improved Measurements of Student Persistence and Completion (Christine Keller)

This technical report from The American Institutes for Research uses institutional data from 11 colleges and universities to contrast persistence and completion rates calculated using three distinctly different methodologies, including those used by the IPEDS Graduation Rate Survey, IPEDS Outcome Measures Survey, and the Student Achievement Measure (SAM). The analysis looked at how each method accounted for the totality of an institution’s incoming student cohort, as well as those students’ persistence and completion outcomes. It also tested whether or not each measure: (1) included all entering students, without restriction; (2) included the outcomes across all known institutions; and (3) collected and reported the measures annually from the perspective of the students

Current Term Enrollment Estimates: Spring 2016 (Wendy L. Weiler)

The National Student Clearinghouse recently published its latest term enrollment estimate brief for spring 2016, showing that overall postsecondary enrollments decreased 1.3 percent from the previous spring. As in past iterations, this 15-page brief looks at comparing overall postsecondary term enrollments over time, calculating percentages and estimating raw enrollment numbers. The data is presented in total and disaggregated by sector, before being further analyzed by gender, age groupings, and by state

The Power of Data (Teri Lyn Hinds)

This issue of The State Education Standard, the magazine of the National Association of State Boards of Education, looks at how states can leverage data in education while still fulfilling their obligations to protect student privacy. The focus of many of the articles is K12 education, though many of the lessons and conversations are applicable to higher education data and their use on college campuses, as well as to ongoing work to align data from K12 and postsecondary sectors. The entire issue is downloadable as a PDF, or individual articles can be accessed from the site

The Condition of Education 2016 (Eric Yang)

The annual update to the Condition of Education from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) provides over 300 pages presenting important developments and trends in education using the latest data available.  Using 43 key indicators, the report summarizes national measures of education grouped within four main areas: (1) population characteristics, (2) participation in education, (3) elementary and secondary education, and (4) postsecondary education. Also included in the report are 3 Spotlight indicators that provide a more in-depth look at some of the data

Emerging Topics


Cost of Attendance Calculations (Teri Lyn Hinds)

More Than Tuition: How to Improve Cost of Attendanc

This is the sixth post in a blog series on Cost of Attendance put out by the New American Foundation, “More Than Tuition: a Year in the Life of a College Student,” which explores how colleges’ cost of attendance (COA) may not accurately represent the yearly budgets of today’s students, how there is wide variance in how institutions account for living costs, even within the same geographic area, and how COA has evolved over the years. This post explores possible recommendations for improving COA, including greater and more specific guidance from the Department of Education with regard to the methodology used to calculate COA and increased flexibility on the part of institutions to provide aid in amounts and distribution schedules they believe best meets student need.

Federal Cost Data for Students Living at Home Are Significantly Understated

In this blog post from the Institute for College Access & Success (TICAS), Cost of Attendance (COA) calculations are reviewed with particular attention to how COA is calculated for students living at home. TICAS analyzed data from a random sample of 50 public colleges with at least 10 percent of students living at home to examine whether a room and board allowance was included. At the 41 institutions where they were able to collect data, all of the institutions allocated some room and board costs for students living at home, but that the range allocated varied considerably. The room and board costs for students living at home are not reported to IPEDS (per the IPEDS instructions) and the blog authors posit this omission significantly depresses net price estimates for students living at home. To solve this issue, TICAS recommends expanding the IPEDS Student Financial Aid survey to include room and board estimates for students living at home

Policy Watch

Envisioning the National Postsecondary Infrastructure in the 21st Century (Eric Yang)

The Postsecondary Data Collaborative has released a collection of eleven policy papers that provide targeted recommendations for improving the national postsecondary data infrastructure. Written by experts representing a range of views, the papers explore topics such as a building a student level data system, improving state level data systems, fostering state data exchange programs, understanding security and privacy, linking federal data systems, levering employment data, the role of National Student Clearinghouse, and institutional research capacity as the foundation of federal data quality.  The collection provides highlights and details of how improvements of data collections at federal and state levels could be undertaken.

The Promises and Pitfalls of State Free Community College Plans (Teri Lyn Hinds)

Four states have enacted free community college policies, with lawmakers in at least 16 other states considering similar proposals. This paper from the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) explores the history and legislative landscape of the free college movement, analyzes the “promises” and “pitfalls” of these policies, and presents questions for lawmakers to consider in their deliberations of this public policy proposal. Key characteristics of recent proposals, such as a focus on recent high school graduates and in-state students, coverage of tuition and fees but not other educational expenses, and program eligibility expectations, are summarized. Impact of the various proposals are explored, including discussion of those students most likely to benefit and how the proposals might impact higher education funding. 

May 10, 2016


Reports and Tools

Toward Convergence: A Technical Guide for the Postsecondary Metrics Framework (Christine Keller)

The Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP), in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has published a technical guide for the Postsecondary Metrics Framework released in February.  Focusing on measuring postsecondary performance, efficiency, and equity, 31 metrics track college access, progression, completion, and cost, as well as post-college outcomes. The report makes suggestions for future analysis and sub-metrics that would complement the framework, in addition to providing guidance for how the metrics should be used in the field.

A Stronger Nation 2016 (Christopher Mullin)

Lumina Foundation’s A Stronger Nation annual report provides a wealth of information on educational attainment both at the national and state levels. This year’s report also includes data on educational certificate attainment. Operating from a value threshold proffered by the Georgetown Center for Education and the Workforce, A Stronger Nation for the first time includes an estimate of the number of a state’s population with an educational certificate. This first step in the demystification of the “Some College” attainment category provides a firm beginning for an enhanced understanding of the role of sub-baccalaureate credentials.

Indicators of Higher Education Equity in the United States (Wendy L. Weiler)

This report co-authored by The Pell Institute and PennAhead updates stakeholders on the status of higher education equity in the U.S., identifying changes over time as well as proposing policy and practices that might promote greater equity and attainment in the postsecondary education environment. Specifically, this publication focuses on differences found between income groups on indicators such as enrollment, college choice, finances/financial aid, and degree attainment. Future publications will build on this work by looking at additional demographic characteristics for these same indicators.

Associate Degree Graduates Report (Christopher Mullin)

The Gallup-USA Funds publication titled Associate Degree Graduates Report was released this April.  Through a variety of data, the publication provides data to support the value of the associate degree to students as they progress along an educational pathway. Among a number of findings, associate degree holders strongly agree that their education was worth the cost and that their instructors cared about them as people. 

Documented Library Contributions to Student Learning and Success: Building Evidence with Team-Based Assessment in Action Campus Projects (Christine Keller)

A new report issued by the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) shows evidence for library contributions to student learning and success. Synthesizing more than 60 individual project reports (fully searchable online), the report identifies positive contributions of academic libraries to student learning and success in four key areas: 1) students benefit from library instruction in their initial coursework; 2) library use increases student success; 3) collaborative academic programs and services involving the library enhance student learning; and 4) information literacy instruction strengthens general education outcomes. In addition, ACRL is currently seeking proposals for the design, development, and delivery of a new ACRL “Action-Oriented Research Agenda on Library Contributions to Student Learning and Success.” The deadline to submit a proposal is June 2, 2016.

Careers of Ed Students: Are They Working in Education? (Wendy L. Weiler)

According to the author, Dick Startz, roughly 100,000 students a year graduate with a bachelor’s degree in education. This brief (posted on The Brown Center Chalkboard) seeks to understand the career paths of these education majors based on data culled from the 2014 American Community Survey. Through his analysis, Startz reports that trends in unemployment for all recent graduates (all majors) is higher than in the past, and there is no additional effect for education majors specifically, although it appears that an increasing number of education majors are pursuing career paths in non-education areas.

Out of Pocket: The High Cost of Inadequate High Schools and High School Student Achievement on College Affordability (Wendy L. Weiler)

This publication by authors Mary Nguyen Barry and Michael Dannenberg on behalf of Education Reform Now explores remedial education – its prevalence and financial costs to families across income groupings. The report also draws comparisons across institution types and sectors and looks at time-to-degree completion effects.

Shifting Burdens: How Changes in Financial Aid Affected What Students and Families Paid for College from 1996 to 2012 (Eric Yang)

This paper from New America uses student-level data from the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS) to examine how different categories of students paid for college from 1996 to 2012.  Focusing on the relative shares of cost burden by federal government, state and local government, institutional, and student and family, the report finds that the change in college prices impacts students and their families dramatically by sector, family income, and dependency status. Across the board, students and their parents borrowed more to pay for college in 1996 to 2012, paying a smaller share of out-of-pocket cost.   

2016 College Affordability Diagnosis National Report (Wendy L. Weiler)

In this state-by-state analysis of college affordability (defined as the percent of family income required to pay for all educational expenses related to full-time attendance, net of financial aid), the authors find that a postsecondary education has become increasingly unaffordable for many low- and middle-income students and their families. A collaborative effort between the Institute for Research on Higher Education at the University of Pennsylvania, Peabody College of Vanderbilt University, and the Higher Education Policy Institute, this report provides detailed data on declining affordability within the context of financial aid investments, student work income, and family economic barriers that prevent education investment. The data is analyzed by sector, income, and enrollment patterns at the state level.

Bureau of Labor Statistics Data on Certifications and Licenses (Teri Lyn Hinds)

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has released new data on certifications and licenses from the Current Population Survey (CPS) based on survey items developed by The Interagency Working Group on Expanded Measures of Enrollment and Attainment (GEMEnA). A highlight from the 2015 data: "Among the civilian noninstitutional population 16 years and over, 17.8 percent held a currently active certification or license." Published tables with 2015 annual averages are available online, and the 2015 microdata are available as a separate extract file.

National Center for Education Statistics Updates

The Digest of Education Statistics, 2014 was released in late April. The data included in the digest covers a range of education topics from prekindergarten through graduate school. The digest includes statistical information on topics including: number of schools, enrollments and graduates, educational attainment and international comparison.

The 42nd Edition of the Projection of Education Statistics to 2023, which includes statistics on elementary and secondary schools and postsecondary degree-granting institutions, was also released in April. The report provides updated projections of enrollment, graduates, teachers, and expenditures to the year 2023. Both national and state projections are provided.

A comprehensive set of IPEDS data is now available as a database. Information on the new functionality, as well as information about the downloadable files available (zip and Excel), can be found on the IPEDS Access Database information page.


Emerging Topics


#CountAllStudents: Colleges & Universities Launch Commencement Season Campaign to Tell the Stories of Class of 2016 Members Missing from Federal Graduation Rate

As commencement season begins, the Student Achievement Measure (SAM) initiative, in partnership with colleges and universities across the country, launched #CountAllStudents — a coordinated campaign to share stories of their 2016 graduates who transferred or attended part-time and are therefore missing from the federal graduation rate. Through dozens of student vignettes available on the Student Achievement Measure’s (SAM) website and shared on social media, the schools are urging the federal government to update its graduation rate, which only reports outcomes for students who begin college full-time and don’t transfer. Institutions who participate in SAM are encouraged to add their student stories for inclusion in the campaign and to share them using the #CountAllStudents hashtag on social media.

Policy Watch

Who Would Benefit Most from Free College? (Eric Yang)

Free college policies have been a campaign issue for Democratic presidential candidates. This report from the Brookings Institution analyzes data from the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS) to answer questions about which students would benefit most from this policy if implemented. Assuming same level of enrollment and college-choice pattern, families from the top half of the income distribution would receive 24 percent more in dollar value from eliminating tuition than students from the lower half of the income distribution. The report acknowledges that it does not consider the distributional implication of the revenue side of free college proposal, including proposed tax increased plan to affluent families.

April 12, 2016

Reports and Tools

Snapshot 20: National Success and Progress Rates (Christopher Mullin)

The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center recently released a Snapshot Report that measures postsecondary attainment by tracking the Fall 2009 entering cohort over time and showing persistence, stop-out, and completion rates at the end of each subsequent academic year. The model tracks outcomes for both full-time and part-time starters, and takes spring and summer terms into account. The Snapshot Report provides national benchmarks for institutions participating in the Student Achievement Measure (SAM) for the first time. SAM is a voluntary initiative led by national higher education associations that offers an opportunity for any degree-granting institution to report a student-oriented data portrait of outcomes for all its students – full-time, part-time, first-time, transfer-in – across multiple institutions.

FACT SHEET: Spurring African-American STEM Degree Completion (Wendy L. Weiler)

This data brief from the U.S. Department of Education examines the goal to add one million more STEM professionals by 2022, with a particular focus on fostering greater participation of African Americans as a way to meet this need and bring diversity to STEM industries. The brief details the critical role and successful contributions of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in STEM education, and provides data on the outsized contributions of these institutions as engines of economic growth and ladders of opportunity for generations of African Americans launching successful STEM careers.

The Value of Postsecondary Credentials in the Labor Market: An Experimental Study (Eric Yang)

This article published in American Economic Review outlines the results of a study to determine employers’ perceptions of the value of postsecondary degrees from different types of institutions. Fictitious resumes were submitted to thousands of job openings posted online and the effects of different postsecondary qualifications were identified based on employer callback rates. The study found that for job vacancies requiring a bachelor’s degree, applicants from nonselective public institutions were preferred over applicants with degrees from for-profit institutions and were 22 percent more likely to receive a callback from employers. For health-related jobs with no certificate or license requirements, such as medical assistants, employers strongly preferred applicants with certificates from public institutions. However, there was no difference in callback rates for health-related jobs that require a certificate and a valid license, which may indicate that passing the licensure exam provides a stronger signal of skill levels than the applicant’s institutional background.

Educational Attainment in the United States: 2015 (Wendy L. Weiler)

This publication – part of a regular series of population reports issued by the U.S. Census Bureau – provides data on educational attainment of the nation’s adult population disaggregated by demographic and social characteristics. In 2015, 88 percent of adults had at least a high school diploma or GED, while 33 percent held a bachelor’s or higher degree. Other highlights include the percentage of the population at each level of educational attainment, and differentials by race/ethnicity and gender sub-groups.

Rising Tide II: Do Black Students Benefit as Graduation Rates Increase? (Teri Lyn Hinds)


Rising Tide II: Do Black Students Benefit as Grad Rates Increase? examines graduation rates for African American students at four-year, public institutions that improved overall student success during the past decade. The analysis shows that while a majority of institutions improved graduation rates for black students, the gains were not large enough to close gaps between black and white students. In fact, in many cases, among the institutions that improved overall graduation rates from 2003 to 2013, more than half did not make the same gains for black students as they did for white students, widening gaps between groups. At almost one-third of the colleges and universities that improved overall student success, graduation rates for black students were flat or declining.

Undergraduate Degree Earners Report (Wendy L. Weiler)

A report from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center shows that the number of students earning additional undergraduate degrees on top of prior awards grew by 12 percent between 2011-12 and 2014-15. In that same timeframe, the number of first-time graduates — students earning their first undergraduate degree — fell by almost 3 percent. The report further disaggregates the data by gender, age, and institutional sector. 

Fulfilling the Promise, Serving the Need (Wendy L. Weiler)

This report by the U.S. Department of Education focuses on the access and success of low-income Pell Grant recipients at the institutional and state levels. The analysis identifies institutions excelling in outcomes for low-income students as well as those institutions increasing their low-income student enrollment. The report also provides best practices and details where improvements still need to be made. The report includes data from the College Scorecard and analyses conducted by other organizations such as The Education Trust, the Institute for Higher Education Policy, and The New York Times.

Emerging Topics

Undermining Pell: Volume III (Teri Lyn Hinds)

A report from New America, Undermining Pell III: The News Keeps Getting Worse for Low-Income Students, examines the average net price paid by students from low-income families attending 1,400 four-year public and private colleges paid in the 2013-2014 academic year. The analysis finds that the financial hurdles that low-income students face continue to be the highest at private nonprofit colleges but rapidly rising prices continue to be a challenge at public colleges and universities as well. Accompanying the report is a data visualization tool that allows users to view private and public institutions featured in the report based on the percentage of their student population that receives Pell Grants and the average net price those students are charged per academic year.

Higher Education Outcomes-Based Funding Models and Academic Quality (Eric Yang)

This Lumina Foundation paper examines outcomes-based funding models across states that explicitly tie state funding to well-defined performance and outcomes metrics. The study finds that most models reward institutions for meeting workforce needs and degree completion target. Many models emphasize access and diversity by weighting degrees awarded to at-risk students more heavily. The paper discusses academic quality and its role in funding models, arguing that the research and policy community is far from consensus on how to measure academic quality and on which performance measures should be utilized in the funding models. Recommendations are provided to improve consideration of academic quality in state funding models.

Policy Watch

Congress Passes Evidence-based Commission Act (Teri Lyn Hinds)

On March 30, President Obama signed into law the Evidence-based Policymaking Commission Act of 2016, which establishes an 18-month Commission to make policy recommendations on how government data may be used to evaluate federal programs and spending of public dollars. The Department of Education would be required to advise and consult with the Commission, in addition to several other federal agencies. Among the potential recommendations of the Commission are modifications of data infrastructure and that a clearinghouse for program and survey data should be established.

Higher Education Act: Recommendations for Reauthorization (Teri Lyn Hinds)

The National Skills Coalition released a series of recommendations for policymakers as they continue to work on the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. Focusing on bolstering the ability of higher education to meet workforce needs into the future, the recommendations include specific calls to require reporting on employment and earnings outcomes at the program level, in addition to removal of the ban on the creation of a national postsecondary education data system.


March 14, 2016


Reports and Tools


Scoring the College Scorecard: What's Good and What Needs Improvement (Teri Lyn Hinds)


Six months following the release of the College Scorecard, the Center for American Progress (CAP) issued a report assessing the tool’s data. It looks at the Scorecard in four areas. First, it highlights the good measures that were important inclusions, such as the disaggregation of results by type of student and reporting earnings and loan repayment information across several cohorts and points in time. Second, the report looks at what can be done to improve the data’s usability and clarity, such as using a better definition of student loan repayment that more accurately captures people who are retiring their debt, as well as better alignment of cohorts for different measures to assist in comparing outcomes. Third, it suggests additions, such as more information about loan outcomes, particularly the use of income-driven repayment plans and breaking out results for parent borrowers and graduate students to help these individuals better understand their choices. Finally, CAP recommends that Congress allow the Department of Education to collect data on all students attending college, not just those receiving federal financial aid.


The American Freshman: National Norms Fall 2015 (Wendy L. Weiler)


In the 50th anniversary Freshmen Survey report published by the Cooperative Institutional Research Program (CIRP) at the Higher Education Research Institute (HERI) at UCLA, findings show that mental and emotional health issues are on the rise, as well as student activism, including political and civic engagement. Other topics explored in the report include the impact of Pell Grants, financing college, and factors affecting college application and enrollment choices.


African Americans: College Majors and Earnings (Wendy L. Weiler)


Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce published a new report, African Americans: College Majors and Earnings, which provides evidence that African Americans are underrepresented in high-earning, fast-growing college majors and career paths. The findings demonstrate that – generally speaking – African Americans are disproportionately in high social value professions that often have low economic returns. The report hypothesizes this is likely due to a combination of personal choice as well as the limited availability of STEM majors at their chosen institution of enrollment. The full report, infographic, and other related materials are available on their website.


Completing College: A State-level View of Student Attainment Rates (Teri Lyn Hinds)


The most recent Signature Report from the National Student Clearinghouse explores student attainment levels nationally and by state. The report finds that national attainment rates for students who started at both 2-year and 4-year institutions were down slightly from previous years. The results show outcomes from both the students’ starting institutions as well as any subsequent institutions. Results are also available disaggregated by enrollment intensity across the six-year study period; age at first entry to college; and gender.


The Labor Market for Recent College Graduates (Christine M Keller)


The Federal Reserve Bank of New York provides an interactive website with useful information on labor market outcomes of recent college graduates. The underlying data are typically updated on a quarterly basis and available for download. Interactive charts allow users to compare the unemployment rate of recent college graduates with that of other workers; monitor the underemployment rate of recent college graduates; track the demand for college graduates, as measured by help-wanted online advertisements; and gauge the earnings of recent college graduates against those of workers holding only a high school diploma.


How the Student Debt Crisis Affects African Americans and Latinos (Wendy L. Weiler)


In the follow-up installment of the Mapping Student Debt project, student loan delinquency is examined by race/ethnicity using data drawn from the American Community Survey and Experian. Presented in a series of interactive maps, the tool provides a visual story that shows the relationship between race/ethnicity and student debt, with middle-class minorities appearing to feel the impacts most significantly. The tool allows for a drill-down by region, state and zip code.


Where Are the Minority Professors? (Wendy L. Weiler)


The Chronicle of Higher Education recently examined and published the demographics of more than 400,000 full-time professors employed at 1,500 four-year institutions, finding that – on average – 75 percent are white. Through this interactive tool grouped by Carnegie Classifications, you can further filter the diversity data through the lens of gender, faculty rank, tenure status and sector.


Emerging Topics


Itemized Charges & Aid: Enhancing the Capacity of States to Understand Affordability for all Higher Education Students (Teri Lyn Hinds)


This report from the Educational Policy Institute examines various current practices for collecting student tuition and fee and financial aid data and identifies weaknesses in current practices that hamper the ability of states to identify promising innovations for increasing student access and success. The report reviews data from IPEDS and NPSAS, as well as state collections in Texas and Indiana, and recommends that both aid and charges for every student are needed if states are to fully understand affordability and how it is affecting participation and success for all students.


Status-aspirational pricing: The “Chivas Regal” strategy in US higher education, 2006-2013 (Wendy L. Weiler)


This paper examines changes in tuition pricing at institutions after a loss in status as evidenced by a drop in published ranking. Although counter-intuitive, the authors hypothesized that a ‘negative status shock’ would prompt a college or university to charge more in tuition, not less. Findings of their study appear to show that schools do indeed set tuition higher after a sharp decline in public ranking, particularly when their peer group “rivals” boast higher tuition levels. The implications that these findings may have in the areas of status theory, performance feedback theory, and organizational research are explored.


The 2016 Inside Higher Ed Survey of Chief Academic Officers (Christine M Keller)


The results of the 2016 Inside Higher Ed survey of chief academic officers provides insights into the views of provosts on a wide range of current topics such as the future of the liberal arts, alternatives to tenure, continuing financial constraints, trigger warnings, academic integrity in athletics, competency-based education, and MOOCs. The findings can be broken out by sector in many cases.


Policy Watch


NCES Updates: OMB Clearance Package for 2016-2018 IPEDS Collections (Teri Lyn Hinds)


The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) clearance package for the Department of Education’s 2016-2019 IPEDS collections is open for comment.  Of particular note is a proposal to track Pell graduation rates within the Outcomes Measures Survey. The proposal can be found in Supporting Statement Part A on page 5. Comments can be submitted via the website until April 18, 2016.


Ed Department proposes to report accurate grad rates for low-income students (Teri Lyn Hinds)


The Hechinger Report discusses the proposal by the federal government to start publishing accurate college graduation rates, by institution, for low-income college and university students who receive Pell Grants. The proposal would change how graduation rates are reported for all students, and is intended to make these figures more accurate than the system being used now, which tracks only graduation rates for college students starting as freshmen who attend school full time.


February 10, 2016


Reports and Tools


Trends in College Spending: 2003-2013 (Wendy L. Weiler)


The Delta Cost Project’s, Trends in College Spending: 2003-2013, examines how institutions collect and spend money and the outcomes that are produced by these choices. The analysis explores the impact of the recession and the beginning of a financial recovery.  Findings include an increase in per student spending in 2012-13 and a greater reliance on student tuition to cover educational costs.


Answering the Call: Institutions and States Lead the Way Toward Better Measures of Postsecondary Performance (Teri Lyn Hinds)


In this paper, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation builds a case for improved postsecondary data, arguing that current metrics are outdated, reflect the traditional student of yesterday, and are of limited value for students, institutions, and policymakers. The Gates Foundation, in partnership with the Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP), identifies a core set of metrics on postsecondary outcomes to better report accurate and comprehensive data and to illustrate the value of higher education. The proposed metrics and supporting framework is based on work by voluntary initiatives and states.


Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs): 2014-15 (Wendy L. Weiler)


According to a series of reports issued by Excelencia in Education, thirteen percent of colleges and universities are identified as Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) and enroll sixty-two percent of all Latino undergraduates in AY 2014-15.  Based on the data (which is updated and released annually), the number of institutions meeting the HSI enrollment criteria and thresholds continues to show growth. A summary report, lists of the 435 current HSIs as well as the 310 institutions that are emerging HSIs, an infographic and other analysis can be all be found here.


True Merit: Ensuring Our Brightest Students Have Access to Our Best Colleges and Universities (Wendy L. Weiler)


A report issued by The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation calls for the establishment of a "poverty preference" in admissions at selective higher education institutions. This practice would be similar to existing admission preferences for athletes and the children of alumni, and would seek to level the playing field for economically disadvantaged – yet high achieving - students. The recommendation is based on an analysis that compares the enrollment rates for student cohorts from families with the highest and with the lowest incomes when seeking admission to elite colleges and universities. The foundation also published a quick-reference Fact Sheet highlighting the report’s key findings.


Updated Carnegie Classifications for 2015 (Christine Keller)


The 2015 update to the Carnegie Classifications, the first produced with Indiana University, retains the six classifications that have been in place since 2005. A significant change to the Basic classification is the new Associate’s Colleges categories that place institutions based on program mix and student mix.  A new category label was added for Doctoral Universities and the “unclassified” label was replaced with Special Focus institutions and Tribal Colleges. The classification uses the most recent data from the National Center for Education Statistics, the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, and the College Board.


Campus Climate Survey Validation Study, Final Technical Report (Wendy L. Weiler)


In August 2014 the Office on Violence Against Women (OVW) funded the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) to develop and pilot test a campus climate survey to address issues related to the measurement of sexual assault in self-report surveys. This technical report provides an overview of the methodology used in developing the Campus Climate Survey instrument, the methodology for collecting a representative sample of students to reach response and survey completion targets while minimizing nonresponse bias, and the controls instituted to produce school-specific yet comparable results across participating institutions.


NCES Updates


Persistence and Attainment of 2011-12 First-time Postsecondary Students After 3 Years (BPS:12/14)


This publication provides descriptive findings from the 2012/14 Beginning Postsecondary Students Longitudinal Study (BPS:12/14) focusing on attainment, persistence, and retention in postsecondary education. BPS:12/14 is a nationally representative longitudinal sample survey of students who began postsecondary education for the first time during the 2012–13 academic year; this first follow-up represents students’ experiences about 3 years after their initial enrollment. Among 2011–12 first-time postsecondary students, 7 percent had completed a certificate, 7 percent had completed an associate’s degree, and 1 percent had completed a bachelor’s degree at any institution within 3 years. Another 39 percent had not earned a credential and were enrolled at a 4-year institution, 16 percent were enrolled at a less-than-4-year institution, and 30 percent were not enrolled at any institution by the spring of 2014.


Emerging Topics


Making Sense of Student Loan Outcomes: How Using Repayment Rates Can Improve Student Success (Teri Lyn Hinds)


The Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP) convened institutional practitioners and policy experts to examine repayment rates within the context of institutional improvement, accountability, and information for students and families. Specifically, these experts sought to investigate if and how repayment rates should be incorporated into our postsecondary systems to help advance student success, highlighting the impact of college affordability on all students, particularly low-income students, students of color, and other underserved populations. This paper considers the intricacies of repayment rate measures within multiple contexts, evaluates the most appropriate metric specifications, and identifies potential data quality improvements. Specifically presented are 11 major findings divided into four distinct areas: general principles for repayment rate usage, calculation specifications, considerations for setting high and attainable performance standards, and recommendations for the Department of Education.


Changing the Debate on Quality Assurance in Higher Education (Teri Lyn Hinds)


The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation (USCCF) and USA Funds have released a report suggesting strategies and solutions for addressing the skills gap facing America’s business community, while promoting “completion with a purpose” for college graduates. Building from lessons learned from supply chain management, the proposal seeks to expand the leadership role of employers as end-customers of talent supply chain partnerships. The authors propose that there is a need for a voluntary, employer-driven talent supplier recognition and certification system— one that can complement the existing accreditation system and be used to improve government-supported quality assurance systems over time.


Education Deserts: The Continued Significance of “Place” in in the Twenty-First Century (Christine Keller)


A new study by the American Council on Education’s Center for Policy Research and Strategy explores “education deserts,” an area defined by having few colleges and universities, and the effect on students’ choice to enroll in higher education. The paper finds that 57 percent of freshmen in four-year colleges and universities attend institutions within fifty miles of their homes and that the farther students live from an institution, the less likely they are to enroll. The report argues that better information and more money are not always enough to influence students living in education deserts to attend college outside of their community. The authors recommend that policymakers expand Title III of the Higher Education Act to assist colleges and universities in remote areas build capacity.


Policy Watch


College Scorecard Technical Review Panel #1, “Consumer Information” Open for Comments


The Technical Review Panel convened in December reviewed the College Scorecard with an eye to make suggestions for improvements. The summary of the Panel is currently open for comments. Comments should be sent to Janice Kelly-Reid, Project Director at RTI International, at, and are due by February 26, 2016.


Top 10 Higher Education State Policy Issues for 2016 (Teri Lyn Hinds)


This paper provides a summary of the higher education issues that are likely to generate the most attention in state capitals. An annual publication by AASCU, this year’s top 10 state policy issues begins with the recognition that higher education is a focus of the upcoming Presidential election, including sweeping proposals from the candidates aimed at increasing college affordability, restructuring federal student aid, and fostering innovation within higher education. Higher education remains a focus of state leaders as well; governors are interested in higher education policy, particularly the role of public colleges and universities in meeting state workforce needs and fostering economic growth. In particular, policies that make educational opportunities more affordable and both facilitate and accelerate the transition from education to employment remain popular among state chief executives.


Five Federal Policy Actions in 2015 That Will Impact Higher Education (Teri Lyn Hinds)


The National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO) recapped some of the biggest policy actions business officers should be aware of heading into 2016. As partners in university leadership, IR directors should take particular note of changes to allow prior-prior-year income tax data on the FAFSA, the launch of the federal College Scorecard, and recent legislation regarding Perkins Loans.


January 12, 2016


Reports and Tools


Six Million Missing Jobs: The Lingering Pain of the Great Recession (Eric Yang)


This report from the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University examines job loss and recovery since the Great Recession of 2008. It concludes that about 8 million jobs were lost between 2007 and 2010. Further, the economy would have 6.4 million more jobs today had the recession never occurred. The job gap is largest for workers with a high school diploma or less, where 3.4 million more jobs would exist. The report forecasts that, with the current job growth, all missing jobs can be reclaimed by 2020.  


The Path Forward: Improving Opportunities for African American Students (Wendy L. Weiler)


A new publication issued by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation - The Path Forward: Improving Opportunities for African-American Students - offers a portrait of the performance of African-American students in the United States today. While the publication acknowledges that African-American student performance on NAEP exams has shown outcomes improvement over the past 25 years, in absolute terms there is still room for much greater improvement in reading and math proficiency, pass rates of AP exams, and general indicators of college readiness. The report disaggregates the data by state and proficiency area.


Rising Tide: Do College Grad Rate Gains Benefit All Students? (Eric Yang)


This report by The Education Trust compares graduation rate performance for underrepresented students to answer the question of whether they benefit from increases in overall graduation rate. Public institutions see a higher increase for underrepresented students, and successes are more widespread in public institutions than private, non-profit institutions. The results demonstrate that underneath overall graduation rate gains are real improvements for underrepresented students, though the data for individual institutions clearly indicates that what institutions do matters.   


International Graduate Applications and Enrollment: Fall 2015 (Wendy L. Weiler)


Results of an annual international graduate student admissions survey administered by the Council of Graduate Schools reports that just under half of all applications for graduate school admission emanated from international students, yet only about one-third were offered admission. The report also notes that applications and enrollment for this cohort of students has continued to increase year-to-year, yet the rate of this growth has slowed.


Current Term Enrollment Estimates: Fall 2015 (Wendy L. Weiler)


Fall 2015 postsecondary enrollment fell 1.7 percent from the previous fall’s enrollment levels, according to a report published by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. The largest decrease (just under 14 percent) was found in the four-year, for-profit sector; four-year public institutions were the only sector to demonstrate a slight increase. The report disaggregates the data by program level, attendance intensity, age group, gender, and state in addition to sector.


Graduation Rates for Selected Cohorts, 2006-11; Student Financial Aid in Postsecondary Institutions, Academic Year 2013-14; and Admissions in Postsecondary Institutions, Fall 2014: First Look


This provisional First Look report includes fully edited and imputed data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) winter 2014-15 data collection, which included three survey components: graduation rates for selected cohorts 2006-2011, student financial aid data for the academic year 2013-14, as well as admissions for fall 2014. Some findings include that when program completion is extended from 100 to 200 percent of normal time, graduation rates increased for first-time, full-time undergraduate students at 2-year institutions from 18 percent to 36 percent, and at less-than-2-year institutions, rates increased from 38 percent to 67 percent in 2010.


Emerging Topics


The Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education: The 2015 Update Released for Public Review


The preliminary version provides access to the new Definitions section of the website, which includes both descriptions of the classifications and their respective methodologies. Only the Institution Lookup option is available during this preliminary period, but access to full category, standard, and custom lists will be restored (tentatively scheduled for Feb. 1, 2016). Individuals with questions about specific institutional classifications, or more generally about the classifications, should contact the staff at the email address


Policy Watch


Higher Education Legislation in 2015 (Teri Lyn Hinds)


The National Conference of State Legislatures compiled a summary of state legislation considered and passed in 2015 related to higher education. Findings include increased interest in structured pathways for students to be successful in college while maintaining concern about college affordability, including the creation of new financial aid programs, limits on tuition increases, and legislation designed to ease the burden of student debt through repayment programs or refinancing options. Increasing the number of residents with high quality credentials is an emerging priority in many states, particularly to meet workforce demands. Campus safety, particularly related to sexual assault prevention on campus, was another legislative priority in 2015.


Free College Proposals Costs for States (Eric Yang)


This report from American Action Forum contains a cost/benefit analysis of President Obama’s initiative proposal for free community college from the state viewpoint. The White House’s $60 billion program proposal would require states to opt in and commit 25 percent of the necessary funding. The report finds that evidence supporting the success of programs of this type is thin due to the initial cost, the annual funding increase, states’ fiscal health, and participation of certain large states.


Who Graduates with Excessive Student Loan Debt? (Teri Lyn Hinds)


This paper (PDF) by Mark Kantrowitz proposes a 10 percent debt‐service‐to‐income ratio as a cap on affordable student loan debt, derived by assuming that part of the after‐tax increase in income for bachelor’s degree recipients (as compared with high school graduates) is available to repay student loan debt, assuming a 10‐year repayment term. The 10 percent threshold corresponds to using half of additional net income to repay student loan debt and is consistent with the rule of thumb that total student loan debt at graduation should be less than the borrower’s expected annual starting salary. The report provides trend data showing that the percentage of bachelor’s degree recipients graduating with large amount of debt has been increasing and posits several outcomes related to delay of major life-events and lower perceived value of higher education.


Published December 8, 2015

Reports and Tools
Sharp Declines in Underemployment for College Graduates (Wendy L. Weiler)

As education levels rise, racial differences in underemployment decline, so states a new research article by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce. The analysis focuses on data five years into the jobs recovery and specifically targets the underemployment rate, which their research shows has declined to 6.2 percent. Analysis is presented by education attainment level and broken out by race/ethnicity groups.

Ten ‘No-Regrets’ Analyses – Decision Support Every Institution Should Provide to Every Department (Eric Yang)

The Education Advisory Board (EAB), in partnership with the Gates Foundation, published this one-page summary of ten common data analysis projects. These projects use data readily available to IR professionals to help academic leaders improve instructional efficiency while advancing teaching, research, and service missions. Each project is accompanied by the project summary, data elements and obstacles for the analysis, and impact on instructional cost. Examples of projects that have greater cost impact include redesigning curriculum based on cross-discipline enrollment, class-size distribution mapping, and cost analysis based student credit hours. These analyses would benefit college deans and department chairs to enhance resource allocations in the areas of teaching, classroom, and advising.

What colleges do for local economies: A direct measure based on consumption (Teri Lyn Hinds)

This analysis by the Brookings Institute explores benefits to local economies that extend beyond individual workers. This brief finds that the average bachelor’s degree holder contributes $278,000 more to local economies than the average high school graduate through direct spending over the course of his or her lifetime; an associate degree holder contributes $81,000 more than a high school graduate. Graduates from higher-quality colleges and universities contribute at an even higher rate. In addition, 68% of alumni from two-year colleges remain in the area of their college after attending, compared to 42% of alumni from four-year colleges. The authors conclude that state and local governments, as well as their taxpayers, have a very strong incentive to boost college attendance and completion.

Grade Level: Tracking Online Education in the United States (Wendy L. Weiler)

In this twelfth release of its annual publication on the state of online education, the Babson Survey Research Group and its partners report that 71 percent of academic leaders now believe that online learning is critical to their institution’s long-term strategy, up from 49 percent in 2002. The report also addresses perceptions of learning outcomes for online versus face-to-face course instruction, student success characteristics, faculty engagement, barriers to institutional participation, and institution awareness of open educational resources. Many findings are also disaggregated by postsecondary sector for comparative purposes, and an infographic provides a quick reference to report highlights.

Bringing Equity and Quality Learning Together: Institutional Priorities for Tracking and Advancing Underserved Students’ Success (Eric Yang)

In fall 2005, the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) commissioned an online survey of 325 chief academic officers at member institutions to measure the prevalence of specified learning outcomes and documented priorities and trends in undergraduate education. In-depth interviews were conducted with 14 responding institutions that indicated they tracked and disaggregated data and set goals related to diversity and equity. Among the findings are results that show many AAC&U member institutions are tracking and disaggregating data on the retention and graduation rates of students from traditionally underserved groups. Fewer institutions are disaggregating data on participation in high-impact learning practices or on achievement of institutional learning outcomes. Future reports will focus on survey findings related to reporting on general education design elements and assessment of student learning.

Engagement Insights: Survey Findings on the Quality of Undergraduate Education (Wendy L. Weiler)

Annual results from the 2015 National Survey for Student Engagement (NSSE) have been released, representing responses collected from over 315,000 first-year and senior students. The report focuses on student perceptions of academic rigor, career and/or graduate school preparation and plans, financial stress, the first-year experience, and campus environment at their institution of enrollment.

Military Family Lifestyle Survey (Wendy L. Weiler)

Blue Star Families and the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University released its annual report examining key trends in the experiences and challenges encountered by military families. Researchers analyzed data collected from over 6,200 military family members, including veterans and active duty service members. Findings covered topics involving education goals and experiences, finance, childcare, housing, and employment. In addition to the comprehensive report, they have also created an infographic story that illustrates key findings.

Postsecondary Institutions and Price of Attendance in 2014-15; Degrees and Other Awards Conferred: 2013-14; and 12-Month Enrollment: 2013-14: First Look (Provisional Data)

This First Look is a revised version of the preliminary report released on July 23, 2015. It includes fully edited and imputed data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) fall 2014 collection, which included three survey components: Institutional Characteristics for the 2014-15 academic year, Completions covering the period July 1, 2013, through June 30, 2014, and data on 12-Month Enrollment for the 2013-14 academic year.

Emerging Topics

Toward an Economic Mobility Ranking of U.S. Colleges (Wendy L. Weiler)

Matthew Chingos and Kristin Blagg of The Urban Institute, in a report published as part of the Brookings Institute’s “Evidence Speaks” series, have proposed a value-added, economic mobility rankings model of postsecondary institutions. Their methodology seeks to follow student earnings over time, from prior to enrollment to after leaving college, and assign each institution an economic mobility indicator. Institutions are compared to peers based upon similar characteristics, and results broken out by dependent and independent student cohorts.

Policy Watch

Suggestions from IPEDS Technical Review Panel #48, “Institutional Groupings,” are posted on the IPEDS website and are currently open for comment. The TRP was held October 20 and 21, 2015, in Washington DC. Comments from interested parties should be sent to Janice Kelly-Reid, IPEDS Project Director at RTI International, at, and are due by January 7, 2016

Simplifying Federal Student Aid: How Do the Plans Stack Up? (Teri Lyn Hinds)

There is widespread discussion about whether the college financial aid system is too complicated and acts as a barrier to higher education. This report focuses on how eight different simplification proposals for determining Pell grant eligibility and three alternatives for calculating Effective Family Contribution would affect the distribution of aid and the cost of the Pell Grant Program. Using data from the 2011–12 NPSAS, researchers at the Urban Institute estimate how students would fare under each proposal. All proposals tend to shift Pell grant funding to students with lower reported incomes, either by increasing participation or increasing grant levels.

Targeted Recovery: Recapping 2015 Higher Education Legislative Activity in the West (Teri Lyn Hinds)

This Policy Insights brief from the Western Interstate Commission on Higher Education summarizes the key topics and trends addressed during the 2015 sessions and highlights new and emerging issues to watch for in the region. For the second year in a row, affordability was the key theme of the 2015 legislative sessions. According to the report, some state legislatures began to address issues of affordability and workforce development more thoughtfully and aggressively than during past legislative sessions. Bills seeking tuition freezes or caps, increases in need-based aid, and even low-cost degrees were introduced, and for the most part passed. Western legislatures also looked to postsecondary education as the driver of workforce development and continued economic growth, with special attention paid to career, technical, and competency-based education, in addition to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM). Sexual harassment and assault prevention on college campuses topped the list of new issues to watch, while guns on campus and military and veteran student education also figured prominently in several legislative sessions.


Published November 10, 2015


Reports and Tools


Trends in Higher Education (Teri Lyn Hinds)


In conjunction with their annual meeting, the College Board released their annual updates to Trends in College Pricing and Trends in Student Aid. Trends in College Pricing provides information on changes over time in undergraduate tuition and fees, room and board, and other estimated expenses related to attending colleges and universities. The report, which includes data through 2015-16 from the College Board's Annual Survey of Colleges, reveals the wide variation in prices charged by institutions of different types and in different parts of the country. Trends in Student Aid, an annual College Board publication since 1983, documents grant aid from federal and state governments, colleges and universities, employers, and other private sources, as well as loans, tax benefits, and Federal Work-Study assistance. It examines changes in funding levels over time, reports on the distribution of aid across students with different incomes and attending different types of institutions, and tracks the debt students incur as they pursue their educational opportunities


Student Debt and the Class of 2014 (corrected)


The Institute on College Access and Success (TICAS) published its 10th annual update to The Project on Student Debt, Student Debt and the Class of 2014.   The report shows debt is still rising for new graduates.  Seven in 10 seniors (69%) who graduated from public and nonprofit colleges in 2014 had student loan debt, with an average of $28,950 per borrower – up 2 percent as compared to the Class of 2013.   The report also featured a new analysis of how student debt has changed over the past decade.   Nationally, the share of graduates with debt rose modestly (from 65% to 69%) while average debt at graduation rose at more than twice the rate of inflation from 2004 to 2014.  Debt at graduation varies greatly by state and by college, with high-debt states concentrated in the Northeast and Midwest, and low-debt states mainly in the West.  The report and interactive map on the TICAS website provide average debt levels for each state, lists of notably high- and low-debt colleges, and links to data for more than 1,000 colleges nationwide. Financing Public Higher Education: Variation across States (Teri Lyn Hinds)

In this report, the Urban Institute examines patterns of public college pricing, funding, and enrollment across the nation, as well as instructional expenditures and student grant aid. Some states fund their colleges and universities much more generously than others do. Higher education systems have different structures, some consisting almost exclusively of four-year institutions and others including large community college systems. Tuition levels, grant aid provided to college students, and the proportion of students who stay in their home states for college vary widely across states. Because most students remain in-state to take advantage of lower tuition, a clear view of cross-state variation aids in understanding the nature and extent of barriers to college affordability and assists in developing appropriate policies to address those barriers.

The Cost of Federal Regulatory Compliance in Higher Education: A Multi-Institutional Study (Wendy L. Weiler)
Thirteen higher education institutions participated in a study to estimate the institutional cost of complying with federal regulations. Spearheaded by Vanderbilt University and conducted by the Boston Consulting Group, this project focused on three kinds of costs: labor, non-labor operating, and indirect costs (i.e., utilities, minor equipment, insurance, printing, etc.). Findings indicated that institutions report to approximately 18 different federal agencies and respond to about 30 different regulatory areas representing more than 200 federal laws and guidelines. These compliance activities are estimated to be responsible for anywhere between three and 11 percent of institutional operating expenditures. Results were broken down by sector and type of institution.

Learning While Earning: The New Normal (Wendy L. Weiler)


The Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University recently published a study titled Learning While Earning: The New Normal. Findings indicate that over the last quarter century, almost three-quarters of all college students are working while enrolled, one-third are aged 30 or older, just under one-fifth have children, and one-quarter are both working full-time and are enrolled full-time. Further, the study reports that no one can work their way through college anymore to offset debt, and identifies policy changes that may help these students better succeed.


It’s Not Just the Money – the benefits of college education to individuals and to society (Zhao Yang)


In this Lumina issue paper, the authors look beyond the traditional monetary benefits of college education to study the contributions of college attainment to economic prosperity and social stability to the individual as well as to the society.  The report provides areas of unmeasured and ignored benefits of college attendance to individuals, such as the provision of health insurance and retirement plans through employment, job safety, measures of occupational prestige, life expectancy, and others.  In addition, people who have attended college have higher rates of reporting good health, being married, being happy, being a non-smoker, etc.  The authors report that benefits accruing to the society are not limited to tax contributions, but include increased volunteer participation, charitable donations, voting, and involvement with political causes, community, and neighborhood.  College-goers are also more likely to serve in nonprofit sectors and rely less on other taxpayers.  As the authors state, “it is not overstatement to call the effect on earnings just the tip of the college-payoff iceberg. There are more benefits to college education beneath the surface than above it.”


NCES Updates (From This Week in IPEDS)


Trend Generator Update

New questions are now available in the IPEDS Trend Generator. Additions include retention rates for full- and part-time students; several questions on financial aid such as undergraduate students receiving Pell grants and federal student loans; more detail on sources of aid for full-time, first-time undergraduate students; and trends on institutional expenses by expense functional category.  Additionally, tables and trends on fall enrollment, completions, and graduation rates can now be compiled by race/ethnicity.

Updated Cohort Default Rates

The “Three year Official Cohort Default Rates” for FY2012 were released by the Department of Education on Sept. 28, 2015. The default rates are included in College Navigator.


Emerging Topics


Primer on Repayment Rates (Teri Lyn Hinds)


Prepared to inform a conversation on metrics related to student debt, the Institute for Higher Education Policy recently published a primer that examines the evolution of repayment rates and their use in higher education accountability. Repayment rates are more nuanced than cohort default rates (CDRs) in that they show how borrowers pay down debt rather than only whether they avoid default. Especially at a time when more borrowers are entering income-driven repayment plans that help students avoid default, repayment rates could be a valuable tool in informing consumers, facilitating institutional improvement, and enhancing accountability (e.g., performance thresholds or risk-sharing). The primer posits several questions for discussion and consideration around the use of repayment rates in higher education accountability.


The Value of University: Our First-ever College Rankings (Wendy L. Weiler)


The Economist is the latest publication to enter the college rankings arena. Using US Department of Education data (pulled from the College Scorecard data tool), the rankings list they compiled equates the value of an institution to the gap between how much graduates and former students earn versus how much they might have earned if they attended a different institution; multiple regression analysis was used to determine the latter figure. The table ranks 1,275 institutions and provides expected earnings, median earnings, and the difference between the two for each.


Policy Watch


Aligning K-12 and postsecondary career pathways with workforce needs (Teri Lyn Hinds)


Since 2013, much recent state-level policymaking activity has been to improve alignment between high school and postsecondary CTE programs, including by developing state or regional structures to design career pathways that prepare students for high-skill, high-demand jobs. This report provides a first look at such activity in 13 states. Policy activity summarized here (1) establishes a process for educators and employers to convene and use workforce data to set priorities, and (2) sets forth strategies to enhance and scale up career pathways bridging K-12 and postsecondary, designed to prepare students for high-skill, high-demand jobs. While not a comprehensive compilation of state policies addressing these issues, this review is intended to allow readers to determine whether policies have been adopted in these 13 states, and compare and contrast approaches.


Using Post-College Labor Market Outcomes: Policy Challenges and Choices (Teri Lyn Hinds)


Students and policymakers alike are calling for more data on former students’ labor market outcomes, such as post-college employment and earnings. As these data become more readily available, lawmakers may be tempted to use it to hold institutions accountable for students’ results in the labor market. However, without a strong policy foundation, this could create incentives to reduce access for low-income and underprepared students and unduly punish the open-access institutions that serve them. In this report, the Center for Postsecondary and Economic Success at CLASP provides recommendations for appropriate use of post-college data for accountability at the institution level. The paper presents five recommendations that policymakers should follow before they consider using earnings for high-stakes accountability purposes.


Published October 13, 2015


Reports and Tools


College Scorecard and Revisions to the FAFSA and Federal Financial Aid Application Process (Teri Lyn Hinds)

President Obama announced the launch of the new College Scorecard during his Weekly Address on September 12. A White House blog post, cross posted to the Department of Education blog, described the Scorecard as providing “the first comprehensive data on costs and student outcomes at nearly all post-secondary institutions in the United States.” Detailed data documentation, including downloadable data files containing institution level data for all institutions included in the College Scorecard, is available from a companion site. Watch for additional information on the new College Scorecard in next month’s eAIR. On September 14, at the start of a national bus tour, President Obama announced changes to the federal financial aid application process, including news that students will be able to apply for aid earlier, using data from the prior tax year.

A Crisis in Student Loans? How Changes in the Characteristics of Borrowers and in the Institutions They Attended Contributed to Rising Loan Defaults (Wendy L. Weiler)


According to a Brookings Paper on Economic Activity, the spike in student loan default rates in the last 10 years can mostly be attributed to students enrolled at for-profit colleges and, to a lesser extent, community colleges. The report finds that loan defaults tend to be concentrated among non-traditional borrowers, a population that disproportionately enrolls in these sectors, maintaining that these sectors account for half of all borrowers but seventy percent of all defaulters. Authors also theorized about the impact of the Great Recession on loan default and repayment rates.


The Pell Partnership: Ensuring a Shared Responsibility for Low-Income Student Success (Zhao Yang)


This report by Education Trust studies graduate rate performance at the institutional level for the 2013-14 Pell Grant recipients who are enrolled at 1,149 four-year public and private nonprofit institutions.  The Pell Grant graduation rate is the same as the normal six-year graduation rate but only for those students receiving Pell Grants at entry. It is first time that such information is released to the general public. The report presents that though the average graduation gap between Pell and non-Pell students at the institutional level is only 5.7 percentage points, the national gap is as large as 14 percentage points.  The disparity comes from the fact that the institutions have different size enrollment, and that many Pell students enroll at colleges with very low overall graduation rates.  The report also provides case studies in which institutions with similar profiles have different gaps, and successful stories from some institutions.  Graduation rate data for Pell Grant recipients included in the study are provided at the Ed Trust website.


Impact Revealed: Learner Outcomes in Open Online Courses (Wendy L. Weiler)


Conducted by researchers at Coursera, University of Pennsylvania, and University of Washington, this study presents results from a longitudinal survey analyzing student responses to questions about the impacts of their open online courses on career and educational outcomes. Researchers received 51,954 survey responses from learners around the world, and broke their responses into two groups based upon reason for online engagement. Findings are presented by group, student characteristics, and benefits experienced.


Intended College Attendance: Evidence from an Experiment on College Returns and Costs (Wendy L. Weiler)


The Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s recently published report, Intended College Attendance: Evidence from an Experiment on College Returns and Costs, details findings from a consumer perception survey they conducted on the costs and benefits of attending college. Their analysis revealed that 75 percent of respondents underestimated the earnings premium that comes from a college degree and 60 percent overestimated the cost of attendance. They further disaggregated their data by socioeconomic group and relative influence of information types on the likelihood of postsecondary enrollment.


Is Your Enrollment Process a Game of Chutes and Ladders? (Wendy L. Weiler)


According to the results of interviews conducted by the Education Advisory Board, students see the enrollment process as excessively complex and confusing even though institution administrators perceive it as straightforward and linear. Further, students don’t appear to understand who to go to for answers or even what questions they should be asking. The multi-step enrollment process, as seen by administrators and students, is illustrated in a series of infographics that demonstrate the process from these opposite perspectives.


Searching for the Right College (Zhao Yang)


This fifth (and last) report of the College Decision Survey series by New America, funded by the Lumina Foundation, provides additional insights from a survey conducted online in Fall 2014 of about 1,000 students (either prospective or recently enrolled to college). The analysis focused on better understanding how students seek information about colleges during their decision-making process, which resources are most popular among students, and how helpful and accurate students find those sources. According to students, the most popular, most frequently used, and most helpful sources of information came directly from colleges, including websites, brochures, and campus visits. Other resources, such as College Navigator from Department of Education, commercial-ranking websites, high school counselors, and personal friends, also play certain roles depending on students’ ages and family incomes. The report further discusses recommendations to federal roles in providing information and to colleges in seeking the right students to enroll at their campuses. 


NCES Updates

  • Achievement Gaps. National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) released the results of a special study conducted to further explore the achievement gaps between Black and White students. The study explored public schools’ demographic composition, in particular, the proportion of Black students enrolled in schools (also referred to “Black student density” in schools) and its relation to the Black-White achievement gap using 2011 NAEP grade 8 mathematics assessment data. The study indicated that the achievement gap between Black and White students remains whether schools fall in the highest density category (i.e., schools composed of at least 60 percent Black students) or the lowest density category (i.e., schools composed of less than or equal to 20 percent Black students). When accounting for factors such as student socioeconomic status and other student, teacher, and school characteristics, Black students scored lower in the highest-, rather than the lowest-density schools. Further, the portion of the Black-White achievement gap attributed to within-school differences (i.e., how schools internally distribute resources and treat students) is larger than the portion attributed to between-school differences (i.e., how schools vary in technology, updated textbooks, and qualified teachers). A highlights report presenting more results and a companion paper describing details of the methodology applied in the study are available at the NAEP website.

  • Trends in Undergraduate Nonfederal Grant and Scholarship Aid by Demographic and Enrollment Characteristics, Selected Years: 1999-2000 to 2011-12. This set of web tables presents trend data on nonfederal grant and scholarship aid awarded to undergraduate students between 1999–2000 and 2011–12. Nonfederal grant and scholarship aid is financial aid awarded by states, institutions, employers, and private organizations. Estimates in these tables include the percentage of undergraduates who received nonfederal aid and the average amounts they received, by aid type (need- or merit-based), source (state, institution, or private organization), and selected student characteristics, such as sex, dependency status, income, institution type, and enrollment intensity. All tables present trends over a 12-year period, from 1999–2000 to 2011–12 using nationally representative data drawn from four administrations of the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS)

Emerging Topics


Reverse Transfer: What is the best route to take? (Teri Lyn Hinds)


Early outcomes data suggest that reverse transfer policies are helping states to confer additional associate degrees to students who have earned them. This third brief in a series on reverse transfer policy from Education Commission of the States presents early outcomes data for the 10 states that have implemented statewide reverse transfer policies, and it offers recommendations informed by prior state actions for states that have yet to enact or implement a statewide reverse transfer policy.


Policy Watch


Weighing the Options for Improving the National Postsecondary Data Infrastructure (Teri Lyn Hinds)


The Institute for Higher Education Policy, with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, engaged a group of national education policy experts in a day-long, structured discussion exploring seven potential approaches for reforming our national postsecondary data systems. While most of the experts agreed that the creation of a federal student-unit record data system (SURDS) would be the most effective strategy, the legislative ban on the Department of Education to create such a system necessitates the development of alternative options. The full report discusses the options identified by the group for improving various components of the national data infrastructure in the absence of a SURDS.


Capped Out: Low Spending Limits, Pell Grants, and the Future of Labor and Health and Human Services Appropriations (Teri Lyn Hinds


This paper from the Center for American Process provides an overview of the federal budgeting process and the possible implications of that process on the future of the Pell Grant program. As the nation’s most expansive grant program for college, Pell Grants provide more than $31 billion per year to help more than 8 million low-income students afford postsecondary education. However, the author posits that if Congress does not take action in the coming years, continued austerity will force significant cuts to either Pell Grants or other programs in the departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education. The author asserts that in order to avoid having to make unacceptable cuts to either supporting low-income students in college or the social safety net, Congress should remove sequestration-enforced spending caps and move to make the Pell Grant program a mandatory program.


Published September 9, 2015


Reports and Tools


Familiarity with Financial Aid (Zhao Yang)


The third report of the College Decision Survey series by New America funded by Lumina Foundation presents the students’ familiarity with various sources of financial aid by age, ethnicity, and income level. The survey was conducted online in fall 2014 to about 1,000 students (either perspective or recently enrolled to college). The results demonstrate that many students are unfamiliar with financial aid options, with only about half of students from families making under $50,000 reporting familiarity with the Pell Grant, though most of them would receive the aid if they applied for it. More than half of students participating in the survey did not know of the existence of institutional Net Price Calculators, yet 84 percent of those who had used one found it to be helpful. The report reveals that more work needs to be done to ensure students have better knowledge of financial aid and use this information in their college decision.


Good Jobs Are Back: College Graduates Are First in Line (Wendy L. Weiler)


The Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University released a report with some encouraging news about the nation’s economic recovery. While the media has presented the recovery as dominated by low-wage job growth that has forced college graduates into underemployment, the authors of this report provide evidence that supports a different narrative. Of the 6.6 million jobs created since 2010, almost half have been “good jobs” (defined as average annual earnings of $53,000 or more). Of these good jobs, 97 percent were filled by workers with at least a bachelor’s degree. Their 24-page publication includes an array of tables, charts and graphs that disaggregate and analyze employment data by occupational areas, education levels, and wage tiers, supporting their contention that good jobs for college graduates are leading the recovery. Additionally, they have made available their methodology and a supplemental technical report for those who want to take a deeper dive into the statistics.


Why College Report Cards Are Flawed on College Value (Teri Lyn Hinds)


This article from the summer 2015 issue of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities Public Purpose magazine summarizes a review of 10 college rating websites, conducted by the Higher Education Strategic Information and Governance Project (HESIG) of the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy at Stockton University. Generally, the reviews find that the rating sites focus too much on trying to identify the drivers of college cost, at the expense of outcomes and quality indicators. The authors critique simplistic return on investment models as adding noise to an area where too much data already exist. Rather, ratings would be more useful to students and families if they included information on expected outcomes, such as specific academic and workplace skills and abilities, and preparation for jobs and careers that lead to a more prosperous life.


Brain Gain in America’s Shrinking Cities (Wendy L. Weiler)


Aaron M. Renn, Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute recently published an interesting study that looks at cities with rapidly declining populations, analyzing the educational attainment levels of those residents who have remained. The publication represents data collected from 28 struggling cities, and presents analysis showing that – in all but three cases – there has not been a flight of highly educated workers from these metro areas, but exactly the opposite. In fact, these urban areas are gaining workers with college degrees at double-digit rates, are holding their own against – or outperforming – the rest of the country in overall education attainment rates, and are adding more college-educated young adults to their populations within their larger out-migration environment.


Use These Two Words on Your College Essay to Get Into Harvard (Wendy L. Weiler)


According to a recent article in Fast Company, a startup analytics company – AdmitSee – is now using data analytics to provide greater support to high school students as they prepare to apply to college. The company previously launched a website tool that interfaces with a robust database of application information (i.e., essays, test scores, extracurricular, academic histories, etc.) that the company has collected from successfully-admitted college students. The tool allows users to search AdmitSee's database for students who are similar to them, or ones who were admitted to an institution the user wants to apply to, and view their application materials. The company is now going a step further and specifically analyzing the essay data that they possess, looking to identify distinct patterns at the individual institutional level. Their analysis appears to reveal definite patterns in essay topics and terminology preferences, but these patterns vary sharply across institutions, even within selectivity groups.


NCES Updates (Teri Lyn Hinds)


On Monday, August 10, IPEDS launched a redesigned website with content organized to help the diverse users of the site most easily find the information they need. The new design features sections for students, parents, and guidance counselors (“Find Your College”), as well as for data users (“Use the Data”) and data reporters (“Report Your Data”). Also featured are the many ways that visitors can keep connected with IPEDS for updates and training opportunities. IPEDS welcomes constructive feedback, which can be emailed to The phone number is 202-502-7376.  


The Education Longitudinal Study of 2002 (ELS:2002), a nationally representative study of 10th graders in 2002 and 12th graders in 2004 who are followed through their postsecondary years, has been updated with postsecondary transcript data. Public-use ELS:2002 data can be accessed via the PowerStats tool in the NCES DataLab.


Emerging Topics


A Benchmark for Making College Affordable: The Rule of 10 (Teri Lyn Hinds)


Lumina Foundation, responding to increasing concern about college costs and student indebtedness, released a proposal for a new college affordability benchmark, based on how much students and families can pay. Admittedly and intentionally simplistic, the Rule of 10 posits that students should pay no more for college than the savings generated through 10 percent of discretionary income for 10 years plus the earnings from working 10 hours a week while in school. The Rule of 10 affordability benchmark is a student-centered model that begins with how much students can reasonably contribute, and Lumina intends it to serve as an indicator for how well our higher education system meets student financial needs.


Tracking Graduates into the Workforce: Connecting Education and Labor Market Data (Teri Lyn Hinds)


This report from the National Governors Association highlights three promising practices employed in Florida, Kentucky, and the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE) with Hawaii, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington to use longitudinal data systems to answer key questions about whether a state’s postsecondary education and training programs are achieving state goals. The report contains descriptions of each program, as well as cautions to consider when aligning state education and workforce systems, and when using these data to hold institutions and programs accountable.


Policy Watch


Private College and University Tuition Discount Rates Hit All-Time High (Wendy L. Weiler)


According to NACUBO’s annual tuition discount study published last month, private institutions reported increases in tuition discounting rates, extending a trend observed in the sector over recent years. In 2014-15, the average discount rate for college freshmen is estimated to have reached almost 50 percent, with all undergraduates at a discount rate of almost 42 percent. The report also finds that institutions provided more financial aid to a greater percentage of students than in the past. Finally, NACUBO notes that this pricing strategy has slowed net tuition growth and has not always resulted in enrollment gains for many in the sector. All 2014 statistics are based on preliminary estimates.


FAFSA Simplification (Zhao Yang & Teri Lyn Hinds)


An editorial in the New York Times recently summarized several efforts from some legislators and policy advisors for the Department of Education to simplify the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. Proposals range from reducing the FAFSA to two questions, (What is your family size? What was your household income two years ago?), to eliminating the form altogether and allowing families to check a box when filing their taxes to indicate they wish the data to be used to determine financial aid. Research suggests that simplifying the FAFSA would have little impact on final aid decisions, but would greatly increase the number of students applying. Simplification of the FAFSA has received considerable attention in the past year. The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators released a report from their FAFSA Working Group summarizing their concerns with some of the proposals to simplify the FAFSA. NASFAA also proposes a three-level application process, instead of the one-size-fits-all solutions suggested by others.


Published August 13, 2015


Reports and Tools


Driving Toward Greater Postsecondary Attainment Using Data (Zhao Yang)


The Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP) recently released a data tactical guidebook. The guidebook’s purpose is to support community-based collaborations on data-use among key sectors and to describe how some communities are using data effectively to advance postsecondary attainment. The guidebook also highlights the importance of leadership buy-in, user training, and understanding data systems that already exist in order to better integrate and house them. Separated into five chapters, the guidebook provides interviews with institutional and community leaders to support community efforts to improve educational outcomes by using data.


How MONEY Ranked Colleges: An In-Depth Look at Our Methodology (Christine Keller)


Money Magazine has released its 2015 Best Value College Rankings. In addition to its “value added” grade that considers which schools out- or under- perform on graduation rates, student loan defaults, and earnings, the magazine ranks schools on 21 factors in three equally weighted categories: educational quality, affordability, and alumni earnings. The ranking system also allows students and their families to create their own rankings based on individually selected criteria. The system poses interesting questions and implications for college affordability and the role of rankings and prestige symbols in higher education.


Investment over the Business Cycle: Insights from College Major Choice (Zhao Yang)


A recent economic study examines how unemployment rates shift students’ choices of majors – backing up conventional wisdom that in bad economic times students are more likely to select majors perceived as strongly linked to jobs, particularly high-paying jobs. Using the two national data sources, the American Community Survey and the Baccalaureate and Beyond Survey, from 1960 through 2011, the researchers found that when the unemployment rate goes up, men are more likely to shift to engineering, accounting, business, computer science and natural science, and shift away from education, liberal arts and history, literature and language, psychology and sociology. Women are more likely to shift to business (outside of finance), nursing, accounting, technical health fields, and computer-related fields, and shift away from education, literature and language, sociology, psychology, and liberal arts and history. The paper estimates that every 1-percent increase in unemployment rates produces a 3.2 percentage point reallocation of major choices for men, and a 4.1 percentage point reallocation for women. The impact of business cycles on the enrollment in STEM fields is also discussed.


Improving Assessment and Placement at Your College: A Tool for Institutional Researchers (Christine Keller)


As part of its practitioner packet on improving remedial placement, the Community College Research Center released a framework for understanding and improving assignment to developmental education for institutional researchers, drawing on extensive analysis by its researchers. When many students are misassigned to developmental education, completion rates for introductory college-level courses are lower than they would be otherwise, which has consequences for students’ progression toward a degree. The framework presents several approaches intended to increase the accuracy of placements and minimize the assignment errors.


The Condition of College & Career Readiness 2014: African American Students (Christine Keller)


A new report published by ACT and the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) finds that African American students are less likely to meet key benchmarks for college readiness, even when they successfully complete high-school coursework intended to prepare them for college. While progress has been made in increasing the educational attainment for African American students over the last several decades, significant disparities remain in their college preparedness. The report offers several recommendations for improving readiness among this demographic, such as increasing the rigor of high-school core courses, monitoring student performance in early grades, and using timely and reliable performance data to drive academic interventions for students who are off target. 


Credentials for All: An Imperative for SREB States (Christine Keller)


A new report, Credentials for All, from the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) proposes a variety of actions states can take to increase the number of students who hold a degree or credential by age 25. To create relevant career pathways and boost attainment, the report recommends aligning K-12 and postsecondary education with workforce demands, raising student expectations and standards so they are able to graduate ready for both college and careers, and defining career readiness in state policy. The report advocates for the use of federal funds to help reorganize and improve low-performing schools, creating a combination of incentives to encourage collaboration between school districts and community and technical colleges, and implementing accountability systems that recognize and reward schools and institutions that double the number of young adults who acquire postsecondary credentials and secure high-skill, high-wage jobs by age 25.


Updated: U.S. Department of Education College Affordability and Transparency Center


The Department of Education has updated the data and list of colleges and universities on its College Affordability and Transparency Center. The website allows users to identify which institutions have the highest and lowest tuition and net prices and to determine which institutions have the highest increases in tuition and fees, and net prices. The website also provides information on tuition and net prices across program type and discipline.


Postsecondary Institutions and Cost of Attendance in 2014-15; Degrees and Other Awards Conferred: 2013-14, and 12-Month Enrollment: 2013-14; First Look (Preliminary)


This new First Look report is a preliminary report of the data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) Fall 2014 collection, which included three survey components: Institutional Characteristics for the 2014-15 academic year, completions from July 1, 2013, to June 30, 2014, and data on 12-Month Enrollment for the 2013-14 academic year.


Emerging Topics


AEI Symposium: Matching All Students to Postsecondary Opportunities (Christine Keller)


A research conference hosted on August 4 by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), the College Board, and Seton Hall University in Washington D.C., convened education researchers and practitioners to focus on the topic of college choices and match. The conference featured eight new papers that expanded upon previous research of college “undermatching” - when high-achieving, low-income students enroll in colleges that are less selective than they are qualified to attend - and examined how institutional, state, and federal policies affect all students. Links to the papers and conference webcast can be found here.


Analyzing Trends in Pell Grant Recipients and Expenditures (Christine Keller)


In this article, Robert Kelchen summarizes key data and trends from the U.S. Department of Education’s recently released annual report on the federal Pell Grant program. Kelchen notes that, for the second year in a row, the number of Pell recipients fell, from 9.44 million in 2011-12 to 8.66 million in 2013-14, after a period of significant growth from 2008-2010. Kelchen cites two, recession-related reasons for the decrease in Pell recipients: workers who may have been students during the recession went back to work and thus stopped using Pell, and families who barely qualified for the Pell Grant during the recession no longer qualify after obtaining a better job. The article concludes with important trends in Pell expenditures and Pell receipts based on who attends community colleges and for-profit colleges. 


Analyzing Talent Flow: Identifying Opportunities for Improvement (Christine Keller)


A report released by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation (USCCF) describes an employer-driven approach to improve talent flows for critical jobs in key sectors (e.g., manufacturing, healthcare). Talent Flow Analysis is a process for describing and analyzing the flow of workers into and out of a targeted set of jobs that are most critical for the competitiveness of employers and the region in which they do business. The information is also designed to help students select the right program for their goals – including programs with clear and lucrative career pathways.


Increasing Community College Student Transfer Rates (Christine Keller)


Many have suggested that President Obama’s free community college initiative will drive up educational attainment. However, Adela Soliz argues in her article that reducing the cost of community college will increase educational attainment only if the initiative is paired with policies that improve student outcomes, such as persistence and transfer. Soliz explores the challenges of four-year degree completion among those who start at two-year institutions, critiquing known solutions such as transfer and articulation agreements and common course numbering. She maintains that while these current solutions are helpful, no one mechanism will be able to increase educational attainment along with reducing the cost of community college.


Performance Funding for Colleges: Research Roundup (Christine Keller)


Funding for colleges and universities continues to come under intense scrutiny. In at least 30 states, lawmakers have sought to improve institutional effectiveness by creating policies that reward or penalize public colleges or universities based on whether they reach certain goals — for example, boosting their graduation rates. Studies of the benefits and repercussions of performance-based funding policies offer mixed results on its effectiveness. This article provides background and links to a sampling of the research on performance funding.


Policy Watch


Higher Education Act Reauthorization: Senate Hearings


The U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) recently held three hearings on HEA reauthorization. Links to the webcasts and copies of the witnesses’ testimony are below.


Obama College Ratings Plan to Include Graduates’ Earning Data


A July 28 article in the Huffington Post cites efforts by the Obama administration to provide information on how much a college’s graduates earn and how often students receive a degree as part of the President’s college ratings project. According to the article, the inclusion of this data seeks to address a current limitation in the Department of Education’s data collection: Current graduation data excludes a large number of students.


Published July 15, 2015


Reports and Tools


The Condition of College and Career Readiness – First Generation Students (Teri Lyn Hinds)


The Condition of College & Career Readiness 2014 is ACT’s annual report on the college and career readiness of the graduating class based on students who took the ACT. In 2014, 57% of the high school graduating class completed the ACT, continuing a rising trend from the past several years. The report includes data on the preparedness of first-generation students – defined as students whose parents did not enroll in postsecondary education – compared to all students, as well as the performance of students by parental educational attainment. Generally, students whose parents achieved higher educational attainment perform better on the ACT and complete more core courses meeting ACT standards for college readiness. These patterns persist when looking at data from 8th and 10th grade students.


Beyond Financial Aid – How colleges can strengthen the financial stability of low-income students and improve outcomes (Zhao Yang)


The goal of this report from Lumina Foundation is to provide strategies and an assessment plan for institutions to aid in meeting their commitment to producing more equitable educational outcomes by improving efforts to reduce financial hardships among low-income students. The report presents six strategies that can help institutions address the broader financial needs of low-income students.  These strategies include: knowing the low-income students at your institution by reviewing quantitative and qualitative data; providing support to overcome practical barriers, e.g., creating easy access to public benefits; leveraging external partnerships for service delivery on campus; reviewing institutional internal processes; empowering students to use available resources; strengthening the academic progression of all students.  In order to guide each institution – with its unique mix of culture, priorities, resources and efforts – to better address these strategies, a self-assessment guide is included to foster dialogue and development of an action plan.


National Student Clearinghouse Reports (Teri Lyn Hinds)


The National Student Clearinghouse released a new Snapshot report on Degree Pathways and a Signature Report on Transfer & Mobility this month. The Snapshot report includes data on the types of institutions student enroll at while completing their degrees, and finds that of the nearly half million students earning associate degrees that were reported to the Clearinghouse in 2008-09, 41% went on to complete a bachelor’s degree within six years. Average time to bachelor’s degree completion is also reported. The Signature report provides a broader and deeper look at the transfer patterns of students who started college in 2008. In keeping with the message from the Snapshot report, the role of community colleges in students’ pathways is highlighted, specifically that most students who transfer from a community college to a four-year institutions do not earn a credential before transferring. Additionally, students are shown to frequently transfer across state lines – nearly one in five  transfers who started in two-year institutions, and nearly a quarter of transfers from four-year institutions – and that students who vary between full- and part-time enrollment are the most mobile. Data detailing transfer patterns between types of institution – 2-year, 4-year, public, private-non-profit, and private-for-profit – are included in the report.


The Relationship Between Education and Work Credentials (Teri Lyn Hinds)


Using data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP), a nationally representative sample survey of households, on professional licenses and certificates, this data point examines the relationship between individual educational attainment and work credentials, defined as occupational license and certifications. The findings reveal that credential rates generally rise with education level, but vary substantially by field. Health care is the most common field for work credentials, followed by education and the trades, though a higher proportion of work credentials in education and health care are held by those with higher educational attainment, while the opposite is true of the trades.


2013-14 Federal Pell Grant Program End of Year Report


The Department of Education has released the 2013-14 Federal Pell Grant Program End of Year Report, which presents primary aspects of Federal Pell Grant Program activity for the 2013-2014 award year. The report consists of tables and charts with information on Pell Grant activity broken out by student characteristics and geography.


New American Community Survey Website


The American Community Survey, an ongoing annual survey used to generate data to help determine how federal and state funds are distributed, has a new website, including expanded tools for helping users interact with ACS data.


Emerging Trends


Connecting Credentials: A Beta Credentials Framework (Teri Lyn Hinds)


The Lumina Foundation announced Connecting Credentials: A Beta Credentials Framework as a way to both foster and further conversation regarding definitions of a broader range of post-secondary credentials than bachelor’s and associate degrees. In an approach similar to their Degree Qualifications Profile, Connecting Credentials builds on competencies as a common reference point between academia and employers to describe what holders of degrees, certificates, industry certifications, licenses, apprenticeships, badges, and other credentials can do. Competencies are broken into knowledge and skills, which is further subdivided into specialized skills, personal skills, and social skills. Eight knowledge and skill levels are defined within the beta framework, which is intended to a tool that will be improved regularly based on input from users.


Understanding PhD Career Pathways for Program Improvement (Teri Lyn Hinds)


This report from the Council of Graduate Schools explores how the graduate education community might deepen its knowledge of the career pathways of PhD holders. The report summarizes the current state of the study and practice of collecting and using information about career pathways at the doctoral level in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), humanities, and social science fields. It includes the results of a CGS administered survey of graduate deans at doctoral-granting institutions in the US and Canada. The information collected served as background for discussion at a workshop hosted by CGS in September of 2014. The report, the survey of deans, and the workshop represent the three main components of a study determining the feasibility of a larger project to develop standards, definitions, procedures, and practices in collecting information on career pathways of PhD holders and for using this information to inform improvements of graduate programs.


Policy Watch


Helping families navigate their higher education options (Teri Lyn Hinds)


This blog post from the Department of Education describes a change in course for President Obama’s Postsecondary Institutional Ratings System, due to be released this fall. Largely in response to industry concerns regarding the availability and appropriateness of data to create a high-stakes ratings system that could fairly balance the diverse needs of students and institutional missions, ED has moved to a focus on providing easy-to-use tools and more data than has previously been available to students to help them compare college costs and outcomes. The data will include “many important metrics that have not been published before”, though no details are provided as to which metrics or what data they will be based on.


Federal and State Funding of Higher Education – A Changing Landscape (Zhao Yang)


This issue brief from The Pew Charitable Trusts reviews the changing funding levels and focus on higher education from state and federal governments.  Declining state spending has occurred at the same time the federal investment has been growing, resulting in current funding levels from each source being more equal than at any time in at least the previous two decades.  The issue brief provides a data summary and comments to compare the federal vs. state funding for students, research grants, and loan amounts.  A discussion of debates and decisions for federal and state policymakers to consider is also included. 


Published June 11, 2015


Reports and Tools


Educational Attainment: Understanding the Data (Teri Lyn Hinds)


Determining whether the number of Americans with college credentials is sufficient to meet the needs of the labor market, understanding gaps in attainment across demographic groups, and evaluating the success of people with different characteristics and in different circumstances in meeting their educational goals all depend on gathering and interpreting appropriate information. This report from the George Washington University Graduate School of Education and Human Development synthesizes numerous data sources that provide educational attainment information, clarifies ambiguities between the data sources, and answers key questions about attainment, such as the differences in rates by state, racial, and ethnic groupings, or age, as well as determining the size of the gender gap in STEM degree attainment. A discussion of common pitfalls when working with educational attainment data is included.


First Destinations for the College Class of 2014 (Christine Keller)


The results of an inaugural first-destination survey were released by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), with more than 200 colleges and universities participating. The survey was the first national instrument designed to obtain outcomes data of new college graduates using uniform standards for data collection and reporting. Outcomes collected include full- or part-time employment, military service, continuing education, and actively seeking employment or continuing education. The results show that 62 percent of new college graduates were employed full- or part-time and 16 percent were enrolled in graduate or professional education. Another 18 percent were still seeking employment or continuing education.


NCES Updates: The Condition of Education 2015 and 2008/2012 Baccalaureate and Beyond Longitudinal Study


The Condition of Education 2015 summarizes important developments and trends in education using the latest available data from the National Center of Education Statistics. The report presents 42 indicators on the status and condition of education. The indicators represent a consensus of professional judgment on the most significant national measures of the condition and progress of education for which accurate data are available. In addition, three spotlight indicators are featured that describe selected issues of current policy interest.

The 2008/2012 Baccalaureate and Beyond Longitudinal Study (B&B:08/12) is the second follow-up of a panel of baccalaureate degree recipients identified in the 2007–2008 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS:08). Four years after these students’ graduation from college, the 2012 study focuses on respondents’ post-baccalaureate education and employment. The executive summary includes basic information about the following aspects of the study: sample design, interview design, interview data collection, administrative data collection, data file processing and preparation, and weighting and variance estimation. The final 2008-2012 data files are available for analysis in QuickStats and PowerStats, as well as through the NCES restricted-use data licensing program.


Emerging Trends


Moving the Needle on Student Analytics (Teri Lyn Hinds)


Technology makes it possible for colleges and universities to be increasingly more sophisticated in their capacity to collect, store, and mine data pertaining to student learning. This Quick Hit paper from the American Council on Education explores several innovative pathways to help institutions develop the skills to make meaning from these rich sources and to use them to design interventions to improve student success. The report clarifies terminology, briefly discusses some of the complications of using analytics on campus, and explores several emerging solutions, including the Predictive Analytics Reporting (PAR) Network, Degree Compass, Civitas Learning, the Education Advisory Board’s Student Success Collaborative, and the Student Success Plan. Suggestions for next steps from pioneers in this area close the report.


Reverse Transfer: The Path Less Traveled (Zhao Yang)


In this policy brief, the Education Commission of the States explores how states and institutions might better use reverse transfer policies to increase student attainment. Reverse transfer is an emerging process for retroactively awarding an associate degree to students who transferred to a four-year institution before earning the credits necessary to earn an associate degree, but later earn enough credits at the four-year institution. Reverse transfer can provide an option for awarding a credential to the more than 31 million students who left higher education with some credits but without a degree or certificate, and potentially open the path to higher wages for these individuals. Fifteen states have reverse transfer policies, though some have found the logistics of transferring credit back to the two-year institution difficult. The Reverse Transfer Project (RTP), currently being piloted in three states, was initiated in collaboration with the National Student Clearinghouse (NSC) to overcome some of the logistical challenges and facilitate gathering the data necessary to complete reverse transfer.


The Debt Divide: The Racial and Class Bias Behind the “New Normal” of Student Borrowing (Teri Lyn Hinds)


The Debt Divide, a report from Demos, provides a comprehensive look at how the “new normal” of debt-financed college impacts the entire pipeline of decision-making related to college. This includes: whether to attend college at all, what type of institution to attend, and whether to complete a degree, as well as what to do for a living and whether to save for retirement or buy a home. Using data from three U.S. Department of Education surveys, the Federal Reserve’s 2013 Survey of Consumer Finances, and existing academic literature, the authors posit that the debt-financed approach to higher education disadvantages low-income students and students of color, and may have impacts that reach beyond campus to include rates of home ownership and retirement savings.


Policy Watch


Years of Cuts Threaten to Put College Out of Reach for More Students (Zhao Yang)


This report written by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a nonpartisan research and policy institute, examines data on state-level funding for higher education. The analysis shows that 47 states are spending less per student in the 2014-2015 school year than they did before the beginning of the recession (2007-2008). The reductions from state appropriations have driven up tuition in many institutions and may compromise the quality of education. The cost shift potentially harms more low-income students and their families by increasing their debt levels and reducing their chances of successfully graduating, which, in turn, further jeopardizes both students’ and states’ economic futures. The report recommends state policymakers balance between tax cuts and investments in higher education for future job growth.


House and Senate Submit Letters to Secretary Duncan Urging ED to Authorize Use of “Prior-Prior Year” Data for the FAFSA


Both chambers of Congress sent letters to Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan urging the Department to “use its authority under Section 480(a) of the Higher Education Act to allow the use of data from the second preceding tax year, also known as ‘prior-prior year’ data” to encourage more families to file their FAFSA earlier, speed processing of financial aid determinations for students and their families, and alleviate burden on colleges and universities by allowing more time for data verification.


Higher Education Act (HEA) Reauthorization Updates


U.S. Senate Committee on Health Education Labor & Pensions (HELP) – June 3 Hearing

The Senate HELP committee held a hearing on HEA reauthorization on June 3 titled “Reauthorizing the Higher Education Act: Ensuring College Affordability.” The webcast and copies of the witnesses’ testimony can be found on the HELP committee website.

Postsecondary Data Collaborative Compiles Comments on Senate HELP Committee White Paper on Consumer Information

The Postsecondary Data Collaborative (PostsecData), a coalition of organizations committed to the use of high-quality postsecondary data to improve student outcomes, coordinated a response to the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions' (HELP) white paper on consumer information.


Published May 11, 2015


Reports and Tools


Snapshot Report: Persistence-Retention (Teri Lyn Hinds)


In their latest Snapshot Report, the National Student Clearinghouse reports that the overall persistence rate (students who return to college at any institution for their second year) for students who entered college in Fall 2013 was 1.0 percentage points higher than that of students who entered college in Fall 2012, while the retention rate (students who return to the same institution for their second year) increased by 1.1 percentage points. Of all students who started college in Fall 2013, 69.6% returned to college at any U.S. institution in Fall 2014, and 59.3% returned to the same institution. For the included years, the overall persistence rate is about 11 percentage points higher, on average, than the retention rate. Thus, about one in nine students who start college in any fall term, transfer to a different institution by the following fall. The full report includes breakdowns by age and institution type.


Education Longitudinal Study of 2002 (ELS:2002): A First Look at the Postsecondary Transcripts of 2002 High School Sophomores (Teri Lyn Hinds)


The Education Longitudinal Study of 2002 (ELS:2002) tracks the educational and developmental experiences of a nationally representative sample of United States high school students who were sophomores during Spring 2002. This First Look report provides a descriptive portrait of their postsecondary education experiences through the end of the 2012-13 academic year by using information obtained during the postsecondary transcript data collection conducted in 2013–14. Selected findings are generally based on the 84% of Spring 2002 high school sophomores who had at least some postsecondary enrollment as of the 2012-13 academic year. Of those, attainment rates were higher for students whose 10th-grade reading assessment score was higher and for those students who earned more college credits during their first year of enrollment. Forty-one percent of students attended a four-year institution only, 28% attended a two-year institution only, and 25% attended a combination of both two-year and four-year institutions.


Digest of Education Statistics 2013 (Christine Keller)


The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) has released the Digest of Education Statistics, 2013. The Digest provides a compilation of statistical information covering the broad field of education from prekindergarten through graduate school. The Digest contains data on a variety of topics, including the number of schools and colleges, teachers, enrollments, and graduates as well as educational attainment, finances, and federal funds for education, libraries, and international comparisons. A key finding from the 2013 Digest shows an increase in educational attainment in the U.S. The percentage of young adults who had completed high school rose from 87% in 2003 to 90% in 2013. During the same time period, the percentage of young adults with a bachelor’s or higher degree increased from 28% to 34%.

From College to Jobs: Making Sense of Labor Market Returns to Higher Education (Teri Lyn Hinds)

From College to Jobs: Making Sense of Labor Market Returns to Higher Education, a report from the Aspen Institute, addresses the question of postsecondary education value by looking at returns to higher education in the labor market. While college graduates’ labor market outcomes, defined in the report as the rate of employment and accompanying earnings, reflect only part of the value conferred by higher education, it is an investment that everyone hopes will pay off for both students and communities in terms of economic strength and quality of life. Presenting eight short papers by leading experts in the field, this report provides perspectives from analysts on the trends, technical challenges, and potential benefits associated with using labor market outcomes data to assess the value of postsecondary education. Among the findings are that students who follow different paths to the same degree sometimes have different outcomes; completion of clusters of courses may provide significant returns even without completion of a degree; and some credentials that do not appear to have value when viewed alone contribute to greater value when assessed as part of a collection of credentials.


The Economic Value of College Majors (Christine Keller)


The Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce released a new report analyzing the annual earnings of college graduates across 137 college majors. The report confirms the economic benefits that accrue from a college degree - nearly $1 million over a lifetime. However, the difference in lifetime earnings between the highest-paid college majors and the lowest-paid is even larger, more than $3 million. This demonstrates that, on average, bachelor’s degrees pay off, but the economic returns vary greatly among majors. The report includes an online, interactive tool that allows users to navigate through all 137 detailed majors’ earnings by degree attainment and popularity. Users can identify the median career earnings by state and compare to national data.

Annual Updates to Stronger Nation (Lumina Foundation), State Higher Education Finance (SHEEO), and Postsecondary Education Aspirations and Barriers (Gallup/Lumina Foundation) (Teri Lyn Hinds)

Annual updates for Lumina Foundation’s A Stronger Nation Through Higher Education, SHEEO’s State Higher Education Finance (SHEF) report, and Gallup & the Lumina Foundation’s Postsecondary Education Aspirations and Barriers (PDF) survey were released this month.

  • In the 2015 update to A Stronger Nation, Lumina reports a modest increase (0.5 percentage points) in the U.S. higher education attainment rate (40%) for the year but notes that the rate of increase since 2008 is insufficient to reach Goal 2025 (60%).
  • Key highlights from the 2015 update to the SHEF report include overall increases in state and local funding for higher education in 2014, but total funding at levels still below those from 2008-2011, as well as, for the first time since the recession, reduced shares of overall funding for public and private higher education from tuition.
  • Gallup and Lumina’s survey found that though the economy has improved, most U.S. adults say that a degree will be just as important or even more important in the future to get a good job, but that the majority of respondents feel that higher education is not affordable for everyone who needs it and that graduates are not always well prepared for success in the workplace.

Emerging Trends


Beyond College Rankings: A Value-added Approach to Assessing Two- and Four-year Schools (Teri Lyn Hinds)


Drawing on government and private sources, the Brookings Institute’s Beyond College Rankings analyzes the difference between actual alumni outcomes (like salaries) and the outcomes one would expect given a student’s characteristics and the type of institution. The value-added measures introduced in the report are available for a much larger number of schools than other rankings; focus on the factors that best predict measurable economic outcomes; and attempt to isolate the effect colleges themselves have on those outcomes, above and beyond what students’ backgrounds would predict. The analyses draw on both public and private data sources and identify five key college quality factors: curriculum value; alumni skills; STEM orientation; completion rates; and student aid. The full report and data, along with an interactive data explorer, are available from the Brookings website.


Policy Watch


Crowded Out: The Outlook for State Higher Education Spending (Teri Lyn Hinds)


Prepared for the National Commission on Financing 21st Century Higher Education, Crowded Out: The Outlook for State Higher Education Spending (PDF) contains the results of Moody’s Analytics baseline state funding projections for higher education, derived from underlying measures of economic growth which incorporates historical state government spending data with Moody’s Analytics proprietary models for state tax revenue and Medicaid spending. Over the past several decades, mandatory spending programs, specifically Medicaid, are requiring more and more state funds, which in the zero-sum world of state spending, has left fewer and fewer dollars for other programs. Higher education funding has borne the brunt of much of this crowding out, falling from around 14% of state-sourced spending in the late 1980s to just over 12% today. Moody’s baseline forecasts show that trend continuing throughout the next decade and beyond. Summaries of the results and multiple appendices are available in the full report PDF.


Higher Education Act (HEA) Reauthorization Updates


U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training – March 17 and April 30 Hearings

Two hearings on HEA reauthorization were held by the subcommittee recently: the first held March 17, entitled Strengthening America’s Higher Education System; and the second held April 30, entitled Improving College Access and Completion for Low-Income and First-Generation Students. The webcasts and copies of the witnesses’ testimony can be found on the subcommittee website.

U.S. Senate Committee on Health Education Labor and Pensions (HELP) – May 6 Hearing

The first full committee hearing on HEA reauthorization was held May 6 and entitled The Role of Consumer Information in College Choice. The webcast and copies of the witnesses’ testimony can be found on the HELP committee website.

Analysis of IPEDS Reporting Burden from New America Foundation

The report finds that schools spend nearly 1 million hours annually preparing responses for the IPEDS surveys. The author makes a case for the removal of the ban against the Department of Education creating a student unit-record data system (SURDS), implemented in the last reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEOA, 2008) so that this burden can be reduced by an estimated 65%. The analysis is largely addressed to Senator Lamar Alexander, chair of the Senate Higher Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee and was released just prior to the May 6 hearing.

Postsecondary Data Collaborative Provides Recommendations to Improve Postsecondary Data

On April 24, the Postsecondary Data Collaborative (PostsecData) submitted a letter with seven specific recommendations as a response to the U. S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions' (HELP) white paper on consumer information. The PostsecData Collaborative is a coalition of organizations committed to the use of high-quality postsecondary data to improve student outcomes.




Published April 7, 2015


Reports and Tools


Contribution of Two-Year Institutions to Four-Year Completions (Teri Lyn Hinds)


In its most recent Snapshot Report, the National Student Clearinghouse reports on the percentage of students completing degrees at four-year institutions who were enrolled at two-year institution within the previous 10 years by state. Results reveal that in 14 states more than half of four-year degree recipients attended a two-year institution. Nearly 40% of graduates had attended a two-year institution 2-3 years prior to receiving their degree and over one-fifth of students were enrolled at a two-year institution for only a single term. A link to download the state-level data is provided in the report.


Engagement Rising: A Decade of CCSSE Data Shows Improvements Across the Board (Teri Lyn Hinds)


Findings from more than 10 years of the Center for Community College Student Engagement survey administrations show consistent, continuous improvement in community college student engagement. Engagement Rising reports national results from between 2004 to 2014 from 853 public two-year colleges across the nation which served nearly 6.4 million students, 85% of U.S. community college students. Results are disaggregated by full- and part-time students and developmental and non-developmental students. Engagement is generally higher for full-time students as compared to part-time students, and for developmental students as compared to non-developmental students; however, the less-engaged group in both cases is becoming more engaged at a faster rate


First Destination for the College Class of 2014: Preliminary Results (Teri Lyn Hinds)


In January 2014, the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) published standards and protocols for collecting, analyzing, and reporting graduate outcomes to allow use of the same definitions, time frames, and parameters across institutions and creating capacity for data from participating institutions to be aggregated for meaningful trends analysis. Outcomes data were collected from Class of 2014 graduates by 98 participating undergraduate degree-granting colleges and universities and preliminary results, based on a 64.7% response rate are provided in this report. Two thirds of both associate and bachelor’s degree recipients reported that they were employed, though nearly 20% of bachelor’s degree recipients were still seeking employment. One quarter of associate degree recipients and 17% of bachelor’s degree recipients were continuing their education. The report provides break outs of the survey questions by institutional type and geographic region. Final results, which will include more-refined benchmarks by Carnegie Classification, school size, and academic program, will be available in June 2015.


Stats In Brief: What is the Price of College? Total, Net, and Out-of-Pocket Prices by Type of Institution in 2011-12 (Christine Keller)


This US Department of Education publication describes college costs for students using three measures:  average total price of attendance, average net price of attendance after grants, and average out-of-pocket net price.  The national cost figures are provided for public 2-year and 4-year institutions as well as for-profit and private nonprofit 4-year institutions.  The information is based on the 2011-12 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS:12).


State Online College Job Market: Ranking the States (Christine Keller)


A new study from the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce analyzes the labor market for college graduates on a state-by-state basis using online job ads. The report ranks the states by how many job openings there are per college-educated worker overall and within industries and career fields.  For example, college graduates have the best odds of finding managerial and professional jobs in Massachusetts, Delaware, and Washington states; and find the greatest challenges in West Virginia, Mississippi, and South Carolina.


Emerging Trends


Achievement Gap Narrows as High School Graduation Rates for Minority Students Improve Faster than Rest of Nation (Zhao Yang)


New data released from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) shows that high school graduation rates for black and Hispanic students increased by nearly 4 percentage points from 2011 to 2013. The rate of increase outpaced the growth for all students in the nation, narrowing the gap between white students and black and Hispanic students receiving high school diplomas for the past two years.  The overall U.S. high school graduation rate hit 81% in 2012-13, the highest level in history.  This trend will impact higher education enrollment and student demographics.


The Chronicle of Higher Education Trends Report (Zhao Yang)


In this report, The Chronicle of Higher Education provides ten key shifts in the higher education landscape, which can be deemed as either challenges or opportunities for colleges. The trends not only cover traditional topics such as retention and teaching, but also provide solutions and practices implemented by other institutions on topics such as social media and donations from millennial students.  A selection of recent “hot topics” in higher education, such as battles with boards of trustees and unbundling of educational and auxiliary services for students, are also discussed. (A Chronicle subscription is required to view full report; select sections are available without subscription)


Policy Watch


State-by-State Fact Sheets: Higher Education Cuts Jeopardize Students’ and States’ Economic Future (Teri Lyn Hinds)


Public colleges and universities in 48 states have experienced major cuts in state funding since the Great Recession hit. These fact sheets, created by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, show that funding cuts have often been accompanied by tuition hikes and cuts in campus staff and programs that the Center argues may reduce the quality of education for students. Each fact sheet details the amount of funding cuts per student and the change in tuition costs between 2008 and 2014 for four-year public colleges and universities within the state.


Extra Financial Scrutiny for 550 Colleges by the US Department of Education (Christine Keller)


In late March, the U.S. Department of Education released a list of 550 colleges that will operate under restrictive conditions because of concerns over their management of federal financial aid. Undersecretary of Education Ted Mitchell discusses heightened cash monitoring and its role in the Department’s accountability and transparency efforts in a recent Homeroom blog post.  This article by The Chronicle of Higher Education explains why the colleges were flagged, the constraints faced by the colleges in dispersing financial aid, and the implications for students who are considering attending one of the colleges. 


Announcement of PostsecData Collaborative Website (Christine Keller)


The Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP) unveiled a new website for the PostsecData Collaborative - an initiative that advocates for high-quality postsecondary education data to improve student outcomes and education equity.   The website displays the work of the Collaborative and contains a variety of postsecondary data resources and reports, including information on voluntary data initiatives, national data collections, and policy briefs.


Published March 11, 2015


Reports and Tools


What About the Non-Completers? The Labor Market Returns to Progress in Community College (Teri Lyn Hinds)


This working paper from the Center for Analysis of Postsecondary Education and Employment (CAPSEE) explores the labor market returns to non-completers, who comprise the majority of students enrolled in community colleges, and compares the returns to those of program completers. Transcript data from North Carolina Community College System, data from the National Student Clearinghouse, and wage records from the North Carolina Department of Commerce Unemployment Insurance were used to conduct the analysis. The analysis found that awards and fields that are relatively lucrative for completers are also lucrative for non-completers, but by a smaller margin. The study also found that students who are further along in a program have no better outcomes than students with general college credits.


Completing College: A State-Level View of Student Attainment Rates (Zhao Yang)


The National Student Clearinghouse released Completing College: A State-level View of Student Attainment Rates, a state-level supplement to its national report A National View of Student Attainment Rates – Fall 2008 Cohort (2014). The supplemental report focuses on six-year student outcomes and college completion at the state level, presenting the results by institution type (four-year public, two-year public, four-year private nonprofit), student enrollment intensity (full-time, exclusively part-time, and mixed enrollment), age, and gender. Among the findings, 13 percent of students who started at four-year public institutions completed their degrees at a different institution, and one in three students starting at two-year public institutions completed at an institution other than the one where they started. The report provides evidence that tracking students who started college in one state and completed in another state would substantially increase overall degree completion rates for four-year public and private non-profit institutions as well.


The American Freshman: National Norms of Fall 2014 (Zhao Yang)


The Cooperative Institutional Research Program (CIRP) released its 2014 Freshman Norms report in early February. Administered at the Higher Education Research Institute (HERI) at UCLA, CIRP is the largest and longest-running survey of American college students. The 2014 Norms include responses from more than 150,000 first-time, full-time students beginning their studies at 227 four-year institutions of various levels of selectivity and type in the U.S. The report found that students enrolling in the least-selective institutions are most likely to transfer. It also raised questions on how the proposed college rating system from the Department of Education could impact less-selective institutions. Other findings revealed that more students are planning to pursue graduate degrees and that fewer students spent time partying and using alcohol and cigarettes than in previous years.


Driving Better Outcomes: Typology and Principles to Inform Outcomes-Based Funding Models (Christine Keller)


A recent analysis from HCM Strategists provides a comprehensive overview of state performance funding policies across the country and classifies them based on the alignment of state-level finance policy to postsecondary completion goals. The typology distinguishes among funding models based on the degree to which they incorporate best practices and address key elements such as funding levels and difference among the sectors. According to the report, only a small number of states have created and aligned their finance policies with the goals of increasing student achievement and closing equity gaps. Recommendations for better alignment to support student attainment include providing more transparent information about funding policies and formulas, communicating within the context of student success, supporting institutions during implementation, and evaluating and advancing best practices as they emerge.


Making Skills Everyone's Business: A Call to Transform Adult Learning in the United States (Teri Lyn Hinds)


In Making Skills Everyone’s Business, The Department of Education Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education combines analysis and information from the departments of Labor, Commerce, Education, and Health and Human Services from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) Survey of Adult Skills, released in October 2013 to provide a summary of the skill levels of U.S. adults that examines the impact of low-skilled adults on the economy and society. The results of this analysis are presented, along with a three-part call-to-action and strategies to address the issues identified. The strategies are intended to create necessary infrastructure and delivery modes to meet the goals of expanding access, closing achievement gaps, assisting workers to advance, and transitioning learners to credit-bearing postsecondary or occupational training.


Emerging Trends


The Currency of Higher Education: Credits and Competencies (Teri Lyn Hinds)


The Currency of Higher Education posits that, while the credit-hour is likely to remain dominant in higher education, there is ample opportunity for innovation with competencies in parallel and complementary processes. The report is the result of four roundtable discussions held by the American Council on Education (ACE) and Blackboard designed to discern the main areas of interest and potential gaps faced by higher education competency-based education (CBE) stakeholders. The paper focuses on the complexity of implementing CBE practices in the credit hour environment, reflecting challenges that surfaced in the roundtable discussions. New opportunities are also explored that illustrate how competencies can provide broad value in educational processes, not only as a means of documenting student achievement, but also to create meaningful connections between jobseekers and employers, for faculty and staff development, and for economic development.


Policy Watch


Governors’ Top Education Issues: 2015 State of the State Addresses (Teri Lyn Hinds)


The Education Commission of the States summarized the education proposals and accomplishments in 37 State of the State addresses to highlight trends across the country. The report identifies six top education priorities for governors for 2015 and presents specific themes within each. The priorities are focused primarily on PK12 education, in particular early learning, school finance, school choice, and teaching quality, but also emphasizes workforce development and career and technical education as well as postsecondary funding affordability and access. Eleven states indicated the training of a qualified, skilled workforce that meets employer needs was a top priority, and at least 15 outlined proposals related to postsecondary funding, affordability, and access.


Published February 12, 2015


Reports and Tools


The Carnegie Unit: A Century-Old Standard in a Changing Education Landscape (Zhao Yang)


This report by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching examines the role of the Carnegie Unit, more commonly called the credit hour, in the fast-changing world of education, specifically examining the impacts of technology, adult learning, and distance learning. The Carnegie Unit has been widely used in elementary and secondary schools and in higher education as a common method to measure contact hours, faculty workload, and logistics. The report explores reforms at institutions to allow greater flexibility for students, issues with federal financial aid, and criticism of the Carnegie Unit for failures to recognize student learning outcomes (as opposed to seat-time). The report suggests directions for the development of standards and assessments that could address the weaknesses of the Carnegie Unit.


Indicators of Higher Education Equity in the United States (Teri Lyn Hinds)


This report describes the status of higher education equity in the United States, including identifying changes over time in measures, and identifies policies and practices that promote and hinder progress in closing equity gaps. The report focuses on income-related inequities and presents six Equity Indicators spanning from who enrolls in which types of institutions, to financial aid and how students pay for college, to degree-attainment rates. All indicators are presented with a rich array of national data from a variety of sources including IPEDS and the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS) from the Department of Education, the Current Population Survey (CPS) from the U.S. Census Bureau, and the National Income and Product Accounts (NIPA) from the Bureau of Economic Analysis. The report concludes with a pair of essays establishing the need to attend to education inequity and strategies to do so.


Falling Short? College Learning and Career Success (Zhao Yang)


This report summarizes the results of an annual survey conducted on behalf of the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) regarding career and workforce preparation. The survey includes responses from 400 employers as well as, for the first time, a companion online survey completed by 613 college seniors at public and private two- and four-year institutions. The employer results show concern about the level of new employee skills in communication, critical thinking, and teamwork and are consistent with results of previous surveys. Comparison of these findings to the student survey reveals large gaps between employer evaluation of these skills and students’ self-scores. Employers and students were closest in agreement on their ratings of new employees’ ability to “stay current on technologies.” Contrary to common assumptions, the survey finds that employers believe it is more important for employees to have a broad, general college education and knowledge than to be trained in specific skills.


Grapevine Updated to Fiscal Year 2014-2015 (Teri Lyn Hinds)


The results of the Grapevine survey for fiscal year 2014-2015 (FY15), including tax and non-tax monies, are compiled in the national tables available on the Grapevine website. Since 1960, Grapevine has published annual compilations of data on state tax support for higher education, including general fund appropriations for universities, colleges, community colleges, and state higher-education agencies. Each year’s Grapevine survey asks states for tax appropriations data for the new fiscal year and for revisions (if any) to data reported in previous years. The FY15 data represent initial allocations and estimates reported by the states from September through December of 2014 and are subject to change. Unlike Grapevine reports issued prior to fiscal year 2009-2010, the data from the survey for FY15 include only state totals, not appropriations figures for individual colleges and universities.


Academic Library Contributions to Student Success: Documented Practices from the Field (Christine Keller)


The Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) released a new report (PDF), which synthesizes results from over 70 higher-education institutions from across North America that recently completed team-based assessment projects. These projects, from the first year of Assessment in Action: Academic Libraries and Student Success (AiA), resulted in promising and effective approaches to demonstrating the library’s value to students’ academic success. For example, library instruction contributes to the retention and persistence of students in first-year experiences courses. When the AiA project concludes in 2016, over 200 higher-education Cinstitutions will have participated in developing assessment methods and tools.


Common Education Data Standards (CEDS) Version 5 released (Teri Lyn Hinds)


The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) announced the release of Common Education Data Standards (CEDS) Version 5. CEDS is a national collaborative effort to develop voluntary, common data standards for a key set of education data elements in order to streamline the exchange, comparison, and understanding of data within and across P-20W institutions and sectors. CEDS Version 5 includes a broad scope of elements spanning much of the P-20W spectrum and includes nearly 250 new and updated data elements and 1,580 unique elements. Version 5 of CEDS can be found on the CEDS website. On the home page, there is a "What's New V5" video that explains some of the Version 5 updates.


Emerging Trends


Optimizing Reverse Transfer Policies and Processes: Lessons from Twelve CWID States (Teri Lyn Hinds)


In 2012, five foundations launched the Credit When It’s Due (CWID) initiative designed to encourage partnerships between community colleges and universities to expand “reverse transfer” programs that award students associate degrees while pursuing continued bachelor studies. In this paper (PDF), the Office of Community College Research and Leadership at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign describes changes that are occurring at the state, system, and institution levels with implementation of reverse transfer in 12 states that were awarded CWID grants. The authors highlight the need for leaders of state systems and institutions to understand how reverse transfer policies and processes impact potentially eligible students and also suggest that leaders think broadly about how all transfer students may be affected by system changes aligned with reverse transfer.


Policy Watch


Top 10 Higher Education State Policy Issues for 2015 (Zhao Yang)


For the ninth year, the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) released its Policy Matters Brief, Top 10 Higher Education State Policy Issues for 2015 (PDF). New policy issues identified for 2015 are campus sexual assault and free community college. Issues that have risen in priority from previous years are tuition policy and guns on campus. Other top issues for 2015 include state appropriations for higher education, vocational and technical education, and undocumented students. The changes in issues and priorities reflect the shifting landscapes and politics of higher education as the economic turbulence of the recession subsides.


Frequently Asked Questions About President Obama’s Free Community College Proposal (Teri Lyn Hinds)


Before the State of the Union Address, President Obama announced his proposal to make community college tuition free for all students who maintained good grades and attended at least half-time. The proposal is based in large part on a similar initiative in Tennessee – the Tennessee Promise. The Wisconsin Hope Lab compiled a set of 10 frequently asked questions (PDF) about the President’s proposal and how it would impact Pell Grants, student access and success, funding for the program, and burden on community colleges.Published


January 14, 2015




 Reports and Tools


State Report Cards – Student Impact (Teri Lyn Hinds)


As part of the Student Impact Project, Young Invincibles (a young adult advocacy group) has released online report cards evaluating a variety of higher-education finance factors for each of the 50 states. Each state has been issued a letter grade ranging from A to F on Tuition, Spending per Student, Burden on Families, State Aid to Students, Education as a State Priority, and an aggregate final grade. The report card website also includes additional data and features for many of the states. While there is wide variance among states and across grading categories, these report cards suggest that all states have work to do to improve affordability for students.


Closing the College Graduation Gap (Teri Lyn Hinds)


National College Access Network (NCAN), working in partnership with the National Student Clearinghouse, released this benchmark report (PDF) establishing the efficacy of the support services NCAN members provide to their students. NCAN students are typically low-income, often of color, and frequently from families without a history of college attendance. Key findings of the benchmarking study show similar college enrollment rates for NCAN students when compared to students who attended higher-income high schools; and six-year college completion rates for NCAN 2007 high-school graduates approaching the national rate for all high-school graduates in that year; and six-year completion rates for NCAN students who exceeded significantly the completion rate for other low-income, first-generation students from the high school class of 2003. Snapshots of select NCAN member programs are provided in the full report.


Education and Workforce Data: Challenges in Matching Student and Worker Information Raise Concerns about Longitudinal Data Systems (Teri Lyn Hinds)


From fiscal years 2006 through 2013, the Departments of Education and Labor provided over $640 million in grants to states through the Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems (SLDS)and Workforce Data Quality Initiative (WDQI) grant programs. These grants support states’ efforts to create longitudinal data systems that follow individuals through their education and into the workforce. This report summarizes the results of a U.S. Government Accounting Office (GAO) review of 2013 Data Quality Campaign (DQC) survey data.  The survey data recorded the status of grantees’ longitudinal data systems, specifically (1) the extent to which SLDS and WDQI grantees match individual student and worker records and share data between the education and workforce sectors and (2) how grantees are using longitudinal data to help improve education and workforce outcomes. GAO found that over half of 48 grantee states that received a SLDS or WDQI grant have the ability to match data on individuals from early education into the workforce. GAO found that more grantees reported being able to match data among the education sectors than between the education and workforce sectors, but that most grantees reported that they are not able to match data comprehensively. For example, only six of 31 grantees reported that they match K-12 data to all seven possible workforce programs covered by the DQC survey, which include adult basic and secondary education as well as unemployment insurance wage records. State officials cited several challenges to matching data, including state restrictions on the use of a Social Security number.


Major Decisions: What Graduates Earn Over Their Lifetimes (Teri Lyn Hinds)


The Brookings Institute’s Hamilton Project presents this economic analysis that explores career earnings by college major. Drawing upon data from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, the report examines earnings for approximately 80 majors, focusing on both annual earnings for each year of the career and cumulative lifetime earnings. Key conclusions provide supporting evidence that a college degree, in any major, is important for advancing earnings potential, but that lifetime earnings vary greatly by major program of study. The authors caution against oversimplification of the results, however, and point out that earnings differences are driven by many factors that do not necessarily point to a wage premium for specific majors. Further, students should consider additional factors, such as personal enjoyment, engaging in meaningful work, and fulfilling social needs, when choosing a major.


Current Term Enrollment Estimates: Fall 2014 & Technical Update (Christine Keller)


The Fall 2014 Current Term Enrollment Estimates were originally released on December 10, 2014 by the National Student Clearinghouse.  The findings showed an overall decrease of 1.3 percent in postsecondary enrollments from Fall 2013 to Fall 2014. The report noted that 16 institutions had recently been reclassified from two-year to four-year by the Department of Education within the IPEDS system. The reclassifications affected the Fall 2014 enrollment estimates, increasing total enrollment counts for the four-year public sector, while simultaneously decreasing enrollment counts for the two-year public sector. This effect was exaggerated in the original report, which placed all of the reclassifications in Fall 2014, when they more accurately would have been distributed across four years. The Clearinghouse Research Center has since revised the public sector figures in the report so that the timing of the reclassifications reflects the timing with which these institutions were reclassified in IPEDS. This means that the enrollments in two-year public and four-year public sectors for each of the terms Fall 2011 through Fall 2013 have been restated.


Emerging Trends


Post-Collegiate Outcomes Initiative Launces Framework and Toolkit (Teri Lyn Hinds)


The American Association of Community Colleges (AACC), in partnership with the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) and the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) have collectively developed and released discussion drafts for a strategic framework to guide discussion and the creation of measurement tools for reporting student outcomes after college. Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the project partners assembled subject-matter experts and institutional leaders to create a framework and application tools that will enable colleges and universities, policymakers, and the public to better understand and talk about post-collegiate outcomes in areas such as economic well-being, ongoing personal development, and social and civic engagement. The development of the framework and the accompanying tools are an important first step toward the creation of common metrics and indicators for use by institutions to report a more comprehensive set of post-collegiate outcomes. Feedback is sought on the Framework and Toolkit; a final draft is expected to be released in spring 2015.


Policy Watch


Request for Comments on President Obama’s College Ratings System


The Department of Education seeks comments on the first draft of President Obama’s college ratings system framework. More specifically, ED is interested in feedback on the overall approaches and specific questions raised in the document. The Department plans to schedule a series of structured discussions and will be announcing those that are open to the public next month. Written comments are due by February 17, 2015, and can be submitted by emailing or by commenting on the Department’s higher education blog.


Published November 11, 2014


Reports and Tools


National College Progression Rates (Teri Lyn Hinds)


The National Student Clearinghouse released its second annual National College Progression Rates report on high-school-to-college transition rates. This report is designed to enable schools and districts to benchmark their students' outcomes to those of other schools with similar characteristics that also use the National Student Clearinghouse StudentTracker service. Data are available for students from public non-charter, public charter, and private high schools from all 50 states. The report contributes to discussions about equitable access to, and persistence in, postsecondary education amongst practitioners and policymakers at the school, district, state, and national levels. Findings include that nearly half of college enrollment among students from low-income high schools was at two-year institutions.


Mastering the Blueprint: State Progress on Workforce Data (Teri Lyn Hinds)


In Mastering the Blueprint, the Workforce Data Quality Campaign highlights findings from a survey of states about how they use workforce data. Building on WDQC’s 13-point State Blueprint of key features of high-quality data infrastructures that can provide useful information to a variety of audiences, the survey of 40 states and the District of Columbia asked about workforce data systems and usage. The report provides state-by-state progress meant to serve as a baseline against which future improvements can be measured. The report provides examples of best practices and case studies, and indicates that states are working toward the creation of effective data systems that will track employment outcomes among education and workforce program participants.


Is It Worth It? Postsecondary Education and Labor Market Outcomes for the Disadvantaged (Teri Lyn Hinds)


The report Is It Worth It? examines postsecondary education and labor market outcomes in Florida, primarily for minorities and/or disadvantaged workers, for whom obtaining a college degree is the surest way to achieve upward mobility. The authors use administrative data that allow them to follow students from eighth grade through postsecondary school and the labor force, and they examine outcomes among students who graduated from high school between 2000 and 2002. The main findings are: (1) gaps in secondary school achievement can account for a large portion of the variation in postsecondary attainment and labor market outcomes between the disadvantaged and other students, but meaningful gaps also exist within achievement groups; and (2) earnings of the disadvantaged are hurt by low completion rates in postsecondary programs, poor performance during college, and not choosing high-earning fields.


The Costs of College Attendance: Trends, Variation, and Accuracy in Institutional Living Cost Allowances (Teri Lyn Hinds)


Researchers at the Wisconsin HOPE Lab examined variations and trends over time and in federally reported living cost allowances developed by colleges and universities and then assessed the accuracy of allowances by comparing them to living cost estimates specific to institutional geographic region. Living cost allowances for room, board and other miscellaneous expenses often account for more than half of the total cost of attending college, and the institutional cost of attendance allowance caps student eligibility for federal financial aid. The authors find that almost half of all postsecondary institutions receiving federal financial aid report nine-month living cost allowances for students living off-campus that differ from estimated actual living costs by at least $3,000. There is extensive within-region variation in living cost allowances reported by institutions, and almost one-third of colleges and universities with sizable fractions of their students living off-campus provided allowances that are at least $3,000 less than the estimated costs of living in that region. Between 2006 and 2013, the data indicate that some for-profit institutions have been steadily decreasing living cost allowances. The potential policy incentives driving these behaviors are discussed, along with implications for accountability systems and recommendations for creating greater standardization of living cost allowances throughout higher education.


NCES First Look:  Postsecondary Enrollment, Finances and Staffing (Christine Keller)


The provisional First Look report released in early November presents findings from the Spring 2014 data collection of the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) from the National Center for Education Statistics within the Department of Education. Three survey components are included: enrollment for Fall 2013; finance for fiscal year 2013; and data on employees in postsecondary education for Fall 2013.


Emerging Trends


U.S. News Releases Inaugural Best Global Universities Rankings (Zhao Yang)


U.S. News and World Report published its first “Best Global Universities Ranking” in October 2014.  The rankings are based on data provided by Thomson Reuter’s research analytics solutions, which focus on institutions' overall academic research, global research reputation, publications and number of highly cited papers. The overall 2015 U.S. News Best Global Universities rankings encompass the top 500 institutions spread out across 49 countries. The U.S. has the most institutions, with 134 universities on the list, followed by Germany, with 42 schools included, and the United Kingdom, with 38 schools that qualified. The rankings also include region-specific lists and feature the top 100 global universities in 21 subject areas, including fields such as economics and business, engineering, computer science, and social sciences and public health.


Degree Qualifications Profile Released by the Lumina Foundation for Large-Scale Implementation (Christine Keller)


After nearly four years of faculty-led beta testing at more than 400 colleges and universities in 45 states, an updated version of the Degree Qualifications Profile (DQP) was released by the Lumina Foundation in early October for large-scale adoption. The DQP is a learning-centered framework for what college graduates should know and be able to do to earn the associate, bachelor's or master's degree. The DQP was created as a tool to:  1) engage faculty members in the work of improving courses and programs; 2) make educational pathways more clear and concrete for students; and 3) help focus and streamline the accreditation process.


Policy Watch


Results from Technical Review Panels #44 and #45 Open for Comment


Suggestions from Technical Review Panel #44, “Improvements to the Human Resources Survey for Degree-Granting Institutions” remain open for comment until November 14.   All comments from interested parties should be sent to Janice Kelly-Reid, IPEDS Project Director at RTI International, at


Suggestions from Technical Review Panel #45, “Outcomes Measures” are now open for comment until December 8. All comments from interested parties should be sent to Janice Kelly-Reid, IPEDS Project Director at RTI International, at


Beyond the Skills Gap: Making Education Work for Students, Employers, and Communities (Zhao Yang)


This New America report asserts that the current higher education system in the United States has become the largest job training program, and that the current policies don’t work well for matching education and jobs.  The author believes it is time to move the discussion beyond the skill gap and focus on the policy gap.  The report outlines the need to reframe the Higher Education Act (HEA) to support all forms of postsecondary learning, including students on non-degree paths and those seeking specific skills and credentials, and to explore five policy gaps that are driving the poor results for students and employers. Recommendations in the areas of programmatic accreditors and federal financial aid are also provided.


Why Colleges Don’t Want to be Judged by Their Graduation Rates (Teri Lyn Hinds)


This Chronicle of Higher Education article provides student vignettes that describe common pathways through higher education and reports whether the students who match the vignette would be counted in the current federal Student Right to Know Act graduation rate.  The article posits that due to limitations in the students who are included in the federal graduation rate, colleges and universities are opposed to the use of the rates in national accountability and consumer information tools such as the College Scorecard and President Obama’s proposed rating system. The authors point to the National Student Clearinghouse as an alternative data source that would provide more complete outcomes.


Gainful Employment Rules Announced (Christine Keller)


On October 30, the U.S. Department of Education released final regulations for gainful employment programs.   Gainful employment programs are programs that are required to lead to “gainful employment in a recognized occupation” in order to be eligible for federal student aid.  Under the proposed rule, gainful employment programs with high debt-to-earnings ratios or high program-level cohort default rates would lose federal student aid eligibility for three years. The rule sets out two separate GE metrics: (1) a debt-to-earnings metric, and (2) a program cohort default rate metric.  Most programs at for-profit institutions—both degree and non-degree—are gainful employment programs. At public and nonprofit institutions, gainful employment programs are generally limited to certificate and other non-degree credential programs 


Published October 14, 2014


Reports and Tools 


Updates to College Results Online (Teri Lyn Hinds)


Following the summer release of its Tough Love report, the Ed Trust has updated its online College Results Online tool to include its “Bottom 5 Percent Indicators.” The tool now displays two indicators showing when a given institution is in the bottom 5 percent of institutions based on graduation rates or enrollment of Pell-eligible students. Data included in College Results Online is from IPEDS and other Department of Education databases, Barron’s Profile of American Colleges, the College Board, Peterson’s databases, and the National Association of State Student Grant and Aid Programs. 


The Condition of College and Career Readiness 2014 (Teri Lyn Hinds)


The ACT results of more than 1.8 million students, or about 57 percent of the 2014 graduating class, are studied in this report. It finds that 26 percent of all ACT–tested high school graduates met all four of the ACT College Readiness Benchmarks in 2014. These benchmarks are designed to represent the level of achievement necessary for students to have a 50-percent chance of obtaining a B or higher (or a 75-percent chance of obtaining a C or higher) in a college-level course in English composition, college algebra, social studies, and biology. In 2013, the number of students who met all four ACT College Readiness Benchmarks was 25 percent. 


HIS Center for Policy & Practice (HIS-CP2) (Teri Lyn Hinds)


This new online resource center from Excelencia in Education provides information on Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs) and their impact on Latino student success. The site presents information on the history of HSIs, presents data and infographics that allow users to better understand these institutions. It also provides tools geared toward improving institutional policies. 


Student Loan Update: A First Look at the 2013 Survey of Consumer Finances (Teri Lyn Hinds)


An update to a report released earlier this year, Student Loan Update: A First Look at the 2013 Survey of Consumer Finances, adds the newly released Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF) 2013 data to confirm that the trends reported earlier (using data through 2010) continue. While the data show large increases in average debt levels over time, roughly one-quarter of the increase is due to pursuit of advanced graduate degrees. Additionally, average lifetime incomes of college-educated workers have kept pace with increased debt loads, and the monthly payment burden faced by borrowers remained the same or even lessened between 1992 and 2013. The 2013 data showed that debt levels have continued to increase, but at a slower rate. It also shows that even though average incomes fell slightly, the decline was small enough not to change the share of monthly income required for loan payments. 


Moving the Goalposts: How Demand for a Bachelor’s Degree is Reshaping the Workforce (Teri Lyn Hinds)


A Burning Glass Technologies analysis of shifting workforce credential requirements finds a broad range of occupations for which employers are seeking a bachelor’s degree for jobs that formerly required less education. This is true even when the actual skills required haven’t changed or when this makes the position harder to fill. This phenomenon of “upcredentialing,” in which employers seek college graduates for positions that used to require a high-school diploma or other sub-baccalaureate training, has been much discussed but rarely quantified. The analysis finds evidence of changes in the American workforce, with employers increasingly seeking baccalaureate talent for what have historically been sub-baccalaureate jobs. Labor analysts have generally pointed to two possible explanations for this degree inflation: either jobs are becoming more complex and require new skills (known as “upskilling”), or employers have become more selective and favor more educated workers. The analysis suggests both possibilities are at work, depending on the specific occupation. 


Emerging Trends 


The 2014 Gallup-Purdue Index Report (Zhao Yang)


This report presents the inaugural Gallup-Purdue Index, which is created from a joint-research project by Purdue University and Lumina Foundation to study the relationship between the college experience and college graduates' lives. It is based on a comprehensive, nationally representative study of 30,000 U.S. college graduates during February to March 2014. The study finds that the type and characteristics of the institutions have minimal impact on the workplace engagement and current well-being of these graduates. Instead, the study demonstrates that support and experiences in college, such as faculty interaction and participation in activities such as internships, have more of a relationship to long-term outcomes for these college graduates. The report suggests that what students are doing in college and how they experiencing it could be more important. The study claims that those elements – more than any others – have a profound relationship to a person’s life and career. 


Signals and Shifts in the Postsecondary Landscape (Teri Lyn Hinds)


Fourteen chief executive officers from a diverse group of colleges and universities participated in the Presidential Innovation Lab (PIL), which provided an opportunity for higher-education leaders to engage in proactive thinking about the evolving dynamics of higher education and guide a national dialogue that will help colleges and universities serve students—and close persistent student attainment gaps—in the years ahead. This paper, Signals and Shifts in the Postsecondary Landscape, provides a general overview of the broad context discussions and activities that occurred within the PIL, including a summary of a design thinking exercise and some of the graphic recordings from the sessions. The paper begins with a summary of signals of the future and the key shifts unfolding in the next 10 years that may impact higher education, and concludes with some broad issues that should be considered by the greater education ecosystem.


Policy Watch


Ranking and Rewarding Access: An Alternative College Scorecard (Zhao Yang)


This study, published from University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education’s Center for Minority Serving Institutions, criticizes the White House’s online College Scorecard by pointing out that HBCUs and other minority serving institutions with large numbers of underrepresented, first-generation, and/or low-income students will likely be disadvantaged. In particular, the report posits that the White House Plan, which calls for easily comparable metrics such as tuition and fees, graduation rates, loan default rates, and median borrowing rates, oversimplifies the measures and punishes institutions that serve students who often need the most support. The study proposes an alternative college rating system that it claims would align metrics with student priorities, create customizable features, and reward institutions that graduate underrepresented students.


Investigation of IPEDS Distance Education Data: System Not Ready for Modern Trends (Teri Lyn Hinds


Based on an investigation of the recently released distance education data for IPEDS, the primary national education database maintained by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies (WCET) found significant confusion over basic definitions of terms, manual gathering of data outside of the computer systems designed to collect data, and, due to confusion over which students to include in IPEDS data, the systematic non-reporting of large numbers of degree-seeking students. The report postulates that one of the reasons for the confusion, as well as the significance of this change, is that continuing-education units are taking up a new role of offering courses not funded by the state (hence self-support), and are therefore not subject to the same oversight and restrictions as state-funded equivalents. The full report details the analysis and findings, though ultimately recognizes that there are many unknowns.


Published September 10, 2014


Reports and Tools


Staying in College Longer Than Four Years Costs More Than You Might Think (Teri Lyn Hinds)


This second in a series of blog posts by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s Liberty Street Economics examines the costs of taking longer than four years to graduate with a baccalaureate degree. Taking tuition and fees (not room and board, as those would need to be purchased regardless of enrollment in college) as well as the opportunity cost of forgone earnings, the post projects the net present value lost by an additional year or two in college over the course of a lifetime of expected earnings.


A Hidden Cause of Rising Tuition – Tuition Discounting in Public Colleges and Universities (Zhao Yang)


This report from the Education Commission of the State examines tuition discount factors and concludes they play a role in driving up college costs. The research indicates that higher tuition discounting, despite increasing the net revenue to colleges, leads to higher costs for students, which in turn may contribute to higher student loan debts, especially for those who do not receive discounts. The report finds that discounting practices have become increasing prevalent among public institutions. For example, the average discount rate for four-year public research institutions jumped from 26% in 2002-03 to 33% in 2011-12. In some states, policymakers have attempted to implement strict tuition caps to restrict tuition increases and perhaps slow the use of discounts.


Results from WICHE Multistate Longitudinal Data Exchange Pilot Project (Bob Handley)


The Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE) released two reports from a pilot project that shared data between four states to determine whether and how states could share individual-level, longitudinal education and workforce data among them, while protecting individual confidentiality and data security. The Multistate Longitudinal Data Exchange (MLDE) project was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and included Hawaii, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington. With the completion of the pilot project and a second round of funding from the Gates Foundation, WICHE will focus on expanding the MLDE by bringing in additional states.


The report Beyond Borders: Understanding the Development and Mobility of Human Capital in an Age of Data-Driven Accountability describes the process and lessons of making cross-state data sharing politically and logistically possible. In addition to the lessons, the report emphasizes the value of the additional information about student outcomes made possible by the MLDE, including the ability to provide state leaders more comprehensive information about swirl in the education and labor sectors and the workforce outcomes of graduates from their state.


The report A Glimpse Beyond State Lines: Student Outcomes provides findings from a series of analyses of over 190,000 students from the four states participating in the pilot exchange. Sharing data between the states made it possible to determine where college students ended up after graduation for 7% more college graduates than possible from a state’s individual data alone. Other findings indicated that over 60% of recent college graduates remained in the state where they graduated for at least the year after graduation.


Differential Impacts of College Ratings: The Case of Education Deserts (Christine Keller)


A new study by Nicholas W. Hillman, an assistant professor of higher education at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, examines national enrollment patterns and educational options for place-bound students, many of whom work full-time, have dependents, and commute to campus. Using data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), the Census Bureau, the Bureau of Economic Analysis, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the study examines enrollment patterns at 7,756 postsecondary institutions nationwide enrolling 25.2 million students. Roughly 10% of the U.S. population lives in communities with few or no public alternatives for college. Further, the analysis finds that communities with increasing Hispanic populations are most likely to lack educational options. Communities with low educational attainment rates are more likely to have community colleges rather than four-year institutions.


Performance Funding Policies in Higher Education Have Had Little Effect on Student Outcomes (Zhao Yang)


A study published in The Annals of the American Academic of Political and Social Science reviews the impact of state-level performance funding policies on student outcomes in public institutions using data from over 500 four-year institutions in the United States from 1993-2010. The results indicate that performance funding policies do not contribute to better student outcomes, which are defined as six-year graduation rates, retention rates, and bachelor degree production. In fact, these policies may contribute to lower performance over the long run. However, newer performance funding policies that focus on intermediate indicators of campus performance (throughout rather than outcomes) and are linked to institutional base funding may provide some long-term improvements in student outcomes, particularly degree production. A copy of the complete paper can be purchased from Sage.


Transferability of Postsecondary Credit Following Student Transfer or Coenrollment (Teri Lyn Hinds)


A new report released by the Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics uses transcript data from the Postsecondary Education Transcript Study of 2009 (PETS:09), a component of the 2004/09 Beginning Postsecondary Students Longitudinal Study (BPS:04/09), to examine how often, and under what conditions, postsecondary institutions accept the transfer of credits earned by students at other institutions. The analysis found that about one-third (35%) of first-time beginning undergraduate students transferred or coenrolled at least once during the six-year period covered by the study. Thirty-nine percent of students who transferred colleges at least once lost all of their earned credits in the process (on average, 27 credits). Another 28% of students lost some credits along the way during the transfer process - about 13 of their credits were lost.


Emerging Trends


Redefining Full-time in College: Evidence on 15-credit Strategies (Teri Lyn Hinds)


Recent action by many institutions to encourage students to enroll in 15 credits per semester in order to increase on-time graduation is widely believed to be effective, though there has been little research to document outcomes. Redefining Full-time in College examines the literature and evaluation outcomes from several 15-credit policies and finds positive impact on completion for less academically prepared students as well as positive outcomes for student credit completion, GPA, and persistence. The report also identifies several key challenges for institutions implementing 15-credit policies and supports, as well as some possible unintended consequences that lead to a caution that institutions engage in careful planning and consideration before deciding on and adopting a 15-credit approach.


Ranking Institutions by Economic Diversity (Christine Keller)


In September, the New York Times will reveal a college ranking system for students that measures institutions’ ability to serve low-income students, according to an August 29 article in the Chronicle of Higher Education. David Leonhardt, editor of the New York Times blog The Upshot, noted that the economic diversity rankings are not intended to compete with comprehensive ranking systems. A similar ranking, the College Guide from the Washington Monthly, focuses on social mobility, but the intended audience is more policy makers than students.


Aspiring Adults Adrift: Tentative Transitions of College Graduates (Christine Keller)


A new book by Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa, Aspiring Adults Adrift: Tentative Transitions of College Graduates, follows up with students interviewed in their 2011 book, Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses. The authors followed more than 1,600 students from 25 four-year institutions and interviewed 80 of those students about their civic engagement, living situations, and employment. The study found that many students struggle after graduation, even though most were academically successful in college. The authors believe that students’ issues arise from a lack of academic rigor at institutions. For additional discussion of the book and its findings see the Chronicle of Higher Education article and the Inside Higher Ed article from September 2.


Policy Watch


A Gamble with Consequences: State Lottery-Funded Scholarship Programs as a Strategy for Boosting College Affordability (Teri Lyn Hinds)


Several states utilize lottery-funded scholarship programs with a chief objective to improve college affordability. With strong bipartisan legislative support, these programs have grown in popularity and are touted as an ideal means for earmarking revenues to advance state higher-education priorities. This policy brief discusses the evolution of state lottery-funded scholarship programs and provides a critical look at both the benefits and drawbacks in the programs' design and outcomes. The paper posits that, when examining these programs through the frameworks of finance, college access, and affordability, and issues of politics and philosophy, many unintended and detrimental consequences may arise. The paper includes observations on the recently announced Tennessee Promise scholarship program, and concludes with a set of recommendations for enhancing state lottery-funded scholarship programs aimed at more equitably enhancing college affordability.


Center for the Analysis of Postsecondary Readiness (IES) (Christine Keller)


The U.S. Department of Education’s Institute for Education Studies (IES) is launching a new Center for the Analysis of Postsecondary Readiness led by the Community College Research Center at Columbia University’s Teachers College and the social policy research firm MDRC that will work to strengthen the research, evaluation, and support of college-readiness efforts across the U.S.


Published August 12, 2014




Reports and Tools

Is a Student Loan Crisis on the Horizon? (Teri Lyn Hinds)

In Is a Student Loan Crisis on the Horizon?, analysis of more than two decades of data on the financial well-being of American households suggests that the reality of student loans may not be as dire as many commentators fear. The report’s major findings include that roughly one-quarter of the increase in student debt since 1989 can be directly attributed to Americans obtaining advanced degrees, that increases in the average lifetime incomes of college-educated Americans have more than kept pace with increases in debt loads, and that the monthly payment burden faced by student loan borrowers has stayed about the same, or even lessened, over the past two decades. These data indicate that typical borrowers are no worse off now than they were a generation ago, and also suggest that the borrowers struggling with high debt loads frequently featured in media coverage may not be part of a new or growing phenomenon.

Do the Benefits of College Still Outweigh the Costs? (Christine Keller)

In recent years, students have been paying more to attend college and earning less upon graduation—trends that have led many observers to question whether a college education remains a good investment. However, an analysis of the economic returns to college since the 1970s by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York demonstrates that the benefits of both a bachelor’s degree and an associate’s degree still tend to outweigh the costs, with both degrees earning a return of about 15 percent over the past decade. The return has remained high in spite of rising tuition and falling earnings because the wages of those without a college degree have also been falling, keeping the college wage premium near an all-time high while reducing the opportunity cost of going to school.

Protecting Colleges and Students: Community College Strategies to Prevent Default (Teri Lyn Hinds)

Just 17 percent of community college students borrow federal loans, but with college costs rising faster than grant aid or family incomes, more students are turning to federal loans to help fill the gap. Driven in part by a sluggish economy in communities across the country, the share of borrowers who default on their federal loans has also been rising. A study of nine community colleges across the country explores practices to reduce student loan default and delinquency. In Protecting Colleges and Students: Community College Strategies to Prevent Default, the Association of Community College Trustees and TICAS found that improving completion is critical, and there is variation in the characteristics of students who default. Among other recommendations, the report suggests that a Student Default Risk Index, which multiplies the cohort default rate (CDR) by the portion of students who borrow student loans, would more accurately convey students’ risk of default.

Some College, No Degree: A National View of Students with Some College Enrollment, but No Completion (Christine Keller)

Signature Report 7 from the National Student Clearinghouse examines the “some college, no degree” phenomenon to better understand the value of some college in its own right and as well as the contribution the “some college, no degree” population can make to achieving college completion goals. Over the past 20 years, more than 31 million students have enrolled in college and left without receiving a degree or certificate. The report examines the enrollment pathways of students who did not earn an award including institutional sector, number of institutions attended, length of time between first and last enrollment, number of stopouts, and years since last enrollment.

Think Again: Is Rampant College Spending Behind Skyrocketing Tuition Bills? Or Not? (Christine Keller)

A report from the American Institutes for Research based on Delta Cost Project data examines the reasons behind increasing tuition costs at colleges and universities. Annual tuition increases between 4% and 6% are due to the fact that students are taking on a larger share of the costs of higher education, not that all colleges are spending more on frills. According to the Delta Cost Project, state spending per student at public research universities dropped from $11,000 in 2001 to less than $8,000 in 2011. Spending increases averaged just 0.5% a year after inflation at public institutions and 1-2% a year after inflation at private institutions.

NCES Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) Methodology Report (Christine Keller)

This National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) report describes the methodology used to develop the 2013-14 Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). NCES collected data from 7,397 colleges and universities, of which 42.2% are four-year institutions, 30.1% are two-years, and 27.6% are less than two-years. The report includes descriptions of measures collected through the IPEDS survey, built-in edit checks in the survey, and data imputation processes.

Emerging Trends

Common Core Goes to College (Teri Lyn Hinds)

In the early 2000s, a group of key education leaders created the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) Initiative to establish common secondary education standards in English Language Arts and Mathematics, presently adopted by 43 states and the District of Columbia. The CCSS have been explicitly designed to prepare students to succeed in higher education; however, there has been little intentional alignment between K12 and higher education to build bridges between the systems. Common Core Goes to College presents the history of the CCSS and their accompanying assessments, and reviews the many areas where higher education and K12 are out of alignment within each state. The report concludes with a series of recommendations for improving the pathway to higher education by alignment to the CCSS.

Department of Education Experimental Sites Announced (Christine Keller)

The U.S. Department of Education announced the latest round of experimental sites where federal financial aid will be awarded in new ways, according to a July 23 article in the Chronicle of Higher Education. These colleges and universities will be funded based on credits earned through competency-based education, prior learning assessment, or a blend of direct assessment and traditional credit-hour work. Only a few such programs qualify for federal financial aid funds, and the Department approves them on a case-by-case basis.

New College Ranking Designed to Show Economic Value Added With a Degree (Christine Keller)

Educate to Career (ETC), a California-based non-profit organization, developed a new postsecondary ranking system that measures students’ labor market outcomes. ETC ranks roughly 1,200 public and private four-year institutions based on students ACT or SAT scores, socioeconomic backgrounds, institutions’ total cost of attendance, and students’ occupation and salaries.

Money’s Best Colleges: A New College Ranking System (Christine Keller)

Money Magazine’s new college ranking system measures quality, affordability, and outcomes at 665 colleges and universities nationwide. Money’s Best Colleges list includes only institutions with above-average six-year graduation rates in the public or private sector and does not include institutions with a speculative bond rating from Moody’s. The rankings include value-added measures of graduation rates, student loan default risk, and earnings, which are calculated as the difference between the expected and actual measures according to the academic and economic profile of each institution’s student body.

Policy Watch

The “Pay It Forward” College Financing Concept: A Pathway to the Privatization of Public Higher Ed (Teri Lyn Hinds)

Lawmakers in more than 20 states have introduced measures to direct state agencies to launch Pay It Forward (PIF) feasibility studies or initiate pilot programs. As conceived, PIF would eliminate up-front tuition and fee payments at public colleges and universities in exchange for students agreeing to pay a pre-determined, fixed portion of their annual earnings for an extended period of time following graduation. This policy brief from the American Association of State Colleges and Universities summarizes the history of PIF-like approaches to financing a college education, and explores common elements of PIF legislation recently introduced in state legislatures. It discusses potential long-term ramifications of the PIF concept for students, public colleges and states. Finally, it offers questions for state officials to consider when exploring PIF as a legitimate solution to maintaining equitable and sustainable affordability at U.S. public colleges and universities.

Expanding Opportunity in America: A Discussion Draft from the House Budget Committee (Teri Lyn Hinds)

Expanding Opportunity in America: A Discussion Draft from the House Budget Committee puts forth a number of ideas to make federal aid both more accountable and more effective, including suggestions for expanding access to education. The discussion draft includes substantial changes to federal financial aid, such as capping PLUS loans and increasing Pell grant amounts using SEOG funds. The draft also calls for the creation of a Clearinghouse for Program and Survey Data, which would include de-identified individual-level data on participants in public programs and data from educational datasets such as the National Student Clearinghouse.

Published July 16, 2014

Reports and Tools 

Is a Student Loan Crisis on the Horizon (Bob Handley)

In “Is a Student Loan Crisis on the Horizon?” the Brown Center on Education Policy at the Brookings Institution analyzed 20 years of student loan data and concluded that fears about a student loan crisis may be exaggerated. Although debt levels have increased over the past 20 years, Brookings’ data show that lifetime income of debt holders increased enough to outpace the increase in debt, suggesting that college remains a wise long-term financial investment. In the short term, longer repayment periods and lower interest rates have kept the ratio of monthly payment to monthly income the same in 2010 as it was in 1992, showing that monthly payment burdens have not increased. Because a higher debt load means higher risk, however, Brookings advises that social safety nets like income-based repayment plans and payment deferrals need simplification and improvement for those debt holders who are unemployed or underemployed. 

Measuring the Economic Success of College Graduates: Lessons from the Field (Zhao Yang)

The report Measuring the Economic Success of College Graduates: Lessons from the Field describes valuable lessons on how to convert complex education and wage data into useful information as “earnings after completing a degree” becomes increasing popular as a measure of institutional accountability and value. In 2013, about two dozen states linked student-level data with in-state employment data, to collect earning data about their college and university graduates. The report’s examples from the field provide potential models for state agencies or institutions that may start similar projects.  

Performance Funding at MSIs: Considerations and Possible Measure for Public Minority-Serving Institutions (Teri Lyn Hinds)

To date, over 30 states have adopted or are transitioning to performance funding models to provide state support to public colleges and universities. Performance Funding at MSIs: Considerations and Possible Measures for Public Minority-Serving Institutions addresses the ways in which state-level decisions on funding policies can differentially impact MSIs and offers five key considerations for the development of performance funding policies for MSIs. Among the considerations are the inclusion of MSI leaders and experts in policy development; considering the utility of commonly used metrics, specifically those that are inappropriate to track more mobile student populations; considering input factors and data capacity before implementing policy; and attending to the potential for using performance funding to address racial and ethnic equity concerns. 

Education Commission of the States (ECS) 

A Cure for Remedial Reporting Chaos: Why the US Needs a Standard Method for Measuring Preparedness for the First Year of College (Teri Lyn Hinds)

The Education Commission of the States released A Cure for Remedial Reporting Chaos: Why the US Needs a Standard Method for Measuring Preparedness for the First Year of College which reviews the state-level practices that identify, track, and regularly report the numbers and progress of students identified as needing remedial instruction. The Commission found little consistency across states, and provides two recommendations for improving consistency: 1) develop and implement cross-state standards for measuring and reporting placement into and progression through remedial instruction; and 2) create dynamic, comprehensive measurement methodology focused on progress and success rather than accountability, and comparative rankings of institutions.  

A Common Framework for Remedial Reporting: Response to Remedial Reporting Task Force Recommendations (Teri Lyn Hinds)

A smaller technical subcommittee also released A Common Framework for Remedial Reporting, which describes a common framework that would meet the recommendations identified in the A Cure for Remedial Reporting Chaos report. The framework identifies seven types of data elements and a set of student demographic variables that would be necessary to collect at the student-level, including following students across institutions in the case of transfer, in order to support the reporting needs identified.  

Dual Enrollment: A Strategy to Improve College-Going and College Completion Among Rural Students (Zhao Yang)

A third report from the Education Commission of the States, Dual Enrollment: A Strategy to Improve College-Going and College Completion Among Rural Students, summarizes research on how states might improve high school graduation rates and help students enter colleges and complete degrees in rural communities. Data are provided that illustrate the difference in outcomes by low/high-income, rural/urban areas, and college-going rates. The advantages and disadvantages of online course delivery to rural areas are discussed as well. Several state programs implemented in rural areas, including administration, outcomes, and cost, are reviewed in detail.  

National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) 

Baccalaureate and Beyond: A First Look at the Employment Experiences and Lives of College Graduates, 4 Years On (Christine Keller)

This First Look report presents findings from the 2008/12 Baccalaureate and Beyond Longitudinal Study (B&B:08/12), a nationally representative longitudinal sample survey of students who completed the requirements for a bachelor’s degree during the 2007–08 academic year. The study addresses questions related to bachelor's degree recipients' education and employment experiences and includes two follow-ups. This report covers the second follow-up, conducted in 2012, which examines bachelor's degree recipients' labor market experiences and enrollment in additional postsecondary degree programs through the fourth year after graduation. Results show that 83 percent of graduates who were not enrolled were employed. Of these, about 85 percent worked in one full-time job, 8 percent worked in one part-time job, and 8 percent had multiple jobs. 

Policy Watch (Teri Lyn Hinds)

Higher Education Act (HEA) Reauthorization

Both the House and Senate have begun to release bills related to the upcoming reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. Summaries of recent activities appear below.

HELP Chairman Tom Harkin Unveils the Higher Education Affordability Act

Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Chairman Tom Harkin proposed the Higher Education Affordability Act, focusing on four main goals: increasing college affordability, helping struggling borrowers, strengthening accountability, and improving transparency. In addition to the ideas contained in this discussion draft, Chairman Harkin believes other policies need to be addressed as part of any reauthorization of HEA, including the development of a student unit record system, reforming accreditation, and additional simplification measures. Comments on the proposal are open to the public and should be sent to no later than August 29, 2014, at 5:00 p.m. EDT.

Republican Priorities for Reauthorizing the Higher Education Act

House Republicans released a white paper detailing their priorities for the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. Based on the findings from 14 hearings held by the Committee on Education and the Workforce in 2013, the committee’s priorities will focus on improving access to consumer information; simplifying and improving student financial aid; promoting innovation, access, and completion; and ensuring strong accountability and a limited federal role. The white paper provides additional details about the specific areas of focus for each priority.

Strengthening Transparency in Higher Education Act

The House Education & the Workforce Committee, via the Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training, introduced the Strengthening Transparency in Higher Education Act to offer students and families improved information for a more complete picture of student populations, to streamline existing transparency efforts at the federal level, and to require better coordination between federal agencies. Notably, the act would create a College Dashboard that would replace the College Navigator site and contain “only key information students need when deciding which school to attend,” including completion rates for additional student sub-populations, net price data by family income ranges, and information on student federal loan indebtedness for completers.

Sexual Violence on Campus: How Too Many Institutions of Higher Education are Failing to Protect Students

Administered at the request of Chairman Claire McCaskill, the report Sexual Violence on Campus summarizes findings from a survey and selected interviews conducted by the Senator’s staff related to how colleges and universities report, investigate, and adjudicate sexual violence. The survey results suggest that many institutions may not adhering to best practices in how they handle sexual violence among students, such as conducting annual climate surveys or providing sexual assault response training to faculty and staff. The report is based on a survey of 440 four-year institutions of higher education, which includes a national sample and separate samples of the nation’s largest public and private institutions. Results of the survey disaggregated by school type are provided in an appendix.

Recap: June Congressional Hearing on Educational Data and Privacy

The House Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education, chaired by Representative Todd Rokita (R-IN), and Cybersecurity, Infrastructure, and Security Technologies (chaired by Representative Patrick Meehan (R-PA) subcommittees held a joint hearing titled “How Data Mining Threatens Student Privacy,” on June 25 to assess the role of data in education and to reevaluate the federal government’s role in ensuring students’ privacy. Discussions included exploration of existing legislation such as the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and the children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) as well as the need to empower teachers and school administrators to use data to improve and personalize student learning. A summary of the hearing is available from the Data Quality Campaign.




 Published June 2014


Reports and Tools




 Campus-Based Practices for Promoting Student Success: Financial Aid (Teri Lyn Hinds) 




In the research brief Campus-Based Practices for Promoting Student Success: Financial Aid, the Midwestern Higher Education Compact (MHEC) explores the differential effects of institutional grant aid and work-study programs on students, paying particular attention to how low-income students may be effected by both. The brief concludes with a set of recommended practices drawn from a review of the research, including front-loading grant aid during the first two years of college, monitoring work-study funds and jobs for both appropriate wage and relevance for student experiences, and providing aid during intersession periods. 


Students on the Move (Christine Keller) 


The policy brief, Students on the Move, from the Education Commission of the States, summarizes transfer and articulation policies in the 50 states. The brief indicates that states are transitioning from institutional or system-level policies to statewide transfer agreements. The analysis also shows that 15 states have common course numbering systems, 16 states have credit by assessment, 37 states have guaranteed transfer of associate degrees, and 35 states have a transferable lower-division core. The report includes profiles on innovative approaches to transfer in Florida, Louisiana, and West Virginia. 


Spring Current Term Enrollment Estimates (Zhao Yang)


According to the National Student Clearinghouse (NSC) recent report, Spring Current Term Enrollment Estimates, overall postsecondary enrollment decreased in Spring 2014 by 0.8% from Spring 2013. The largest decreases were in the four-year, for-profit institutions (-4.9%) and in the two-year public institutions (-2.7%).  Enrollment in four-year public institutions increased by 0.7% and in four-year private nonprofit institutions by 2.0%. Fall-to-spring percent changes in enrollments by institutional sector are also provided.   


Great Jobs Great Lives (Melodie Christal)


Gallup and Purdue University have created an index that examines the long-term success of college graduates. Great Jobs Great Lives presents results from the inaugural administration of the Gallup-Purdue Index, based on a study of over 30,000 graduates. The report addresses workforce engagement, five elements of well-being (purpose, financial, social, community, and physical), and alumni attachment.  The study found there is no difference in workplace engagement or a college graduate's well-being based on the type of institution they attended (e.g., public, private, top ranked, highly selective). Students who were closely engaged with faculty or participated in an internship were more likely to be engaged at work and have high levels of well-being. Graduates who are emotionally attached to their college are two times more likely to thrive in all five elements of well-being and two times more likely to be engaged with their jobs.


Workforce Results Matter: The Critical Role of Employment Outcome Data in Improving Transparency of Postsecondary Education and Training (Teri Lyn Hinds) 


The Center for Postsecondary and Economic Success report, Workforce Results Matter: The Critical Role of Employment Outcome Data in Improving Transparency of Postsecondary Education and Training, focuses on the need for better information about post-graduation outcomes of postsecondary education and training, with a particular focus on workforce results, which are frequently cited as most desired by students and their families during their college search process. The report includes some suggested metrics and data sources, as well as a discussion of the challenges to providing workforce outcomes. Example solutions at the state level from New Jersey and California and from College Measures, which has partnered with seven states to calculate and publish average earnings, are discussed as models. 


Is It Still Worth Going to College (Teri Lyn Hinds) 


In Is It Still Worth Going to College, the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco demonstrates that for most Americans the path to higher future earnings involves earning a four-year degree. Even as costs have increased in recent years, the analysis shows the average graduate (paying annual tuition of about $20,000) can recover the cost of attending in fewer than 20 years and further accumulate an additional $800,000 in earnings by retirement age over high school graduates. 


From State to Student: How State Disinvestment Has Shifted Higher Education Costs to Students and Families (Teri Lyn Hinds) 


Though specific to California, From State to Student: How State Disinvestment Has Shifted HIgher Education Costs to Students and Families describes an increasingly common story for all states. The analysis finds that cuts in state general fund support have led to significantly increased tuition and fees in recent decades at California’s public four-year higher education institutions, threatening the promise of affordable, quality higher education that is accessible to all state residents.  The report demonstrates how these trends have fundamentally altered how higher education costs are shared between the state and students and their families. The implications of this cost-shift for the state of California is a dampening of its commitment to higher education and potentially puts the state’s economic future at risk. For students, the cost-shift means graduating with increasing amounts of student loan debt or forgoing higher education altogether. At a time when a well-educated workforce is critical to future prosperity, this report provides evidence of the impact of state cuts to higher education relative to increasing demand for opportunity and the need for economic growth.


States Are Still Funding Higher Education Below Pre-Recession Levels (Teri Lyn Hinds) 


According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 42 states have begun to restore cuts made to higher education since the recession, eight states are still cutting, and higher education per-pupil funding in almost all states remains well below pre-recession levels when controlled for inflation. States Are Still Funding Higher Education Below Pre-Recession Levels includes many charts showing state-by-state comparisons of higher education funding demonstrating the magnitude of cuts and resultant changes in tuition rates. The report further documents the impact of shifting college costs to family in student debt burden and college-going rates by income quartile. It closes with an admonition for state policymakers to carefully consider their tax and budget choices in the coming years. 


National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) 


Enrollment in Distance Education Courses, by State: Fall 2012 (Melodie Christal) 

Web Tables-Enrollment in Distance Education Courses by State: Fall 2012 (NCES 2014-023) provides numbers and percentages of students who were enrolled exclusively in distance education courses, enrolled in some distance education courses, and not enrolled in any distance education courses by state and by institution type. Data for this report were collected through the IPEDS Institutional Characteristics and Fall Enrollment components.  

The Condition of Education 2014 (Christine Keller) 

The Condition of Education 2014 (NCES 2014–083) annual report contains updates on student backgrounds and outcomes across the educational system. The 2014 report indicates that roughly 90% of young adults ages 25 to 29 had a high-school degree or equivalent in 2013, while 34% of young adults had a bachelor’s degree. The six-year graduation rate of full-time, first-year students at the same four-year institution was 56% for men and 61% for women in 2012. Notably, the vast majority of undergraduates at public and private four-year institutions (88% and 86% respectively) were less than 25 years old, compared to only 29% of students at private for-profit four-year institutions. 


Emerging Trends 


Marry Your Like: Assortative Mating and Income Inequality (Zhao Yang)


Assortative mating is the process by which people of similar backgrounds, such as educational attainment or financial means, select a partner to marry. Using Census Bureau data from 1960 through 2005, the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) found that more formally educated people are increasingly likely to marry those with similar educational attainment and those with less formal education are also increasingly likely to marry those with lower education levels. Since household income is strongly correlated with education, the tendency for increased stratification has contributed to greater inequality over the study period. The summary report, Marry Your Like: Assortative Mating and Income Inequality is available at no charge. The full report is available for $5 from NBER.  


Policy Watch 


Not Alone (Teri Lyn Hinds) 


Not Alone, the report from President Obama's Task Force to Protect Students From Sexual Assault, makes four recommendations to help colleges and universities protect students from sexual violence.  The Task Force will be providing campuses with a toolkit to conduct a survey and are recommending that institutions conduct surveys during 2014-15. The Justice Department is partnering with Rutgers University's Center on Violence Against Women and Children to pilot, evaluate, and further refine the survey recommended by the Task Force. 


Workforce Investment Act (WIA) Reauthorization Bill (Christine Keller) 


A new bill to reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) includes a provision to align accountability and data collection across all of its programs through common performance measures. As summarized within a blog post by the Workforce Data Quality Campaign (WDQC), key changes in the new WIA bill would hold all workforce programs accountable to the same set of outcome metrics: “employment after program exit; median earnings; credential attainment; measurable skill gains; and employer engagement. A one-page summary of the bill is also available.   


Comment Request for Data Collection in the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS) (Christine Keller) 


The Department of Education requests comments on NPSAS measures and methods for a field test in 2015 and major data collection in 2016. The Department seeks information regarding quality, usefulness and clarity of measures, as well as suggestions for ways to minimize the burden of reporting for selected institutions. Comments are due by June 27, 2014.


Published May 13, 2014 

Reports and Tools

State Higher Education Finance FY 2013 (Bob Handley) 


The State Higher Education Executive Officers (SHEEO) published State Higher Education Finance FY2013, an analysis of state support for public higher education. The report shows that in 2013 state and local funding increased to $81.6 billion over 2012’s $81.1 billion, reversing annual declines in funding since 2008.  Dollars spent per full-time student also increased over 2012 dollars spent to $6,105, reversing an annual decline that began in 2009.  However, dollars spent per student has not recovered to pre-2008 recession levels; the increase in dollars spent per student is partly due to a decline in enrollment in 2013; and the cost of public higher education is increasingly placed on the student as tuition continues to increase.  Finally, gains in state and local funding are not uniform across the country as 20 states reduced support in 2013. Supplementary tables with extensive state-level data are available at 


Developmental Strategies for College Readiness and Success (Teri Lyn Hinds) 


States across the nation are focused on increasing the educational attainment levels of their populations to respond to projections of workforce need, strengthen economic development, and compete more successfully in the domestic and global economy. But these efforts are hindered by massive numbers of students leaving high school unprepared to succeed in entry-level college courses. While colleges and universities have offered remedial education for decades, traditional approaches to designing and delivering remediation have not worked well for many underprepared students. Care must be taken to identify and implement developmental strategies that increase the probability students will complete a program of study and obtain a credential or degree. The Developmental Strategies for College Readiness and Success Resource Guide is designed to provide state policymakers, system-level administrators, and practitioners with tools to more effectively think about, develop strategies and plans, and ultimately take action to address this complex problem. 


A Stronger Nation through Higher Education (Bob Handley) 


In its annual report, A Stronger Nation through Higher Education, the Lumina Foundation claims the U.S. is making improvements in postsecondary degree, certificate, or credential attainment. By 2025 the Lumina Foundation wants 60 percent of Americans to hold a college degree or credential, and reports “the rate at which degree attainment is increasing is accelerating.”  In 2012, 39.4 percent of Americans between the ages of 25 and 64 held a degree from a two- or four-year college – an increase from 38.7 percent in 2011, and the largest single-year increase since Lumina began reporting attainment rates.  However, Lumina reports continued gaps in college attainment between racial and ethnic groups and among low-income and first-generation students.  If 60 percent of Americans are to attain a postsecondary credential by 2025, Lumina claims these gaps must be closed and significant reforms to higher education are necessary. 


National Center for Education Statistics (Melodie Christal) 

  • In The Condition of Education 2013, both undergraduate and graduate degree fields have been updated. From academic year 2001–02 to 2011–12, the number of associate's degrees awarded increased by 71 percent, from 595,100 to over 1 million, and the number of bachelor's degrees awarded increased by 39 percent, from 1.3 million to 1.8 million. Graduate degrees increased by 55 percent between 2001-02 and 2011-12 academic years, and doctoral degrees increased 42 percent over the same time period. In addition, the report reveals that approximately half of the master’s degrees awarded during the 2011-12 academic year were concentrated in business (25 percent) and education (24 percent).  
  • The Data Point Out-of-Pocket Net Price for College (NCES 2014-902) uses four years of National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS) data (NPSAS:2000, NPSAS:04, NPSAS:08, and NPSAS:12) to show trends in out-of-pocket net price for college. For this report, out-of-pocket net price is defined as the amount students and families pay for college after subtracting grants, loans, work-study, and all other student aid from the total price of attendance. Out-of-pocket net price for income levels are also presented for 2011-12.  
  • The Web Tables Postsecondary Completers and Completions: 2011-12 (NCES 2014-033) present IPEDS data on the number of completers, the number of completions, and the average number of awards provided per completer. These data can provide some indication of the extent to which students earn multiple awards in a given year. 
  • College Navigator has been updated to include IPEDS data reported during fall 2013. This includes Estimated Student Expenses 2013-14, Admissions Data, and Completions conferred in 2012-13. 
  • The collection schedule for the 2014-15 IPEDS collection cycle has been posted at the IPEDS Data Provider Center and is also accessible via the Help menu in the data collection system. As previously announced, information regarding changes to the 2014-15 collection are also available through the IPEDS Data Provider Center. 

Access, affordability, and success: How do America’s colleges fare? An interactive guide (Christine Keller) 


In a response to President Obama’s plan to promote college affordability and the college ratings system, the American Enterprise Institute created Access, affordability, and success: How do America’s colleges fare? An interactive guide that allows users to rate four-year institutions on their graduation rates, net price, and share of Pell grant recipients enrolled. The interactive chart utilizes IPEDS data on 1,716 four- year institutions and allows users to filter the data by sector and region. 


Should All Student Loan Payments Be Income-Driven: Trade Offs and Challenges (Christine Keller) 


The Should All Student Loan Payments Be Income-Driven: Trade Offs and Challenges white paper from The Institute for College Access & Success focuses on the implications of an automatic “income-driven” federal loan repayment system, with particular attention on the implications for low-income students.  Overall, the authors find several pros and cons of a mandatory income based repayment system, but caution that making it the default plan could remove consumer choice and may have unintended consequences. The paper also makes a case for more data and research to better understand how an income-driven repayment system could impact students with the greatest need.  


Emerging Trends 


College Costs and Prices:  Some Key Facts for Policymakers (Teri Lyn Hinds) 


Tuition is rising, more students are in debt and at higher levels than ever before, and pressure is mounting from every direction and in both political parties—from the White House to state legislatures to overwhelmed parents and students—to do something about it. On the other hand, many colleges and college systems across the country have become more innovative and resourceful in providing higher education at a lower cost, reducing expenditures on business operations, taking advantage of new technology, and redesigning instruction to make better use of faculty time. So why hasn’t this translated—usually—into costs savings for students? College Costs and Prices: Some Key Facts for Policymakers, an issue paper from the Lumina Foundation, presents a few key facts about higher education costs and prices that may provide some context for the current policy debate.  


College Costs, Prices, and the Great Recession (Teri Lyn Hinds) 


In College Costs, Prices and the Great Recession, the Lumina Foundation posits that as states and families begin to recover from the effects of the Great Recession, some of the urgency about college affordability may start to ease. The College Board’s Trends in College Pricing 2013 report shows tuition rising more slowly than in recent years. Growth in Pell grant applications is also expected to slow as income picks back up and many students transition into newly available jobs. Yet it could all happen again when the next crisis hits. Education budgets could be slashed indiscriminately, tuition could skyrocket just as incomes are falling, and the worst-off states could find themselves least able to keep the college dream alive for students who count on public support. But if we learned anything from the last few years, we can be better prepared. In order not to repeat some of the mistakes of the recession, it will help to understand how the economy, college costs, and college prices interact.  


Policy Watch (Christine Keller) 


Use of APIs in Higher Education Data and Student Aid Processes 


The Department of Education is requesting information on the use of Application Program Interfaces (APIs) in the context of higher education data and student aid programs and processes. The Department is soliciting this information and feedback for the purpose of making higher education data and processes more open and accessible to students and families. Written submissions are due by June 2, 2014.


College-Rating System Will Go Forward, Duncan Says 


The May 1, 2014 Chronicle of Education article College-Rating System Will Go Forward, Duncan Says reported Secretary of Education Arne Duncan testified before Congress on the president’s fiscal year 2015 budget. At the Senate subcommittee hearing, members raised concerns about the implications of a college-rating system on access and the potential risks of using student earnings data to rate institutions. At the House education committee hearing, Representative Virginia Foxx suggested that the Department share data it currently collects with the public, instead of developing a ratings system, to increase transparency and to allow the public to make their own choices. Duncan stressed the importance of accountability in higher education and maintained that the ratings system will be developed, even if the $10 million requested for this purpose is not granted. 


Comment Period Open for IPEDS Technical Review Panel #43 


Suggestions from Technical Review Panel #43, “Defining an IPEDS Institution – Part 2,” held March 18-19, 2014, are currently open for comment.  Comments should be sent to Janice Kelly-Reid, IPEDS Project Director at RTI International and are due by June 4, 2014.


Published April 10, 2014 

Reports and Tools

Million Records Project: A Review of Veteran Achievement in Higher Education (Teri Lyn Hinds) 


Student Veterans of America, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the National Student Clearinghouse, launched the Million Records Project in 2013 with a goal of providing near real-time data that policymakers, service providers, institutions of higher learning, and the general public can act on to support student veterans. On March 24, they released the first in a planned series of resources: Million Records Project: A Review of Veteran Achievement in Higher Education. Initial results included in the report show strong postsecondary outcomes for the current generation of student veterans. A majority (51.7 percent) of student veterans earned a postsecondary degree or certificate, despite the challenges they face. Like other nontraditional student populations, they tend to be older, have families to support, and juggle employment and school. Unlike their nontraditional peers, however, student veterans are unique in that they may delay their enrollment or interrupt their progress in higher education due to military obligations, and may have service-connected disabilities. 


Mapping the Postsecondary Data Domain: Problems and Possibilities (Teri Lyn Hinds) 


The Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP) report Mapping the Postsecondary Data Domain: Problems and Possibilities summarizes their work to map the various federal data systems against key questions America’s students, policymakers, and colleges and universities are asking. The work, completed as part of the Reimagining Aid Design and Delivery (RADD) Simplification and Transparency Consortium, and funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, concludes that while there exists a solid base of understanding in some areas, it falls short in others. Although a series of voluntary data initiatives have arisen in recent years, the initiatives do not include all institutions or all states. However such initiatives are leading to growing agreement on the critical questions and core measures that could help to unify postsecondary data more broadly. The core measures and proposed improvements are described in the report with additional technical details available in the Technical Report. 


The American Freshman: National Norms Fall 2013 (Teri Lyn Hinds) 


The results reported in The American Freshman: National Norms Fall 2013 are based on analyses of the 48th annual administration of the CIRP Freshman Survey and cover topics from student application strategies, colleges costs, and student attitudes about some of the most-discussed political issues in 2013, including gun control, taxes, and gay rights. The report also reviews the changing demographics of new freshmen high schools and neighborhoods, as well as changes to the CIRP Freshman Survey made to more accurately capture students’ cognitive and interpersonal skills. Results reported are based on over 165,000 first-time, full-time students who entered 234 U.S. colleges and universities of varying levels of selectivity and type in Fall 2013. 


Administrators in Higher Education Salary Survey for the 2013-14 Academic Year (Teri Lyn Hinds) 


Summary reports from the 47th annual administration of the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources (CUPA-HR) Administrators in Higher Education Salary Survey (AHESS) show a median salary increase of 2.4 percent overall, with increases at public institutions increasing more than at private institutions for the first time in four years. The AHESS collects salary data for 191 positions with primary assignments requiring management of the institution or of customarily recognized divisions within it. The AHESS replaced the Administrative Compensation Survey in 2012-13. Institutions can order complete copies of the survey results from the CUPA-HR website. 


National Center for Education Statistics (Christine Keller) 

The IPEDS Institution Profile located within the IPEDS Data Center has been re-designed and enhanced. The enhanced institution profile is accessible under the “Look Up An Institution” function, and includes additional data on student charges, net price, distance education enrollment, enrollment by age, and enrollment by residence. 
The NCES Statistical Brief New College Graduate at Work (NCES 2014003) examines the employment outcomes of bachelor’s recipients one year after graduation, over three time periods using nationally-representative data from the Baccalaureate and Beyond Longitudinal Studies of 1993, 2000, and 2008. Among the findings, the unemployment rate of 2007-2008 bachelor’s graduates (9 percent) was higher than the unemployment rates for 1992-93 graduates (4 percent) and 1999-2000 graduates (5 percent). 

Emerging Trends


Delivering Opportunity and the Redesigned SAT (Teri Lyn Hinds)  


In early March, the College Board announced major changes to the SAT, including a substantial revision to the writing test, in spring 2016. The SAT redesign is centered on eight key changes: 1) relevant words in context; 2) command of evidence; 3) essay analyzing a source; 4) math focused on three key areas (problem solving and data analysis, algebra, and familiarity with more complex equations and manipulations); 5) problems grounded in real-world contexts; 6) analysis in science and social studies; 7) founding documents and great global conversation; and 8) no penalty for wrong answer, only credit for correct answers. The SAT was last revised in 2005 when the writing test was first introduced. Additional detail on the SAT revisions and the reasons behind them can be found on the College Board website. 


Changing Student Pathways (Teri Lyn Hinds) 


Changing Student Pathways is a collection of news articles and essays from Inside Higher Ed about the different paths students take (including some detours) on the way to a college degree or certificate.


The articles and essays -- available in print-on-demand format -- aim to put recent developments into long-term context, and to present the timely thinking of commentators about the changes in the routes students take through higher education. The goal is to provide these materials in one easy-to-read place. The issues were also discussed in a March 6 webinar, a recording of which is available on IHE’s website. Registration is required to download the compilation. 


The Graduate Student Debt Review (Christine Keller)


Utilizing data from the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS), New America’s report The Graduate Student Debt Review found that graduate student loans make up approximately 34 percent of recent total loans disbursements, and debt at the 75th percentile for most master’s degrees grew from $54,000 in 2004, to $85,000 in 2012. The author suggests that policy makers and news media should increase their focus on graduate student debt and the large increases in graduate student borrowing. 


Policy Watch (Christine Keller)


Custom Comparison Groups for the 2014 Data Feedback Report.
IPEDS Keyholders may create a custom comparison group for use in the 2014 IPEDS Data Feedback Report until July 16, 2014. The Data Feedback Report will be emailed to the institution’s CEO/President and to Keyholders in fall 2014. Creating a custom comparison group is not required but is encouraged. Custom comparison groups can be created using the
IPEDS Data Center or within the Data Collection System under the Tools menu. Instructions for creating a group are located under the Help menu. AIR also offers a webinar Creating Comparison Groups to guide Keyholders through the creation process.


Comment Request for Program Integrity: Gainful Employment
The Department of Education has opened a comment period until May 27, 2014 on the proposed regulation concerning gainful employment programs, including rules around program eligibility and accountability. Comments can be submitted electronically through the Federal Register website, which also includes background materials.


Comment Request for the 2015-16 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS:16)
ED is requesting comments on their NPSAS:16 Field Test Institutions and Enrollment Lists submission, which includes field test materials, procedures for institution sampling, institution contacting, enrollment list collection, and enrollment list sampling. The NPSAS:16 field test sample will comprise approximately 300 institutions and around 4,500 students. NPSAS:16 is a nationally representative study focused on how students finance their postsecondary education. Background materials can be found here. Comments can be submitted electronically through the Federal Register website until May 27, 2014.


Comment Period Open for IPEDS Technical Review Panel #42
Suggestions from the IPEDS Technical Review Panel No. 42, “Defining an IPEDS Institution,” are posted here and are currently open for comment. Comments can be sent to Janice Kelly-Reid, IPEDS Project Director at RTI International and are due by May 2, 2014.


Published March 12, 2014


Reports and Tools


Where Value Meets Value: The Economic Impact of Community Colleges (Melodie Christal)


The American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) and Economic Modeling Specialists International (EMSI) present results from a recent economic impact study, Where Value Meets Value: The Economic Impact of Community Colleges. The report assesses the impact of America’s public community colleges on the national economy in 2012 and the return on investment for the colleges’ key stakeholder groups--students, society, and taxpayers. Results show that America’s community colleges made a significant positive impact on the U.S. economy in 2012 with the net total impact of $809 billion in added income. Over time, the report predicts even greater economic benefits, including $285.7 billion in increased tax revenue as students earn higher wages and $19.2 billion in taxpayer savings as students require fewer government-supported social services. Students also see a significant economic benefit. For every $1 a student spends on community college education, the return on investment is $3.80. 


The Rising Cost of Not Going to College (Melodie Christal)

The Pew Research Center report, The Rising Cost of Not Going to College, summarizes public views and student attitudes on the value of a college degree; it also addresses the benefits of postsecondary education for an individual as well as society. The report shows that on almost every measure of economic well-being and career attainment, young college graduates outperform their peers with less education. The report notes that a student’s field of study plays a major role in future earnings and job satisfaction. The report also documents the declining value of a high school diploma with high school graduates faring worse, both in comparison to their peers and when measured against other generations of high school graduates at a similar point in their lives.
Knowing What Students Know and Can Do: The Current State of Student Learning Outcomes Assessment in U.S. Colleges and Universities (Zhao Yang)
The National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment report, Knowing What Students Know and Can Do: The Current State of Student Learning Outcomes Assessment in U.S. Colleges and Universities, presents findings from a spring 2013 survey of academic officers on assessment activities. The survey results indicate significantly more assessment activity than a few years ago, and the range of tools and measures to assess student learning has expanded significantly – with 84 percent of the respondents reporting they had common learning goals for all their students. The primary drivers of assessment on college campuses are regional and specialized accrediting agencies. The report concludes that assessment of student learning has turned the corner in that the work is no longer primarily an act of compliance, but rather is motivated by a more appropriate balance of compliance and an institutional desire to improve.
The Student Debt Review: Analyzing the State of Undergraduate Student Borrowing (Melodie Christal)

The New America Foundation report, The Student Debt Review: Analyzing the State of Undergraduate Student Borrowing, presents data from the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS) conducted in 2003-04, 2007-08, and 2011-12. The report highlights borrowing rates; borrowing amounts; the range of indebtedness; and average borrowing by completers, with and without debt. Nearly 70 percent of students who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 2012 took out debt for their education, and those with loans owed $29,400 on average. This is an increase of nearly 20 percent in four years, and it is a record high in both the percentage of students borrowing and average amount owed.

10th Annual AP Report to the Nation (Zhao Yang)


 In the 10th Annual AP Report to the Nation, College Board compares Advanced Placement (AP) Exam data from 2003 to 2013. The data show that over the past decade, the number of students who graduate from high school having taken rigorous AP courses has nearly doubled, and the number of low-income students taking AP courses has more than quadrupled. The report attributes the increase to efforts by state leaders, educators, and the College Board itself to expand both access to and success in AP. State-specific data on AP participation and performance data on races/ethnicities and low-income students are available on the website.


What America Needs to Know about Higher Education Redesign (Christine Keller)


The Lumina Foundation and Gallup released their annual study What America Needs to Know about Higher Education Redesign on public perception of key issues in higher education with a special focus on the opinions of business leaders. The survey revealed that 84 percent of business leaders are more concerned about how much knowledge job candidates have – instead of which school they attended or their major – when making hiring decisions. The survey showed that only 11 percent of business leaders strongly agree that college graduates are well prepared for the workforce, which contrasts with a previous Gallup and Inside Higher Ed survey finding that most chief academic officers were confident in how well their institution prepared students for success in the workforce.


National Center for Education Statistics (Melodie Christal)


Academic Libraries: 2012 First Look (NCES-2014-038) summarizes services, staff, collections, and expenditures of academic libraries in two- and four-year postsecondary institutions. Information on electronic services, information literacy, and virtual references are also included.


Projections of Education Statistics in 2012 (NCES 2014-051) includes projections at the national level on enrollment, graduates, teachers, and expenditures in elementary and secondary schools, and enrollment, degrees conferred, and expenditures of postsecondary institutions. In addition, the report includes projections of public elementary and secondary school enrollment and public high school graduates to the year 2022 at the state level.


Emerging Trends


Top 10 Higher Education State Policy Issues for 2014 (Melodie Christal)


For the eighth year, the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) released its Policy Matters brief, Top 10 Higher Education State Policy Issues for 2014. “Harnessing Higher Education to Address State Economic Goals” topped the 2014 list and included linking postsecondary education to state economic and workforce goals. State higher education financing dropped from the number two spot in 2013 to the number three spot, being replaced by efforts to link state funding and keep tuition low. Other top issues identified were college readiness, vocational and technical education, increased college degree production, STEM-related initiatives, immigration, and guns on campus. The brief concludes that public colleges and universities remain important to ensure individual success and state prosperity, but that with new money will come additional accountability.


New Census Website (Christine Keller)


The Census Bureau is soliciting feedback on the beta version of its new website, which will be available mid-March. New features include topic-based navigation and a home page that provides access to popular data. Feedback can be sent to


Commentary on Net Price (Christine Keller)


In The Chronicle of Higher Education (2/24/2014) article, How average net price fails to capture the “best bang’ for your buck, Jonah Newman examines the limitations of average net price as a measure of college costs for consumers and accountability purposes. Newman argues that though average net price is an improvement from sticker price, it tends to overestimate the cost of college for low-income students and underestimate the cost for higher income students. He discusses net price by income as a better alternative, especially for accountability purposes.


Policy Watch


Postsecondary Institutional Ratings System (PIRS) Update (Christine Keller)


Since the technical symposium in February, no new information has been released on the U.S. Department of Education (USED) Postsecondary Institutional Ratings System (PIRS). A draft of how the rating system will be implemented is scheduled for release later this spring – including data sources, the methodology for developing the ratings, and the framework for presenting those institutional ratings.


Published February 12, 2014


Reports and Tools


2014 Grapevine Compilation of State Fiscal Support for Higher Education (Christine Keller) 


The Center for the Study of Education Policy at Illinois State University released the 2014 Grapevine Compilation of State Fiscal Support for Higher Education, data collected annually as a joint project with the State Higher Education Executive Officers (SHEEO). The data indicate that state investment in higher education grew from $72 billion in FY13 to $76 billion in FY14. However, just over half of the real dollar increase comes in three large states (California, Florida, and Illinois) with very modest increases in other states. And for most of the country, even with any increases in the last few years, funding is still below pre-recession levels. Data tables are available on the Center website summarizing the results of the Grapevine survey for fiscal year 2014 and prior.  


Performance Funding: Impacts, Obstacles, and Unintended Outcomes (Christine Keller) 


The Community College Research Center at Columbia University released a policy brief Performance Funding: Impacts, Obstacles, and Unintended Outcomes with research-based information on performance-based higher education funding policies (PBF). The policy brief outlines the differences between PBF 1.0 and 2.0, research-based evidence on the effects of performance-based funding, PBF's unintended consequences, and suggestions of how to reduce PBF's obstacles and unintended consequences. 


Labor Intensive or Labor Expensive? Changing Staffing and Compensation Patterns in Higher Education (Christine Keller)  


The Delta Cost Project at the American Institutes of Research report, Labor Intensive or Labor Expensive? Changing Staffing and Compensation Patterns in Higher Education, analyzes federal data from 1987 to 2010 on staffing and compensation in higher education. Among other findings, the researchers found flat faculty salaries, growth in non-faculty professional positions, and a greater reliance on part-time faculty members and instructors. The report concluded faculty salaries were not the leading cause of rising tuition in the last decade, but that increased benefit costs, additional non-faculty positions, and declines in state and institutional subsidies all played a role.  


Grade Change: Tracking Online Education in the United States (Melodie Christal) 


Grade Change: Tracking Online Education in the United States is the 11th annual report on the state of online learning in higher education based on a survey conducted by the Babson Survey Research Group. When the survey was first conducted in 2002, less than one-half of college and university leaders indicated online education was critical to their long-term strategy; in 2013, 66 percent of leaders reported online learning as critical to their long-term strategy. The number of students taking at least one online course during 2012 increased by 6.1 percent to 7.1 million and this number is expected to grow. Although the majority of respondents rate the learning outcomes in online education as the same or superior to those in face-to-face instruction, the percentage has decreased from 77 percent in 2012 to 74 percent in 2013. Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are now offered by 5 percent of higher education institutions, and most institutions remain undecided about whether they will offer them.  


How Liberal Arts and Sciences Majors Fare in Employment (Zhao Yang) 


The Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) and National Center for Higher Education Management Systems (NCHEMS) report, How Liberal Arts and Sciences Majors Fare in Employment, provides data on earnings and long-term career paths for college graduates to address questions about the value of college degrees. Among the key findings, at peak earnings ages (56-60 years) workers who majored as undergraduates in the humanities or social sciences earn annually about $2,000 more than those who majored as undergraduates in professional or pre-professional fields. The unemployment rate of liberal arts majors is about 5.2% for graduates ages 21 to 30 and drops to 3.5% among 41- to 50-year-olds, which is slightly higher than the unemployment rate in professional fields. The AAC&U website provides a summary of the report, as well as the complete report which is available for purchase.  


B-School Followup: Class of 2013 (Zhao Yang) 


The Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) reports on enrollment opportunities for 2013 MBA alumni in B-School Followup: Class of 2013. Results show the class of 2013 MBA have been successful in finding employment across job sectors with 90 percent employed at the time of the survey. The majority of the MBA graduates are employed in the products and services, finance and accounting, and consulting sectors. Three-quarters of the class of 2013 say they could not have obtained their job without their graduate management education. Regardless of employment status, the alums feel their education developed their qualitative (95 percent) and quantitative (92 percent) skills, expanded their network (90 percent), and prepared them for the job market (90 percent).  


National Center for Education Statistics (Melodie Christal) 


The Digest of Education Statistics, 2012 (NCES 2014-015) is the 48th in a series of publications initiated in 1962. The Digest provides statistical information on education from pre-kindergarten through graduate school on a variety of topics including the number of schools and colleges, teachers, enrollment, and graduates. The report also includes data on educational attainment, finances, and federal funds for education, libraries, and international comparisons.  


In the First Look report, Education Longitudinal Study of 2002 (ELS: 2002): A First Look at 2002 High School Sophomores 10 Years Later (NCES 2014-363), the educational and developmental experiences of a national sample of 2002 high school sophomores is tracked a decade later. This First Look report focuses on outcomes associated with young adulthood: current work and education activities, postsecondary enrollment (if any) and educational attainment, labor market experiences, family formation (marital and parental status), and current living arrangements.  


Emerging Trends  


Interstate Passport (Melodie Christal) 


The Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE) launched Interstate Passport, a block transfer framework based on learning outcomes instead of courses and credits. The goal of this initiative is to create a pathway for students to transfer their general education or liberal arts courses from institutions in one state to those in another. Currently, there are 16 institutions from four states currently participating in this initiative, and other WICHE states and institutions are now able to apply for “Passport” status.  


U.S. Census Bureau: Educational Attainment in the United States: 2013 (Christine Keller) 


In early February, the Census Bureau released new data on educational attainment and academic achievement by race/ethnicity, gender, and other characteristics. The release also includes information on the number of years of school completed for each level of educational attainment.   


Common Education Data Standards (CEDS) Version 4 Released (Christine Keller) 


The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) released Common Education Data Standards (CEDS) Version 4. CEDS is a national collaborative effort to develop voluntary, common data standards for a key set of education data elements to streamline the exchange, comparison, and understanding of data within and across P-20W institutions and sectors. CEDS Version 4 includes elements spanning much of the P-20W spectrum and provides greater context and additional interactive tools for understanding the standards' interrelationships and practical utility.   


Policy Watch (Christine Keller) 


GI Bill Comparison Tool - The Veteran’s Administration released a new GI Bill Comparison Tool – similar to the College Scorecard and linked to College Navigator – to help veterans, active service members, and their family members navigate various colleges and calculate expected benefits under the GI Bill. In addition to estimating the costs of attendance (including book stipends and housing allowances), the comparison tool also provides information on graduation rates, median borrowing, and loan default rates. 


Student Right to Know Before You Go Act - Senators Wyden and Rubio co-authored an Inside Higher Ed op-ed Reform Starts with Good Data on February 6, advocating for their bi-partisan Student Right to Know Before You Go Act, which among other things would end the ban on unit-record data in higher education and provide a range of comparative data for all institutions and programs of study. 


Recap of Postsecondary Institution Rating Systems (PIRS) Discussion and Comments - Inside Higher Ed summarized many of the 125 perspectives on the Postsecondary Institution Rating System (PIRS) submitted during the Department of Education public comment period in their piece Rating (and Berating) the Ratings from February 7. Their analysis covers many of the tensions that respondents cited about accountability and consumer choice, the sufficiency (or lack thereof) of data, which outcomes data on which to focus, and how to assess institutions that serve large numbers of low-income students. PIRS was also the topic of the Lead Story for the February edition of eAIR.


IPEDS Data Collection Changes for 2014-15 and 2015-16 (Carol Fuller & Peggye Cohen)


OMB has approved the proposed changes for the 2014-15 and 2015-16 IPEDS collection cycles. These changes include:   



  • New Academic Libraries (AL) survey in spring collection; the level of reporting will be based on screening questions on the Institutional Characteristics survey (IC).
  • New data on veterans and military service members: the number of undergraduate and graduate students receiving benefits and total dollar amounts awarded on Student Financial Aid (SFA) and services available to veterans on IC.
  • Several changes on the Finance (F) survey aimed at for-profit institutions to increase comparability across sectors.
  • Estimated fall enrollment on the IC will be removed.
  • Admissions data will be moved from the IC to a new Admissions (ADM) survey in the winter data collection; the new survey will be comprised entirely of items removed from the IC.
  • Institutions will be asked to voluntarily report the time required to complete each survey component (data to be collected every three (3) years) to provide better estimates of burden.


  • New Outcome Measures (OM) survey in winter collection for degree-granting institutions on four cohorts: full-time, first-time students; part-time, first-time students; full-time, non-first-time entering students; and part-time, non-first-time entering students. For each cohort, institutions will provide a status update on the following categories: received award; did not receive award, still enrolled at reporting institution; did not receive award, subsequently enrolled at another institution; did not receive award, and subsequent enrollment status unknown.

Published January 15, 2014


Reports and Tools


Searching for Our Lost Associate’s Degrees: Project Win-Win at the Finish Line (Melodie Christal)


The Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP) report, Searching for Our Lost Associate’s Degrees: Project Win-Win at the Finish Line, describes Project Win-Win, a nine-state effort in which 61 associate degree-granting institutions located former students who qualified for a degree but never received it, and awarded the degree retroactively. The institutions also identified former students who were close to completing an associate’s degree and encouraged those students to re-enroll and complete the credit hours required to earn their degree. As a direct result of Project Win-Win, more than 6,700 students were identified as eligible for the retroactive award of an associate’s degree and more than 4,500 of those students have received degrees to date. Out of more than 20,000 students identified with fewer than 12 credits to completion, almost 1,700 students have returned to college and another 400 have signaled their intent to return. The report includes recommendations for improving future iterations of Project Win-Win. 


What’s the Value of an Associate’s Degree? The Return on Investment for Graduates and Taxpayers (Melodie Christal)


In What’s the Value of an Associate’s Degree? The Return on Investment for Graduates and Taxpayers, Mark Schneider, from the American Institutes for Research, and Jorge Klor de Alva, from Nexus Research and Policy Center, look at the labor market outcomes of students who graduated with an associate’s degree as their highest academic credential. The authors examined data from 579 institutions representing 80 percent of the nation’s community college enrollment and addressed two questions: (1) Do graduates who earn an associate’s degree experience returns such as higher wages that justify the costs incurred in obtaining the degree? (2) Do taxpayers receive a positive return on their investment? Based on their findings, the median earnings of associate’s degree holders is about $259,000 more than for high school graduates, and the associate’s degree holders are less likely to be unemployed in harsh economic times. The authors note, however, that 30 states have some community colleges whose graduates’ median net income earnings trail those of the state’s high school graduates.  


Completing College: A National View of Student Attainment Rates - Fall 2007 Cohort (Zhao Yang)


The National Student Clearinghouse has released its second annual completions report: Completing College: A National View of Student Attainment Rates - Fall 2007 Cohort. The report is based on student-level data that tracks Fall 2007 first-time postsecondary degree‐seeking students for six years, through Spring 2013. More than half (56.1 percent) of first‐time degree-seeking students who enrolled in Fall 2007, completed a degree or certificate within six years, including 13.1 percent who completed at an institution other than the starting institution. Over 15 percent of the 2007 cohort is still enrolled in college. The results suggest that conventional approaches to understanding college effectiveness and student success, which are limited to the starting institution, fail to capture the picture of overall national completion rates and the complexity of student behavior. The report introduces an enhancement to the first Completing College report by including students in the cohort who entered college with prior experience in college-level courses through dual enrollment opportunities while still in high school. The report also provides data by gender. 


The Condition of College and Career Readiness 2013: First Generation Students (Melodie Christal)


In The Condition of College and Career Readiness 2013: First Generation Students, ACT and the Council for Opportunity in Education (COE) provide information to gain a greater understanding of first-generation students. Nearly 94 percent of ACT-tested first-generation students aspired to earn some form of postsecondary degree, and two out of three took ACT’s recommended core curriculum of four years of English and three years each of math, science, and social studies. Despite this preparation, first-generation students lag behind their peers in college readiness, and ACT and COE advocate for more effective policies to promote college readiness for these students. 


Managing Online Education 2013: Practices in Ensuring Quality (Zhao Yang)


Managing Online Education 2013: Practices in Ensuring Quality presents results from a survey conducted by the WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies (WCET) in spring 2013. The survey collects data on the instructional, operational, and technology infrastructure of online programs in higher education. Key findings include: (1) institutions are adopting standards in their online courses with more than 85 percent of responding institutions implementing some form of "standards" or "best practices;” (2) more than half of institutions (58 percent) require new online faculty to participate in faculty development prior to teaching their first online courses; (3) the vast majority of institutions offer library services and advising to online students; and (4) course completion rates for online courses are 3 percent lower than for on-campus courses (78 percent vs. 81 percent). 


National Center for Education Statistics (Melodie Christal)


NCES has released Enrollment in Postsecondary Institutions, Fall 2012; Financial Statistics, Fiscal Year 2012; Graduation Rates, Selected Cohorts, 2004-2009; and Employees in Postsecondary Institutions, Fall 2012: First Look (Provisional Data) based on five surveys from the spring 2013 IPEDS data collection. This final (revised) data is available within the IPEDS Data Center and is now the default choice for Data Center users. 


The 2013 Data Feedback Reports (DFR) will be released later than usual. The current anticipated schedule for release is as follows: DFRs will be emailed to keyholders during the second week of January 2014, sent in hardcopy to institutional CEOs two weeks following the email, and released in the IPEDS Data Center after the provisional release of the spring 2013 IPEDS data. 


Emerging Trends 


New Gallup Survey Designed to Measure the Value of a Degree Beyond Salary (Christine Keller)


A new project announced by Gallup in December, funded by the Lumina Foundation and debuting at Purdue University, is attempting to index new benchmarks of student success beyond employment and earnings. The survey will ask college graduates questions about whether or not respondents are satisfied with work and life, and how much they interact with and attempt to improve their community. The overall survey will include 30,000 college graduates around the country, allowing Gallup to report findings by institution type. More information can be found on the Purdue and Gallup websites.


Policy Watch 


Federal Postsecondary Institution Ratings Systems (PIRS): Updates and Activities (Katie Zaback) 


Feedback from Listening Tour - Deputy Under Secretary of Education Jamienne Studley recently posted on Homeroom, the official blog of the U.S. Department of Education, a summary from meetings on how to make college more affordable and a solid investment for families and taxpayers. The Department of Education held 55 meetings across the country with thousands of participants including students, parents, college leaders, faculty, business people, education associations, and policy analysts. Overall, the feedback received by the Department fell into a few broad categories, including the need to make any ratings system accessible and interpretable for consumers; protect access for underserved students; carefully examine outcome measures beyond degree completion; work to define meaningful peer groups for institutions; and recognize the different funding and institutional structures between different sectors. The Department plans to have a draft of its ratings system ready for public comment sometime in the middle of next year.


Request for Information - The Department of Education released a request for information on the Obama Administration’s proposed Postsecondary Institution Ratings Systems (PIRS). Submissions can be sent by January 31, 2014, via the Federal eRulemaking Portal, or postal or commercial mail. 


Gainful Employment - The Department of Education’s third and final rulemaking session on gainful employment was held on December 13, and negotiators could not come to a consensus. The next step will be for the Department of Education to submit its own final draft for public comment.


Published December 11, 2013


Reports and Tools


A Fresh Look at Student Engagement — NSSE Annual Results 2013 (Zhao Yang)


The National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) 2013 report, A Fresh Look at Student Engagement, presents information from the redesigned NSSE survey, administered for the first time in 2013. Results from nearly 335,000 first-year and senior students document aspects of the undergraduate experience that contribute to increases in student learning, retention, persistence, and completion. In the report, NSSE introduces 10 Engagement Indicators organized within four themes adapted from NSSE’s former Benchmarks of Effective Educational Practice. The Engagement Indicators are used as a way to better understand variations in the undergraduate experience. For example, as higher education debates the merits of distance learning, NSSE reports students enrolled in online courses spend more hours per week preparing for class compared to students taking no courses online. However, students taking all their courses online were significantly less engaged in “collaborative learning.”


A Matter of Degrees: Engaging Practices, Engaging Students (Melodie Christal)


The Center for Community College Student Engagement (CCCSE) report, A Matter of Degrees: Engaging Practices, Engaging Students, uses data from four surveys (Survey of Entering Student Engagement, Community College Survey of Student Engagement, the Community College Faculty Survey of Student Engagement, and the Community College Institutional Survey) to identify 12 key educational policies and practices with a high impact on student engagement in community colleges. CCCSE found that while a growing number of colleges offer activities such as student success courses, only a few institutions require such activities and few students participate in them. The report provides colleges with a framework for examining their own practices and for discerning gaps between what students need and what the college provides.  


How College Shapes Lives: Understanding the Issues (Zhao Yang)


The College Board report, How College Shapes Lives: Understanding the Issues, discusses ways in which the value of postsecondary education can be measured and provides insights into debates about the value of college and the need to improve education attainment in the United States. The report also includes essays by five eminent scholars on issues relating to the benefits of higher education and how to improve the distribution of those benefits.


Graduate Enrollment and Degrees: 2002 to 2012 (Melodie Christal)


The Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) and the Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) Board present findings from their annual survey in Graduate Enrollment and Degrees: 2002 to 2012. The report provides data on Fall 2012 graduate school applications and enrollment as well as graduate degrees and certificates conferred in 2011-12. Trend data for one-, five-, and ten-year periods are also included. About 1.74 million students were enrolled in graduate programs in Fall 2012 including 461,000 first-time graduate students. About 75 percent of the students enrolled in programs leading to a master’s degree or certificate and nearly one-half enrolled in education, business, or health science programs. In 2011-12, approximately 67,200 doctoral degrees, 540,200 master’s degrees, and 31,900 graduate certificates were awarded.


Student Debt and the Class of 2012 (Christine Keller)


According to information in a new report, Student Debt and the Class of 2012, college graduates who borrowed for bachelor’s degrees granted in 2012 had an average student loan debt of $29,400. The report is part of an annual series on student debt compiled by the Project on Student Debt at The Institute for College Access & Success (TICAS). Other findings for the 2012 graduates show that 71 percent have student loan debt and one-fifth of their debt was in private loans. From 2008 to 2012, average debt (federal and private loans combined) increased an average of 6 percent each year. The report also includes lists of high- and low-debt states and colleges around the country and highlights significant differences among colleges and states.


2013 SAT Report on College and Career Readiness (Melodie Christal)


In 2013 SAT Report on College and Career Readiness, the College Board reports only 43 percent of 2013 high school graduates taking the SAT were academically prepared for college-level course work. This number has not changed in five years. Studies show students who meet the SAT College and Career Readiness benchmark are more likely to enroll in a four-year college and more likely to persist and complete their degree. The 2013 high school graduates who met the SAT benchmark had several academic characteristics in common. They were: (1) more likely to have completed a core curriculum (four or more years of English and three or more years each of mathematics, natural science, and social science or history); (2) more likely to have taken honors or AP courses; and (3) more likely to be ranked in the top 10 percent of their high school graduating class.


Knocking at the College Door Supplements (Melodie Christal)


The Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE) has released a supplement to its Knocking at the College Door projections of high school graduates. The supplement breaks out projections of public high school graduates by sex through 2027-28 and provides new projections for public high school graduates produced in the 25 most heavily populated metropolitan areas in the United States.


National Center for Education Statistics (Christine Keller)


NCES released a Statistical Analysis Report (SAR), STEM Attrition: College Students’ Paths Into and Out of STEM Fields, which examines the patterns of beginning postsecondary students who declare a STEM major at the bachelor’s and associate’s degree levels. Their analysis uses the Beginning Postsecondary Students Longitudinal Study (BPS: 04/09) and the 2009 Postsecondary Education Transcript Study (PETS: 09).The model examines the effect of various factors on the likelihood of students remaining and graduating in a STEM field after six years, switching to a non-STEM field within six years, or dropping out entirely from postsecondary education without earning a credential. Among the findings: 48% of bachelor’s degree STEM students and 69% of associate’s degree STEM students left the field within six years. However, these attrition rates are not markedly different for non-STEM majors. Additionally, at both the bachelor’s and associate’s levels, STEM students who earned an overall college GPA of less than 2.50, were more likely to drop out from college. However, these students were less likely than those with overall college GPA’s of 3.50 or higher, to switch majors to a non-STEM field.


NCES released the 2011–12 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS: 12), a First Look report summarizing new estimates on the price and net price of attending postsecondary institutions. The report is based on data from the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS: 12), a nationally representative study of undergraduate and graduate students attending postsecondary institutions in the United States. In 2011-12, the average net price (price of attendance minus all grant aid) was $14,300 for an undergraduate to attend a public four-year institution and $23,000 to attend a private nonprofit institution. NPSAS: 12 data can be accessed through PowerStats, a tool for the analysis of NCES’s postsecondary education data.


Policy Watch 


Update on Gainful Employment Negotiated Rulemaking Committee


A third session has been added by the U.S. Department of Education as part of the negotiated rulemaking process for Gainful Employment. The negotiated rulemaking committee is charged with preparing proposed regulations establishing standards for programs that prepare students for gainful employment in a recognized occupation. The committee previously met in September and November. More information can be found on the Department of Education website and a notice has been posted on the Federal Register website. 


U.S. Department of Education Requests Input, Calls for Ideas


Last August, President Obama outlined a plan to increase the value and affordability of postsecondary education. On December 4, the U.S. Department of Education requested input on the proposed college rating system and information on campus innovations.  More information can be found on the Department of Education blog. 


Call for New Ideas and Innovations in Higher Education


Another major component of President Obama’s plan is to encourage innovation. The U.S. Department of Education is seeking input from stakeholders on topics “to spur responsible innovation that increases college value and affordability.” For more information on how to submit an idea, review this Federal Register notice or the Department’s Dear Colleague Letter. The deadline for submissions is January 31, 2014. 


Request for Input on College Ratings 


The U.S. Department of Education will submit a Request for Information (RFI) in the Federal Register asking experts and researchers to comment on the development of a college rating system as outlined in President Obama’s plan. (As of December 6, 2013, the Federal Register notice was not yet published.) The Department will continue to encourage the public to share ideas through


Published November 13, 2013


Reports and Tools 


Outcomes-Based Funding: The Wave of Implementation (Katie Zaback)


The National Center for Higher Education Management Systems (NCHEMS), supported by Complete College America, released Outcomes-Based Funding: The Wave of Implementation, which details trends in outcomes-based funding across states. The report details significant growth in outcomes-based funding and the adoption by states. Over a two-year period, eight states joined early adopters Indiana and Tennessee in implementing outcomes-based funding across all education sectors, and an additional six states are implementing performance-based funding in at least one sector.  Another 10 states are in the process of adopting outcomes-based funding and eight are showing active interest. The report identifies 11 design principles states should consider when developing outcomes-based funding systems such as being inclusive while recognizing distinct missions and goals within the system, designing systems that encourage and incentivize long-term outcomes (such as degree completion) and system goals (such as serving underserved populations), and ensuring measurements are transparent and support the overall goals. 


The Game Changers (Zhao Yang)


Complete College America’s (CCA) newly released report, The Game Changers, suggests five strategies states can implement to help students succeed in college. The strategies include: (1) using performance-based funding to tie state funding to student progression through programs; (2) enrolling students needing remediation in college classes with built-in academic support; (3) encouraging students to enroll in 15 credit hours each semester to finish on time; (4) providing students with “structured scheduling” to help balance jobs and school; and (5) placing students in highly structured degree plans. The report also includes examples of “strategies in action” from across the country that have been successful.  


Redesigning the Pell Grant Program for the Twenty-First Century (Katie Zaback)


In a discussion paper for the Hamilton Project, Redesigning the Pell Grant Program for the Twenty-First Century, financial aid scholars Sandy Baum and Judith Scott-Clayton analyze the current Pell program and provide recommendations on how the program could better support today’s students and encourage successful postsecondary completion. The paper proposes reforms to overcome four key barriers: (1) students’ need for better, targeted, and individualized information to help guide their choice in schools and degree programs; (2) the inability of the existing program structure to meet the needs of nontraditional students; (3) the complexity of the current application process; and (4) the failure of the current system to encourage and support on-time completion. The discussion paper provides specific policy recommendations to overcome these barriers and a road map for starting discussions as part of the Higher Education Opportunity Act Reauthorization process.  


College Board: Trends in Higher Education Series (Melodie Christal)


The College Board’s Trend in Higher Education Series was released in October. These reports provide the latest information on student financial aid, tuition, and other expenses associated with attending college. The Trends website provides easy access to the supporting data for download and use. 


Trends in College Pricing 2013 provides 2013-14 tuition and fees and room-and-board costs, shows how prices have changed over time, and how prices vary across types of institutions, states, and regions. The report also provides information on the average net prices paid by students after taking grant aid into consideration. Data for public two-year and four-year, and private four-year institutions are included. The rate of tuition increases slowed in 2013-14 for the second year in a row, rising less than 3 percent, the smallest increase in three decades. The average in-state tuition and fees at public four-year institutions is $8,893, and the average net price is about $3,120.  


Trends in Student Aid 2013 covers the types, sources, and amounts of financial aid available to assist students and families in paying for postsecondary education. The report looks at both undergraduate and graduate debt. Data in this report are from the 2012-13 academic year. In 2012-13, 49 percent of student aid was in the form of grants with over $185 billion in federal grant aid for undergraduate students. Pell grants of $32.3 million were available to 8.8 million students with an average grant of $3,650. 


Education Pays 2013: The Benefits of Higher Education for Individuals and Society documents differences in the earnings and employment of U.S. adults with different levels of education. It compares health-related behaviors, reliance on public assistance programs, civic participation, and indicators of the well-being of the next generation. Individuals with higher levels of education earn more and are more likely to be employed than others. College graduates provide increased tax revenues to federal, state, and local governments, and the governments spend less on programs to provide support for them. 


High School Benchmarks: National College Progression Rates (Zhao Yang)


The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center inaugural report, High School Benchmarks: National College Progression Rates, offers benchmarks for public high schools to compare their graduates’ college transition rates to national rates, including those schools serving low income and minority students. The report presents postsecondary outcomes for high school graduating classes from 2010 through 2012 and includes more than 2.3 million students, or about a quarter of all U.S. high school graduates each year. The high schools are separated into six categories based on income (higher/low), minority (high/low), and demographics (urban/rural). The report also includes college enrollment rates for both the first and second year after high school graduation, as well as persistence from the first to second year of college. The National Student Clearinghouse plans to release a high school benchmarking report annually to help high schools evaluate their progress in improving college access for their students.


National Center for Education Statistics (Katie Zaback)


Degrees of Debt (NCES 2014-011) examines student borrowing and loan repayment of bachelor’s degree recipients one year after graduation. The study compares three cohorts (1994, 2001, and 2009) spanning 15 years. Data for this analysis is from the Baccalaureate and Beyond Longitudinal (B&B) study, which follows bachelor’s degree recipients who were part of the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS) sample. Consistent with similar research, the percent of recent graduates who borrowed for their undergraduate education is growing as is the average amount borrowed. For-profit institutions continue to have the highest borrowing rates, but lower-income dependent students at private nonprofit institutions also have very high rates. Graduates in the most recent cohort seem to have larger challenges paying back their loans as fewer borrowers in the 2009 cohort were in repayment one-year after graduation, and more graduates who were in repayment faced loan payments greater than 12 percent of their monthly income. The report also looked at how loans influenced graduate school enrollment and living arrangements after graduation but there were few consistent trends.  


The 2012-13 Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) Methodology Report (2013-293) describes the universe, methods, and editing processes used by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) in the 2012-13 data collection cycle.   


Emerging Topics 


Voluntary Framework of Accountability


The American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) launched the Voluntary Framework of Accountability (VFA) in October. The VFA is the first national accountability system specifically developed by and for two-year colleges.  It is designed to be a comprehensive accountability framework with measures that comprise the breadth of the community college mission and the diversity of students' goals and educational experiences. VFA participation is open to all community colleges. 


Policy Watch 


Education Policy Resource from the New America Foundation


New America Foundation's Education Policy Program launched Ed Central, a new website designed to serve as a comprehensive source of education policy information and analysis. The website showcases news and analysis covering a full range of education issues, from early learning to primary and secondary education, college, and the workforce.   


Comment Request for Beginning Postsecondary Students Longitudinal Study (BPS: 12/14)


ED is requesting comments on the BPS: 12/14 first follow-up, which will include panel maintenance, student interviews, and administrative record matching. The BPS: 12/14 study will follow a cohort of students who enrolled in postsecondary education for the first time during the 2011-2012 academic years. Comments can be submitted electronically and are due by November 29, 2013.


Gainful Employment


The next gainful employment negotiated rulemaking session was rescheduled for November 18-20.


Published October 23, 2013  


Policy Watch


Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2013–2016; Extension of Public Comment Period; Correction


On October 2, 2013, the U.S. Department of Education published a 30-day comment period notice in the Federal Register (Page 60864, Column 2) seeking public comment for an information collection entitled, “Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2013-2016”. The comment period for this information collection request has been extended to November 14, 2013

The Acting Director, Information Collection Clearance Division, Privacy, Information and Records Management Services, Office of Management, hereby issues a correction notice as required by the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995.  
Published October 8, 2013
Reports and Tools
Separate and Unequal (Katie Zaback)

The Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce report, Separate and Unequal, examines minority access to higher education over the past 15 years. Although college access and enrollment for minority students has increased, there are different paths for white students and minority students. White students are increasingly likely to enroll in well-funded and selective four-year institutions, while African American and Hispanic students enroll in less selective, open access two- and four-year institutions. The report uses data from multiple national data sets to illustrate this trend and to discuss its ultimate implication. By attending less-prestigious institutions, Hispanic and African American students are often selecting institutions that have significantly fewer financial resources, lower retention and completion rates, and fewer career opportunities for those who do succeed. The authors acknowledge college readiness plays a part in these trends, but unprepared white students are still more likely to attend highly selective four-year institutions than well-prepared African American and Hispanic students.  

Higher Education Pays: But a Lot More for Some Graduates Than for Others (Melodie Christal)

Based on data from five states (Arkansas, Colorado, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia), in Higher Education Pays: But a Lot More for Some Graduates Than for Others, College Measures reports that several factors influence a graduate’s earnings including the discipline and degree earned and the institution awarding the degree. The report findings include: (1) students with short-term credentials, such as certificates and associate’s degrees, can earn more than bachelor’s degree recipients in the early years; (2) students graduating from flagship institutions do not earn more than graduates from a regional institution, suggesting where a student earns a degree has less of an impact than most students believe; (3) what a student studies influences earnings more than where a student studies; and (4) graduates with degrees in the STEM fields of technology, engineering, and mathematics earn more than other majors, but there is no evidence that those with degrees in science (e.g., biology or chemistry) earn more.  

Innovation Imperative: Enhancing Higher Education Outcomes (Zhao Yang)

On behalf of Northeastern University, FTI Consulting conducted a public opinion survey of 1,000 adults and 263 employers to gain insights on Americans’ attitudes toward the future of higher education. The survey results are presented in Innovation Imperative: Enhancing Higher Education Outcomes. Among the findings, the majority of the public and employers want colleges to produce graduates who can think critically and creatively, and can communicate effectively orally and in writing. They value graduates who are well-rounded, with a range of abilities, over those with industry-specific skills because such skills can be learned in the workplace. The poll found that Americans want colleges and universities to focus on integrating practical experience, such as internships, into the curriculum because graduates with these kinds of experiences tend to be more successful in their careers. Respondents affirmed the value of higher education, but 62 percent felt the current system is doing only a fair or poor job of preparing graduates for the workforce. Finally, 87 percent of the American public and 83 percent of business leaders said higher education in the United States needs to change to remain competitive with other countries. 

ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, 2013 (Zhao Yang)

Since 2004, the EDUCAUSE Center for Analysis and Research (ECAR) has surveyed undergraduate students to learn about the technologies that matter most to them. The ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information Technology, 2013 presents findings from the 113,000 survey respondents from 13 countries; the findings are organized around four themes: (1) While students recognize the value of technology, they need guidance for using it in their academic studies; (2) Students prefer blended learning environments while beginning to experiment with MOOCs; (3) Students want to use their mobile devices for academics, but they look to their instructors and institutions about how to best use the technology to enhance their college experience; and (4) Students value their privacy and prefer to keep their social and academic lives separate. For each theme, ECAR provides recommendations for institutions in addressing the needs of the students.   

Performance-Based Funding: The National Landscape (Katie Zaback)

Performance-Based Funding: The National Landscape was released in September 2013 by the University of Alabama Education Policy Center. This issue brief adds to the growing body of literature describing the national picture of performance funding, acknowledging the importance of this practice in light of President Obama’s recent recommendation for improving affordability and quality in postsecondary education. This brief begins by introducing the larger postsecondary landscape and the trends leading to a renewed focus on rewarding educational outcomes. It describes the history of performance funding, identifies states currently utilizing this practice, and provides some specific state examples. Additionally, this report identifies the metrics typically integrated into performance funding formulas, including the common completion metrics identified by the National Governors Association. The report includes recommendations for states as they implement and update their performance funding models, stressing the importance of recognizing existing systems, meeting state needs, dedicating resources, and engaging stakeholders in new performance funding efforts.  

The Federal Pell Grant Program: Recent Growth and Policy Options (Melodie Christal)

The Congressional Budget Office addresses growth in the Pell grant program between 2006-07 and 2011-12 in The Federal Pell Grant Program: Recent Growth and Policy Options. The Federal Pell Grant program was created to improve access of low-income students to postsecondary education with the grants awarded on the basis of financial need and academic course load. From 2006-07 through 2011-12, spending on Pell grants increase by 158 percent, with an 80-percent increase in the number of recipients and a 43-percent increase in the average grant in constant dollars. The report includes an analysis of why the Pell program has increased so dramatically as well as options for changing the program and alternatives to the program.  

Emerging Topics

COMMUNITY COLLEGES: New Federal Research Center May Enhance Current Understanding of Developmental Education

Approximately 42 percent of entering community college students are not sufficiently prepared for college-level courses and enroll in at least one developmental course, according to a report compiled by the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) for the Committee on Education and the Workforce in the U.S. House of Representatives. COMMUNITY COLLEGES: New Federal Research Center May Enhance Current Understanding of Developmental Education (GAO-13-656), addresses strategies selected states and community colleges use to improve developmental education and challenges community college have identified in implementing these strategies.  

The Department of Education plans to fund a new National Research Center on Developmental Education Assessment and Instruction to help policymakers and practitioners improve student outcomes. The research center is expected to launch in 2014.

Published September 10, 2013

Reports and Tools 
A Better Higher Education Data and Information Framework for Informing Policy (Katie Zaback)

A Better Higher Education Data and Information Framework for Informing Policy, a report released by HCM Strategists, communicates findings of a diverse group of 18 institutions participating in the Voluntary Institutional Metrics Project. The purpose of this project was to find a “limited but powerful” set of metrics that would benefit states and institutions and better inform the higher education policy debate. The group used a dashboard approach, tracking a select number of key performance indicators. They focused on identifying metrics in five key areas: student loan repayment and default rates; student progression and degree completion; cost per degree; employment outcomes for graduates; and, student learning outcomes. The report evaluates the availability and current utility of each of the measures proposed, putting them into three groups: (1) data were publically available and were input-adjusted (e.g. adjusted based on the characteristics of an institution’s student body); (2) data were collected but required special reports and have not been input-adjusted; and (3) limited or no data were collected and work continues. Data on employment and learning outcomes continue to present the greatest challenges.  

Baccalaureate Attainment: A National View of the Postsecondary Outcomes of Students Who Transfer from Two‐Year to Four-Year Institutions (Zhao Yang)

In the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center’s latest Signature Report, Baccalaureate Attainment: A National View of the Postsecondary Outcomes of Students Who Transfer from Two‐Year to Four-Year Institutions, examines baccalaureate completion and persistence outcomes of two- and four-year transfer students who transfer with and without completing a two-year credential. The report shows more than 60 percent of students who transferred from two-year schools in 2005-06 obtained a degree at a four-year institution and 8 percent were still working on their degree six years after transfer. Baccalaureate rates for students transferring with a two-year degree were higher than the rates for students who transfer before completing their degree. There is also a large positive gain (26 percentage points) in the six-year completion rate for students who transferred to a four-year institution within one year of enrollment at a two-year institution as compared to students who stop out for more than one year.  

The Economic Benefits of Attaining an Associate Degree Before Transfer: Evidence from North Carolina (Melodie Christal)

The Community College Research Center report, The Economic Benefits of Attaining an Associate Degree Before Transfer: Evidence from North Carolina, shows it is beneficial for students initially enrolled in a community college to graduate with an associate degree prior to transferring to a four-year institution. The research is based on students enrolled between 2001 and 2010 in the North Carolina Community College System and looks at student credit hour accumulation, award receipt, and labor market returns. Findings indicate students who complete an associate degree before transferring to a four-year institution save money in tuition costs and make about as much money as their peers who enroll directly in a four-year institution. Students who transfer prior to completing a two-year degree are less likely to complete a bachelor’s degree and leave college without any credentials. 

Program Requirements for Associate’s and Bachelor’s Degrees: A National Survey (Melodie Christal)

Complete College America (CCA) addresses the extent to which program requirements are responsible for students taking longer than necessary to complete their degrees in Program Requirements for Associate’s and Bachelor’s Degrees: A National Survey. Based on a survey of 189 programs at 310 institutions, CCA found most four-year public institutions require 120 credit hours to complete most bachelor’s degree programs with exceptions for fields such as engineering and education, which require additional credit hours. Community colleges typically require 60 hours to complete a general studies associate’s degree, while career-oriented or program-specific associate’s degrees require more, with wide variations among institutions. The authors conclude program requirements are only a small part of the reason students take longer than necessary to complete their degrees and encourage institutions, states, and accrediting organizations to evaluate programs to ensure the majority are at the normal length (i.e., 60 or 120 hours). They also recommend higher education leaders focus on other sources of extended time and credit hours such as courses with high failure or withdrawal rates, imperfect transfer of credits, and changes in majors.  

How Americans Pay for College (Katie Zaback)

In How Americans Pay for College, Sally Mae details the findings of its sixth annual survey of students and parents that examines the amount students and their parents pay for college, funding sources, and attitude toward college and funding college. This year’s results show students and parents becoming more cost sensitive in their college selection, often removing colleges from their set of choices due to cost. Since 2010, all income groups have reduced how much they spend on college overall. Additionally, the parents’ financial contribution to their children’s college costs is steadily declining and student borrowing is increasing to make up for this deficit. Grants and scholarships are now the largest source of college funding. Despite these trends, students and their parents continue to believe the investment in a college education is worthwhile.  

State Outlook: Fiscal and State Policy Issues Affecting Postsecondary Education (Melodie Christal)

AASCU’s (American Association of State Colleges and Universities) July 2013 State Outlook: Fiscal and State Policy Issues Affecting Postsecondary Education reports on the current economic climate of the nation and states and fiscal year 2014 funding for higher education. The State Outlook report also highlights higher education policies and initiatives from states’ 2013 legislative sessions. 

VA Education Benefits: Student Characteristics and Outcomes Vary across Schools (Zhao Yang)

The U.S Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, VA Education Benefits: Student Characteristics and Outcomes Vary across Schools, summarizes results from a review of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) education programs. The 2008 Post-9/11 GI Bill significantly increased education benefits for veterans providing for tuition and fees, housing expenses, and books such that in FY2012, about $11 billion in education payments were made to almost 1 million veterans. In its review, GAO analyzed the distribution of VA education payments among schools; how student characteristics and outcomes at highly VA-funded schools compare to those at other VA-funded schools; and how student characteristics and outcomes compare at highly VA-funded public, nonprofit, and for-profit schools. About 5 percent of schools (654) account for more than $3.8 billion of VA-education payments in FY2011 with for-profit schools receiving a higher proportion of Post-9/11 GI Bill tuition and fee payments as compared to all VA education programs. Highly VA-funded schools generally had more positive outcomes than other VA-funded schools in term of retention and graduation. However, when separated into public, nonprofit and for-profit schools, the results differ greatly. For example, highly VA-funded for-profit schools enroll a higher percentage of low-income and minority students. After controlling for differences in school and student characteristics, for-profit schools had lower retention rates compared to public and nonprofit schools, but graduation rates were higher than public schools and similar to nonprofit schools.  

The Condition of College & Career Readiness 2013 (Melodie Christal)

ACT has released its annual report, The Condition of College & Career Readiness 2013. Using ACT College Readiness Benchmarks and test scores, the report provides snapshots of college readiness for 2013 high school graduates for the nation and each state. In addition to the national report, individual state reports are also available. 

National Center for Education Statistics (Melodie Christal)

The NCES First Look 2011-12 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS:12) Financial Aid Estimates for 2011-12 presents select findings about student financial aid from NPSAS:12, a nationally representative survey of 95,000 undergraduates and 16,000 graduate students. The primary purpose of NPSAS:12 is to measure how students pay for postsecondary education, with a focus on the federal student aid provided through Title IV. The initial findings indicate 71 percent of undergraduates receive some type of financial aid with 57 percent receiving federal student aid. The average amount of aid among those who receive aid was $10,800.  

NCES also released a revision to the NPSAS:08 data files to reflect the re-weighting of the data to match weighting protocols used in NPSAS:12.  The revised dataset is available in PowerStats. 

Policy Watch (Christine Keller) 

Gainful Employment Draft Released

The U.S. Department of Education released draft language for a proposed new "gainful employment" rule on August 30 to replace the earlier version that was blocked by a federal court in June 2012. The draft regulation will be part of negotiated rule-making beginning September 9. Resources with more details on the draft rule include:

  • A document comparing the new and old version prepared by the Department of Education.
  • An analysis prepared by The New America Foundation, a Washington D.C. public policy institute.  

Common Education Data Standards (CEDS) Version 4 Open for Comments

The draft of the Version 4 Common Education Data Standards (CEDS) has been released for public comment.  All are encouraged to review the draft standards and submit comments by September 20, 2013, via the CEDS website. There are over 200 proposed new V4 elements, as well as some updated elements from the previous version of CEDS.  In total, the proposed CEDS Version 4 includes over 1,300 unduplicated elements.

Published August 13, 2013

Reports and Tools

Measuring Post-Traditional Student Success: Institutions Making Progress, but Challenges Remain (Melodie Christal)


Based on a survey of 75 public and private institutions, UPCEA (University Professional and Continuing Education Association) reports in Measuring Post-Traditional Student Success: Institutions Making Progress, but Challenges Remain that more colleges are tracking retention and graduation rates of nontraditional students  and have developed a good understanding of the key factors contributing to attrition for these students. Survey respondents indicated their primary concern was a lack of benchmark data on nontraditional students to evaluate the effectiveness of their efforts to increase student persistence and success rates. Three obstacles to establishing benchmark data were cited: lack of consensus on definitions and metrics; lack of coordination among colleges, policymakers, accreditors and others to establish benchmarks; and inadequate resources at institutions. Based on these findings, UPCEA recommends that institutions collaborate “to share data and forge a common voice for advocating both within institutions and across the industry for the resources and attention required to tackle these important issues.”


Online College Students 2013: Comprehensive Data on Demands and Preferences (Melodie Christal)


In Online College Students 2013: Comprehensive Data on Demands and Preferences, The Learning House, Inc. reports findings from their second annual survey of 1,500 former, current, and future students enrolled in fully online undergraduate or graduate programs. The survey covered topics such as the perceived value of an online degree, factors students consider when choosing an institution, motivation for online study, preferred mode of study, and marketing to online students. The report also includes recommendations for developing online programs. About two-thirds of online students attend not-for-profit institutions with an overwhelming majority preferring academic terms from between six to 12 weeks, instead of the traditional 15-week term. Online students report that reputation is an important factor in selecting an institution with reputation based on accreditation, quality of faculty, and personal acquaintances with other attendees. Business is the most popular field of study for both undergraduate and graduate students. The report notes that respondents who completed their program consider it a good investment of time and money, with many finding new jobs or receiving raises and promotions.


Recovery: Job Growth and Education Requirements through 2010 (Melodie Christal)


The new Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce report, Recovery: Job Growth and Education Requirements through 2010, notes the economy will create 55 million new job openings in the next decade with four of the five fastest-growing occupations—healthcare professional, STEM, education, and community services—requiring high levels of postsecondary education. The skills in demand will be leadership, communication, analytics and administration. The report suggests that without major changes to postsecondary education, there will be a shortfall of 5 million workers with postsecondary credentials by 2020.The report shows the occupations that are growing or declining in each state and the level of education needed for the occupations.


Annual Survey Report on State-Sponsored Financial Aid (Melodie Christal)


The National Association of State Student Grant and Aid Programs (NASSGAP) Annual Survey Report provides data on 2011-12 state-funded expenditures for postsecondary student financial aid. In 2011-12, states awarded approximately $11.1 billion in state-funded financial aid, a 1.8 percent increase from the prior year in constant dollars.  The majority of aid was awarded in the form of grants: 74 percent of the grants were need-based and 26 percent were nonneed-based. States provided more than $1.7 billion in nongrant student aid, including loans, work study, and tuition waivers, down almost 4 percent from last year. Loans and tuition waivers accounted for 76 percent of nongrant funds awarded.  Additional resources are available on the NASSGAP website. A State Data Quick Check tool shows expenditures by programs for a selected year and an online tool allows for customized queries of survey data.


2013 Higher Education Technology Survey (Zhao Yang)


Technology is a critical resource on college campuses, and chief information officers (CIO) are responsible for maintaining, improving, and securing the information technology functions in a rapidly changing environment. The CONSERO Group report,  2013 Higher Education Technology Survey, presents survey results of CIOs from 41 colleges and universities across the United States. Over one-half (54 percent) of the respondents are members of their institution’s senior management staff (e.g., president’s cabinet). The report covers issues such as business decision-making, budget changes, outcome measurement criteria, BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policies, and data security. Although data security is a critical focus for CIOs, only 39 percent reported their institution has a chief information security officer and 10 percent of the respondents reported having a data security breach in the past 12 months. Other survey highlights indicate 61 percent of the institutions do not currently have a BYOD policy and only 22 percent of the IT departments oversee or report academic assessment or outcome measures.


Early College, Early Success (Melodie Christal)


In Early College, Early Success, the American Institutes for Research presents results from research on the Early College High School Initiative (ECHSI) funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The ECHSI engages underserved high school students in a rigorous curriculum and provides them the opportunity to earn college credit as a means to motivate them to enroll in postsecondary education after high school. A study of 10 Early Colleges found 86 percent of Early College students graduated from high school compared with 81 percent of a comparison group. The Early College students were also more likely to enroll in college and earn a college degree. The Early College impact on high school graduation and college enrollment did not differ significantly based on gender, ethnicity and race, first-generation college-going, or family income, suggesting the Early Colleges mitigate educational attainment gaps between advantaged and disadvantaged students.


Emerging Topics


Effectiveness and Efficiency in Promoting Timely Degree Completion (Christine Keller)


The Midwestern Higher Education Compact (MHEC) recently announced an alternative method for measuring institutional effectiveness and efficiency. Effectiveness is defined as the difference between an institution’s actual graduation rate and a predicted rate based on the institution’s structural attributes, students served, and geographical context. This measure of effectiveness is then compared to institutional expenditures to derive an indicator of efficiency.


MHEC is a non-profit regional organization, established by compact statute, to assist Midwestern states in advancing higher education through interstate cooperation and resource sharing.


In Debt and In the Dark: It’s Time for Better Information on Student Loan Defaults (Zhao Yang)


In Debt and In the Dark: It’s Time for Better Information on Student Loan Defaults, a report by Education Sector, recommends tracking and reporting student loan default rates as a way for the federal government to better monitor institutional accountability and how well taxpayer dollars are spent. The proposed accountability metric uses a three-year default rate, adjusted by two risk factors (percentages of Pell Grants and part-time students), to provide a predicted default rate. The default rate is then paired with the institution’s graduation rate of first-time, full-time degree-seeking students to measure institutional accomplishments. Institutions where default rates exceed graduation rates should “set off a red flag” for prospective student borrowers. Education Sector recommends using loan default rates as an accountability measure for two reasons: (1) the rates are objective and quantifiable, and (2) they are difficult for institutions to manipulate.


Policy Watch


Supporting Academic Freedom through Regulatory Relief Act (Christine Keller)


A bill designed to reduce the regulatory burden on higher education through the repeal of several federal regulations was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives on July 10, 2013. H.R. 2637, the Supporting Academic Freedom through Regulatory Relief Act, would repeal existing regulations related to state authorization, definition of credit hour, gainful employment, and other regulations. The bill also would prohibit the U.S. Department of Education from promulgating rules defining credit hours at any time in the future, and from issuing regulations for state authorization or gainful employment until after Congress reauthorizes the Higher Education Act (HEA). 

Published July 10, 2013 

Reports and Tools (summaries of resources and research useful to IR professionals) 

Supporting Latino Community College Students: An Investment in Our Economic Future

Supporting Latino Community College Students: An Investment in Our Economic Future, a report from Exelencia in Education and Single Stop USA, examines obstacles to Latino degree completion and outlines recommendations for moving these students through the education pipeline and into successful careers. According to the report, low degree attainment among Latinos is a result of several challenges including college cost, limited knowledge about college, increased family responsibilities, and the need to work while attending college. The report recommends that state policymakers target appropriations to incentivize colleges to better coordinate student services aligned with retention, completion, and employment outcomes. The report also proposes targeting information about financial aid by developing dissemination strategies to more effectively reach Latinos and other low income students. 

Work Readiness Standards and Benchmarks

In the report, Work Readiness Standards and Benchmarks, ACT defines work readiness and the types and levels of skills needed to succeed in the workplace. ACT has tracked skill needs in the workforce for over 20 years and has compiled an extensive job skills database. According to ACT, workforce readiness is defined by an individual’s ability to read and locate information, think critically, and solve problems by applying mathematical solutions. Workers' soft skills are also important indicators of workforce readiness, such as the ability to cooperate and adapt to new situations. The report also describes specific factors important for an individual to experience success in the workplace throughout a lifetime. 

Hard Times: College Majors, Unemployment and Earnings

The Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce released its second annual edition of Hard Times: College Majors, Unemployment and Earnings. The report indicates that recent college graduates continue to have difficulty finding jobs in the slow economic recovery, but unemployment rates have dropped to 7.9 percent (2010), compared to the 8.9 percent (2009) unemployment rate cited in the first edition of Hard Times. The report includes data on unemployment rates and earnings by various college majors and degree types. 

The Price of a Science PhD: Variations in Student Debt Levels Across Disciplines and Race/Ethnicity

The American Institutes for Research issue brief, The Price of A Science PhD: Variations in Student Debt Levels Across Disciplines and Race/Ethnicity, uses data from the Survey of Earned Doctorates (SED) to examine the debt level among STEM PhD recipients. The study looks at how debt differs by race/ethnicity and gender and compares debt of STEM Ph.D.s with the debt of Ph.D.s in the social, behavioral, and economic (SBE) sciences. 

Condition of Education 2013

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) Condition of Education 2013 (NCES 2013-037) presents 42 indicators on the status and condition of education covering all levels of education from early childhood through postsecondary education. This year’s report spotlights four issues of current interest: (1) trends in employment rates by educational attainment; (2) kindergarten entry status; (3) rural education; and (4) financing postsecondary education. 

Emerging Topics (information on developing ideas and discussions from the field)  

Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)

The dramatic increase in Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), presents researchers, faculty, administrators, and policy makers with a range of questions about the effectiveness of this format of teaching and learning. The impact of MOOCs is not widely known and has been largely disseminated through press releases and university reports.

  • The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation are funding the MOOC Research Initiative as part of a set of investments intended to explore the potential of MOOCs to extend access to postsecondary credentials through more personalized, more affordable pathways.” Grants of $10,000 to $25,000 will be awarded in August 2013 to help provide more peer-review research on their effectiveness and impact on student learning.
  • According to a recent nationwide survey of public attitudes about MOOCs, many people outside of higher education have never heard of MOOCs. Only 23 percent of the respondents reported they were familiar with MOOCs and 4 percent reported they were very familiar with them. The survey showed significant differences in attitudes toward MOOCs among parents, students, alumni, donors and employers. The survey was conducted on behalf of Brodeur Partners.

Top-Ten IT Issues, 2013: Welcome to the Connected Age

In the May/June 2013 EDUCAUSE Review, Educause presents its annual Top Ten IT Issues for higher education and a set of strategic questions for each issue. “Leveraging the wireless and device explosions on campus” is listed as the top issue. “Using analytics to support critical institutional outcomes” was also identified in the top ten list as institutions increasingly need data to better understand challenges around student success, affordability, and access so they can develop appropriate public policies. Funding information technology strategically was also included in the top ten.

Policy Watch (alerts readers to national policy news and topics that may warrant attention)  

College Affordability and Transparency Lists Updated for 2013

The College Affordability and Transparency Center was updated on June 28 with the 2013 iteration of the College Affordability and Transparency Lists, and the information is now publicly available. As stipulated by the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008, the website provides information about tuition and net prices at postsecondary institutions, including institutions with high and low tuition and fees as well as high and low net prices. It also shows which institutions have tuition and fees and net prices that are increasing at the highest rates.  

Student Achievement Measure (SAM) Project Launched

Six higher education associations announced a joint project - the Student Achievement Measure (SAM) - on June 24. The SAM metric will allow colleges and universities to deliver a more complete picture of student progress along the path to earning a college degree or certificate. Institutions can sign up to participate in the project through the SAM website. Each participating college or university will begin to post its own student achievement measures on the website in fall 2013.  

Supreme Court Ruling: Affirmative Action

On June 24, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling on affirmative action but did not offer a definitive opinion on whether colleges may consider the use of race in admissions. Instead, it faulted the appeals court for not applying "strict scrutiny" for the consideration of race and sent the case back to the lower court. The Supreme Court opinion reaffirmed that colleges must meet the requirements previously given by the court to justify the use of race in admissions. For more information, visit the Inside Higher Ed website or the UTAustin website.

Published June 11, 2013

The Next Generation University (Sean McKitrick)

In The Next Generation University, the New America Foundation (a nonprofit, nonpartisan public policy institute in Washington DC) explores the future of public higher education. The New America Foundation challenges public institutions to find a different approach to educate an increasingly diverse population of students at a reasonable cost. Their report showcases six public institutions which have demonstrated a commitment to research as well as expanding enrollment and increasing graduation rates, even as state-level revenues are declining. New America selected the six institutions based on an analysis of federal data, campus visits, and independent research. The report concludes with recommendations for institutions, states, and the federal government for creating “The Next Generation University.” 

Preparing Students for College (Melodie Christal)

Using data from the High School Longitudinal Study of 2009 (HSLS:09), the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) provides information on what high schools are doing to help students transition to postsecondary education in Preparing for College: What High Schools are Doing and How Their Actions Influence Ninth Graders’ College Attitudes, Aspirations, and Plans. Part I of the report addresses college-level courses, school counselors’ attitudes and how their time is used, and students’ interactions with their counselors. Part II outlines things counselors can do to help their students successfully transition to college.  

Term Enrollment Estimates Fall 2012 (Melodie Christal)

The National Student Clearinghouse issued a report in May 2013 addressing enrollment trends over the last three years. According to the report, fall 2012 enrollment was down 1.8 percent from fall 2011, and spring 2013 enrollment declined 2.3 percent from the prior year. An analysis of enrollment from fall to spring terms over the last three years shows the fall attrition rate has been increasing. This phenomenon is occurring across every sector of higher education and in every region of the country. 

This report is the first in a series of current term enrollment reports to be published by the Clearinghouse each December and May. More than 3,400 colleges and universities, enrolling over 96% of all students in public and private U.S. institutions, submit enrollment data to the Clearinghouse. Since the Clearinghouse collects data at the student level, the data allow for reporting unduplicated headcounts. Approximately 2 percent of students enroll at more than one institution.  

What Does It Really Mean to Be College and Work Ready? (Melodie Christal)

In What Does It Really Mean to Be College and Work Ready?, The National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE) investigates the level of mathematics and English literacy required for high school graduates to be successful in the first year of a community college program. Some of the findings are counter to widely held opinions. For example, many community college career programs require math skills primarily at the middle school level. The reading skill levels required in initial courses are between the level of grade 11 and grade 12. Despite these levels, the failure rates for initial mathematics and English courses at many community colleges remain significant.  While some may call for raising the standards in community colleges, NCEE suggests the first step should be to ensure all high school students can succeed within the current community college standards before standards are raised. 

National Center for Education Statistics (Sean McKitrick)In the Web Tables report, Today’s Baccalaureate: The Fields and Courses That 2007–08 Bachelor’s Degree Recipients Studied  (NCES 2013-755), NCES provides data from the Postsecondary Education Transcript Study (PETS) and the 2008/09 Baccalaureate and Beyond Longitudinal Study (B&B:08/09) on the various fields and courses in which students enroll. The report includes data on courses in many different fields, including STEM, and information about bachelor degree recipients’ course taking behaviors, such as the 30 courses in which graduates most frequently earned credits.In the First Look publication, Postsecondary Institutions and Cost of Attendance in 2012-13; Degrees and Other Awards Conferred, 2011-12; and 12-Month Enrollment, 2011-12 (NCES 2013-289), NCES presents preliminary data from the Fall 2012 IPEDS data collection including the cost of attendance, degrees granted in the United States, and 12-month enrollment. Among the findings, the report states average tuition and required fees increased from 2010-11 to 2012-13 in public and nonprofit four-year institutions, while it decreased at for-profit, four-year institutions. The report also notes approximately 29 million students were enrolled in 2011-12, including 25.2 million undergraduate students and 3.8 graduate students.  


Policy Watch 


Higher Education Act Reauthorization (Carol Fuller and Melodie Christal)


In preparation for the upcoming reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, The Committee on Education and the Workforce are exploring issues affecting students, families, and postsecondary institutions including: (1) empowering students as consumers; (2) simplifying and improving student aid and loan programs; (3) encouraging institutions to reduce costs; (4) increasing accessibility, affordability, and completion; (5) promoting innovation to improve access and delivery of higher education; and (6) balancing the need for accountability with the burden of federal requirements. The Committee is requesting feedback on these and other issues by August 2, 2013.  


Proposed Legislation for Higher Education Reporting (Patricia Gregg)


On May 9, Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL), Mark Warner (D-VA), and Ron Wyden (D-OR) introduced the Student Right to Know Before You Go Act of 2013 - bipartisan legislation aimed at providing a wider range of comparative information about colleges for students and families.  The proposed data would include information not currently available on a national scale, such as graduation rates for non-traditional students, transfer rates, student debt, and post-graduation outcomes such as employment, earning, and pursuit of higher levels of education.   The legislation seeks to streamline institutional reporting requirements by gathering some data at the student record level.   


Student Financial Aid Requirements (Carol Fuller and Melodie Christal)


The United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) has released the Higher Education report, Experts Cited a Range of Requirements as Burdensome (GAO-13-371). This report looks at which student financial aid requirements under Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended, are the most burdensome for postsecondary institutions. 


Applying for Title IV Eligibility for Direct Assessment (Competency-Based) Programs (Sean McKitrick)


The U.S. Department of Education (DOE) outlined procedures institutions must follow for students to have access to Title IV funds if the institution wishes to use direct (or competency-based) assessments in lieu of credit or clock hours. These procedures are included in a March 19, 2013 DOE “Dear Colleague” letter and specify institutions must submit an application to the DOE as part of the application process and provide documentation from their accrediting agencies or state licensing bodies.  


Published May 6, 2013


Rethinking Pell Grants (Zhao Yang)


In Rethinking Pell Grants, The College Board Advocacy and Policy Center presents recommendations for strengthening the Pell Grant program and increasing the benefits it provides to both students and society as a whole. A study group, convened by the College Board and funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Lumina Foundation, focused on designing a system to use financial aid as effectively as possible. Recognizing the Pell Grant program serves multiple populations with different educational and career goals, the report outlines two paths for the program – Pell Y for younger students and Pell A for older adults – to better meet the differing needs of young people growing up in low- and moderate-income families and of older adults returning to school to improve their job/career opportunities. The study group recommended the federal government simplify the financial aid application process and eligibility determination, support award levels based on the number of credits in which students are enrolled, establish financial incentives for colleges that do the best job of helping Pell recipients complete their academic programs, and create educational accounts to help children from low-income families pay for their college expenses.   


Improving Postsecondary Education through the State Budget Process: Challenges and Opportunities (Ellen Peters)


The National Association of State Budget Officers (NASBO) report, Improving Postsecondary Education through the State Budget Process: Challenges and Opportunities, presents both the current status of higher education finance and opportunities for improving it from the perspective of state budget officers. While the current system may have worked well in the past, fiscal changes at the federal and state levels and in the private market make reform necessary to keep college affordable and raise student success. Specific strategies and recommendations include restricting tuition increases, tying funding to performance and results, creating incentives for improving access, increasing cost-efficiency and productivity, and making information about postsecondary spending more transparent. The report concludes that the current economic and political climate creates an opportunity for higher education officials and policymakers to work closely together to reform postsecondary funding systems.   


Metrics, Dollars, and Systems Change (Ellen Peters)


Metrics, Dollars, and Systems Change: Learning from Washington State’s Student Achievement Initiative to Design Effective Postsecondary Performance Funding Policies, a policy brief from the Community College Research Center, summarizes lessons learned in developing, implementing, and monitoring a performance funding system. Suggested recommendations include: (1) measure what states consider to be most important; (2) develop metrics targeted toward individual institutional goals; (3) use fiscal incentives to motivate change, phase in consequences to allow for learning and adjustments, and provide technical assistance for colleges that need it; and (4) measure an institution’s improvement in performance against its own historical baseline rather than against the performance of other colleges. By highlighting what has worked in the state of Washington’s performance funding system, the brief provides policymakers in other states a possible blueprint for increasing postsecondary productivity and student success.  


Demography as Destiny: Policy Considerations in Enrollment Management (Ellen Peters)


The Western Interstate Commission on Higher Education (WICHE) April 2013 Policy Insights report, Demography as Destiny: Policy Considerations in Enrollment Management, summarizes the main findings from WICHE’s eighth edition of Knocking at the College Door: Projections of High School Graduates. The Demography as Destiny report looks at changes in the size and racial/ethnic composition of high school graduates in the context of the college completion agenda and the need for greater educational attainment. It also addresses how the demographic changes and fiscal stress impact enrollment management. The report concludes by offering reflections on how policymakers and institutional leaders can respond to these challenges with policies and practices that align with society's rising needs and expectations for higher education. 


AAUP Annual Report on the Economic Status of the Profession (Melodie Christal)


Each year, the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) collects salary and benefit data for full-time instructional faculty from colleges and universities through the AAUP Faculty Compensation Survey. The report Here’s the News: The Annual Report on the Economic Status of the Profession, 2012-13, presents the most recent survey results. In addition to the salary data, the report addresses three “perennial problems,” including the continuing rise in the number of non-tenure-track faculty, the decline in state appropriations for higher education, and growing pay differentials between the public and private sectors. The main report, addressing trends in full-time faculty compensation over the past year, is available to all readers. The report's appendices, which includes salary and compensation data at specific institutions, is available only to AAUP members.


National Center for Education Statistics (Bruce Mentzer)

Federal Student Loan Debt Burden of Noncompleters (NCES 2013-155), a Statistics in Brief publication, focuses on the median federal student debt accrued by students not completing a postsecondary credential within six years after enrolling. The study is based on NCES longitudinal data from the two most recent cohorts of beginning postsecondary students (1995-96 and 2003-04). The study addresses three questions: (1) How prevalent is noncompletion and at what rate did noncompleters borrow from federal student loan programs? (2) How did the rate and amount of borrowing and how did employment rates differ between completers and noncompleters? (3) What was the median cumulative federal debt for noncompleters relative to their income and what percentage of noncompleters had a federal debt burden 100% or higher of their annual income?


The NCES Technical Report, The Adult Training and Education Survey (ATES) Pilot Study (NCES 2013-190), describes the process and findings of a pilot test of survey items developed to assess the prevalence and characteristics of certifications/licenses and subbaccalaureate educational certificates in the U.S. adult population. 


Policy Watch

Distance Education (Melodie Christal)
The Commission on the Regulation of Postsecondary Distance Education was established to develop recommendations to address the cost and issues postsecondary institutions face in complying with state laws and regulations in providing distance education. In the report Advancing Access through Regulatory Reform: Findings, Principles, and Recommendations for the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA), the Commission proposes a plan for interstate reciprocity based on voluntary participation of colleges and universities.  

New State Spending Charts Available from the Department of Education (Christine Keller)


The Department of Education released the newest State Spending Charts on April 5. Per the Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA), the state spending charts feature summary information on changes in state appropriations for postsecondary education, state aid for students, and tuition and fees. These charts include annual percentage changes for data spanning 2005-06 through 2010-11. 


College for America (Christine Keller)


In April, the U.S. Department of Education approved Southern New Hampshire University's (SNHU) College for America (CfA).  CfA will be the first program in the country to receive federal financial aid based on "direct assessment" of learning, rather than the credit hour. The New America Foundation discusses the significance of this decision in their April 18 blog post.


Published April 8, 2013


State Higher Education Finance FY 2012 (Katie Zaback)

The State Higher Education Executive Officers (SHEEO) released State Higher Education Finance FY 2012  documenting state and national trends in educational appropriations, tuition revenue, and enrollment over the last 25 years. The report is intended to help higher education leaders and state policymakers focus on how discrete, year-to-year decisions fit into broader patterns of change over time, and to help them make decisions in the coming years. In 2012, the effects of the 2008 recession continued with total state and local support at $81.2 billion–down 7 percent from 2011. Although enrollment stabilized in 2012 at 11.5 percent, the reduction in state and local support, combined with an increase in inflation, contributed to a 9-percent decrease from 2011 to 2012 in state and local support per student in constant dollars. Per-student support in 2012 is $5,896, the lowest level in the 25 years shown in the report. Net tuition revenue per student reached $5,189 in 2012, an all-time high. Over the past 25 years, the percentage of educational revenue supported by tuition has climbed steadily from 23.3 percent in 1987 to 47.0 percent in 2012. Despite tuition increases, total educational revenue (net tuition plus state and local funding) per student dropped by 8 percent in constant dollars, from $12,067 in 2008 to $11,085 in 2012.  


Reimagining Aid Design and Delivery Project (Katie Zaback)


As part of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Reimagining Aid Design and Delivery project, 16 organizations have released reports recommending changes to the major financial aid programs, information provided to students, and measures on which colleges are held accountable. Some of the recommendations are shared across the 16 organizations and some are contradictory. To assist in understanding the reports, the Chronicle of Higher Education has created a chart for their subscribers that provides a comparison of key topics in the 16 reports.  The State Higher Education Executive Officers’ (SHEEO) website also provides links to the individual RADD reports. Additionally, the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) has a matrix that compares the policy recommendations of each paper. Within the papers there is agreement that the financial aid system is broken, but there is less agreement about what needs to be done to fix it. A number of factors influence this divergence, primarily different beliefs about the purpose of the financial aid system and a lack of data that allows policy analysts to research the system fully. Financial aid will likely receive increasing scrutiny as tuition increases and alternative support for higher education declines.     


Doing Better for More Students:  Putting Student Outcomes at the Center of Federal Financial Aid (Patricia Gregg and Tom Martin)


HCM Strategists charged a technical panel to examine the federal financial aid system and develop innovative policies to respond to today’s fiscal, economic, and demographic realities. Results from this eight-month study are presented in Doing Better for More Students: Putting Student Outcomes at the Center of Federal Financial Aid. The report begins with the premise that the current financial aid system was “built for a different age” and provides a summary of federal student aid policy. It then examines obstacles policymakers should address to provide a more effective student aid program focused on improving student outcomes. The report offers four policy options intended to work together to provide a comprehensive, more financially sustainable financial aid system: (1) Simplify student financial aid to have a single grant program and a single loan program; (2) Simplify the federal tax credit for higher education; (3) Promote a shared responsibility for completion with students and institutions. (4) Spend a portion of the federal aid budget on demonstration programs that spur innovation and experimentation. Specific proposals are detailed, including three sample programs: Pell-Ready Grant, Competency-Based Higher Education, and Performance Contract. The narrative report is followed by 11 extensive data tables outlining anticipated costs and benefits of the proposed reform options. 


Recent Deep State Higher Education Cuts May Harm Students and the Economy for Years to Come (Mary McLean-Scanlon)


The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities report, Recent Deep State Higher Education Cuts Harm Students and the Economy for Years to Come, argues the economic downturn and states’ hesitance to raise funds is having profound negative effects on higher education. Across the nation, states are spending almost a third less per student on higher education in 2013 than they did in 2008. When states cut funding, colleges and universities have essentially two choices: increase tuition or cut spending. As a case in point, four-year public college tuition has increased 27 percent since the 2008 school year and student aid has not always covered the increase. To reduce spending, institutions have cut faculty positions, eliminated course offerings, closed campuses, and reduced student services. The report concludes such cuts will have consequences for the quality of education at the very time when the economic importance of higher education is the highest it has ever been for the nation. The authors assert that states need to consider these repercussions of higher education spending cuts and create responsible modes of addressing them.  With the economic importance of higher education higher than ever, taking a closer look at the deficits created by decreased funding for higher education is needed. The authors suggest that states need to consider the repercussions of higher education spending cuts and create responsible modes of addressing them.  


A Matter of Degrees: The Effect of Educational Attainment on Regional Economic Prosperity (Tom Martin)


The Milikin Institute report, A Matter of Degrees: The Effect of Educational Attainment on Regional Economic Prosperity uses a dataset linking educational attainment and occupational trends by region over 30 years to assess the relationship between education and a region’s economic performance. Key findings include that education increases regional prosperity--the better educated the worker, the greater the benefit is to the worker and the region. The authors conclude with five recommendations: (1) Make higher education more affordable; (2) Make higher education more accessible; (3) Increase graduation rates; (4) Strengthen coordination between higher education and the employment sector; (5) Promote more research and development. 


Adaptability to Online Learning: Differences Across Types of Students and Academic Subject Areas (Jim Lynch)


The Community College Research Center (CCRC) study, Adaptability to Online Learning: Differences Across Types of Students and Academic Subject Areas, reports students enrolled in face-to-face courses achieve higher retention rates and better grade-point averages compared to students enrolled in online courses; furthermore, black students, males, younger students, and students with poor academic records were more susceptible to weaker performance in online courses. The study suggests postsecondary institutions need to take a hard look at how to improve the quality of the online course experience, ensuring that “learning outcomes are equal to those of face-to-face courses, regardless of the composition of the students enrolled…” Colleges must prepare students to take online courses, especially during their formative exposure to distance education – for example, a growing number of institutions require students to take a prerequisite online learning tutorial to ensure they are prepared to enroll in online courses.  


The College Decision-Making Process: A Survey of Parents of 5th - 12th-Grade Students (Patricia Gregg)


Inside Higher Ed and Gallup have released The College Decision-Making Process: A Survey of Parents of 5th - 12th Grade Students (March 2013). The survey addresses questions about the process parents go through in making or influencing where their children will attend college. Telephone interviews were conducted with a random sample of over 3,000 parents in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Parents responding to the survey indicated the most important reason for their child to get education beyond high school was to get a good job. However, nearly half (47%) of those surveyed believed there might be ways other than college that would lead to a good job. The majority of parents reported they were likely to restrict the colleges to which their children could apply based on tuition and fees. Survey findings also address affirmative action and acceptable levels of student loan debt. The report breaks out responses for parents of younger (5th-8th grade) and older (9th-12th grade) students and by demographics or family income levels where germane to the question. 


Policy Watch


Proposed Changes for the IPEDS 2014-15 Data Collections Open for Comment until May 13, 2013   


The 60-day comment period for the 2014-15 and 2015-16 IPEDS data collections is open and can be accessed through the Federal Register website (Federal Register Volume 78, Number 50, Pages 16259-16260). Details on the proposed changes can be found in Part A of the Supporting Statements posted on the regulations website. Comments should be submitted through this site and are due by May 13, 2013.


Published March 12, 2013


Completing College: A State-Level View of Student Attainment Rates (Christine Keller)

The National Student Clearinghouse released Completing College: A State-Level View of Student Attainment Rates – a supplement to their national study on college completion. The report offers a state-by-state look at the various pathways students take to complete a college degree or certificate. The report is based on student-level data made available to the Clearinghouse by more than 3,300 colleges and universities, and includes nearly 97 percent of students attending public and private nonprofit postsecondary institutions. Among the study’s state-level findings: In Minnesota, 27 percent of students who started at a four-year public university in fall 2006 completed their degree at a different institution. One in five students in Virginia who started at a two-year public institution completed at a four-year institution within six years. In Alaska, 28 percent of students who started at a four-year public institution and later graduated had earned that credential in a different institution and in a different state.  


Doing Away With Debt: Using Existing Resources to Ensure College Affordability for Low and Middle-Income Families (Susan Gracia)


In Doing Away With Debt: Using Existing Resources to Ensure College Affordability for Low and Middle-Income Families, Education Trust proposes a redesign of the financial aid system to increase college completion, reduce student debt, and close the opportunity and attainment gaps. The authors argue the current system is outdated and does not adequately address the college affordability challenges brought on in part by growth in tuition and fees and changing student demographics. The proposed redesign would keep the Pell grant program intact and consolidate other federal programs to provide state grants that can be targeted to needy students and colleges.  


The College Completion Agenda: 2012 Progress Report (Christine Keller)


The College Board Advocacy & Policy Center’s The College Completion Agenda: 2012 Progress Report and updated website summarize progress toward the national goal to increase the proportion of young adults holding a postsecondary credential to 55 percent by 2025. The report provides a brief overview and highlights selected statistics while the updated website offers more detailed information on indicators, national summaries, and the ability to create state comparisons across all education levels from preschool to college. The report findings show some progress has been made toward reaching the national goal. For example, between 2008 and 2010, the overall number of degrees increased over 257,000 with the greatest increases in associate and baccalaureate degrees. The U.S. ranking has improved from 16th place out of 36 nations to 14th place in terms of the percentage of 25- to 34-year-olds with an associate degree or higher.


America’s Call for Higher Education Redesign (Susan Gracia)


The Lumina Foundation and Gallup report, America’s Call for Higher Education Redesign, presents results from a telephone survey of 1,009 adults in U.S. households. The objective of the study was to determine perceptions of the general American population about higher education issues including degree attainment, quality and value, costs, and innovative learning models. The findings indicate although Americans believe higher education is important and a college degree provides financial and job security, there are barriers to enrollment and degree completion such as family demands and the high cost of tuition and fees. Interviewees encouraged colleges and universities to rethink outdated ideas about who students are, how to educate them in this technological age, and how to assess what students have learned. The findings suggest Americans are open to new ways for making higher education accessible and affordable.

Mega-States: An Analysis of Student Performance in the Five Most Heavily Populated States in the Nation (Zhao Yang) 

The National Center for Education (NCES) report, Mega-States: An Analysis of Student Performance in the Five Most Heavily Populated States in the Nation (NCES 2013-450), provides information on the performance of public elementary and secondary students in the five most populated states: California, Florida, Illinois, New York, and Texas. Students in these five states comprise close to 40 percent of the nation’s public school students – many of whom will eventually enter the higher education system. These states are at the forefront of U.S. demographic shifts, serving more than half of the nation’s English language learners and large concentrations of children from lower-income families. They also foreshadow upcoming challenges for colleges and universities on how to best serve these populations. The report provides an in-depth look into the performance of specific student groups and performance by subject, including academic performance over time and in the most recent assessments. 


2012 NACUBO-Commonfund Study of Endowments (Zhao Yang)


The 2012 NACUBO-Commonfund Study of Endowments (2012 NCSE) is available for purchase from the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO). Selected tables are available free on the NACUBO website. The 2012 NCSE results are based on 831 U.S. college and university endowments and affiliated foundations, representing over $406 billion in endowment assets. The tables list endowment market values, percentage changes, average and median annual net investment return, and one-, three-, and 10-year annual returns for the periods ending past year, as well as asset allocation and average annual spending rates.   


Policy Watch

Department of Education Releases College Scorecard (Jeff Johnson)  

The U.S. Department of Education College Affordability and Transparency Center released its new College Scorecard on February 13. The scorecard provides an institution's net price, graduation rate, loan default rate, and median student loan burden. Employment information is not currently available but is planned for the future. Data is drawn from both IPEDS and NSLDS. The public interface allows browsing by institution and searching on several common criteria.

Carnegie Foundation Community Engagement Classification (Zhao Yang)


The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching invites institutions with a focus on community engagement to apply for the elective Community Engagement classification. This classification was first offered in 2006 and allows institutions to describe their identity and commitment to community with a nationally recognized classification. For more information about the application process, see the Carnegie website.  Applications are available from May 1-July 1, 2013, and are due on April 15, 2014.   

Published February 11, 2013
Knocking at the College Door: Projections of High School Graduates (Ellen Peters) 

In the eighth edition of Knocking at the College Door: Projections of High School Graduates, the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE) forecasts high school graduates by state and race/ethnicity through the class of 2028. The projections indicate the recent growth in the number of high school graduates is coming to an end, and most states will experience modest declines in the short term, as well as more diverse graduating classes. The change in the number of graduates will vary by region and state, with some states projected to have losses of 15% or more and others to have increases of 15% or more. The full report, state profiles, map views, and data tables are available on the Knocking website, which also offers a tool for obtaining customizable data tables and graphs. 


Top 10 Higher Education State Policy Issues for 2013 (Zhao Yang)


For the sixth year, the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) released its Top 10 Higher Education State Policy Issues for 2013. “Boosting Institutional Performance” topped the list for 2013 and included the increasingly common practice of linking state financing to student completion. State higher education financing dropped to the number two spot, after being the number one issue for the past six years. According to the analysts, the change reflects a “broadening acceptance that state reinvestment in public higher education will be slow in coming—and institutions must readjust both their operations and revenue mix accordingly.” Tuition pricing and tuition policy rank third with the focus on college affordability, the shift from state funding to tuition and fees, and tuition-setting authority. Emerging issues to watch include competency-based and online educational opportunities and guns on campus. 


Changing Course: Ten Years of Tracking Online Education in the United States (Zhao Yang)


Changing Course: Ten Years of Tracking Online Education in the United States summarizes results of the 2012 Survey of Online Learning conducted by the Babson Survey Research Group. The number of students taking at least one online course during fall 2011 has now surpassed 6.7 million, a 9.3% increase over the previous year, with 32% of higher education students now enrolling in at least one online course.  Currently, 2.6% of higher education institutions offer a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course), and 9.4% report MOOCs are in the planning stages. The report notes academic leaders remain unconvinced that MOOCs represent a sustainable method for offering online courses, but believe they provide an important means for institutions to learn about online pedagogy. Other key findings indicate over 69% of the respondents believe online learning is critical to their long-term strategy, but report low retention rates in online courses remain a barrier to the growth of online instruction.  


How Long Does It Take? STEM PhD Completion for Underrepresented Minorities (Zhao Yang)


The issue brief, How Long Does It Take? STEM PhD Completion for Underrepresented Minorities, examines the relationships between social and institutional factors and students’ time to STEM PhD completion. The study addresses three research questions: (1) What characteristics are related to time to completion of a STEM PhD? (2) Are there differences in time to completion based on race/ethnicity of students? (3) Do significant racial/ethnic differences in time to completion remain after controlling for other background and college experiences? Researchers found differences in time to degree completion within racial/ethnic groups that may be related to educational experiences during graduate school or life circumstances. They conclude a better understanding of the differences will contribute to addressing disparities in STEM participation by underrepresented minorities and women. 


Academic Spending Versus Athletic Spending: Who Wins? (Zhao Yang)


The Delta Cost Project report, Academic Spending Versus Athletic Spending: Who Wins?, looks at academic and athletic spending in NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) Division I public universities. The report highlights trends in athletic and academic spending between 2005 and 2010.  Athletic departments spent more per athlete than institutions spent to educate the average student, and athletic costs increased twice as fast as academic spending in the three Division I subdivisions. Although the belief is college sports are a financial boon to colleges and universities, the report concludes specific sports at some universities may be profitable and help support other campus programs, but most athletic departments receive subsidies from their colleges and universities because they do not generate enough revenue to cover all of their costs.  


National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) (Zhao Yang) 


The NCES Projections of Education Statistics to 2021 (NCES 2013-008) provides 15 years of national data and projections on key education statistics such as enrollment, graduates, teachers, and expenditures in elementary and secondary schools, and enrollment, degrees conferred, and expenditures in postsecondary institutions.  At the state level, projections of public elementary and secondary enrollment and public high-school graduates are provided to the year 2021.   


Web Tables—Trends in Debt for Bachelor’s Degree Recipients a Year After Graduation: 1994, 2001 and 2009 (NCES 2013-156) presents tables on the debt of three cohorts of bachelor degree recipients (1992-93, 1999-2000, and 2007-08) spanning a 15-year period. Statistics on loan repayment, further educational pursuits, and employment status are included. In addition, tables present graduates’ debt status relative to their living arrangements, family structure (e.g., single, married, cohabitating, children), and whether borrowers had a spouse also repaying loans. Data are provided by key demographic, enrollment, and employment characteristics. 

Published January 14, 2013  

Improving the College Scorecard: Using Student Feedback to Create an Effective Disclosure (Marv Noltze)


The Center for American Progress (CAP) report, Improving the College Scorecard: Using Student Feedback to Create an Effective Disclosure, provides user feedback on the White House College Scorecard -- a one-page summary of institutional metrics such as tuition cost, job placement, and loan repayment intended to assist students and families in identifying and choosing high-quality, affordable colleges. As part of the study, CAP conducted focus groups with college-bound high school students to elicit their input on the utility of the College Scorecard. The students expressed confusion and uncertainty about the Scorecard’s purpose, terminology, and interpretation of key measures. The CAP report includes the following recommendations for improving the Scorecard: (1) introduce the scorecard with a simple descriptive statement; (2) highlight the four-year graduation rate, not the six-year rate; (3) develop alternatives to communicate concepts such as net price and student debt; and (4) provide links to additional employment outcomes so students can see details by program.  


College Prices, Costs, and Outcomes: Who’s Minding the Gap between Higher Education and the Public? (Jeff Johnson)


Results from the 2012 Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges (AGB) Survey of Higher Education Governance are compiled in College Prices, Costs, and Outcomes: Who’s Minding the Gap between Higher Education and the Public?  Survey results from more than 2,500 governing board members from public and independent colleges and universities focus on board members’ views of college prices, costs, and the disparity between their perceptions of issues in higher education in general and in their own institution. For example, board members almost universally see great value in higher education and support increasing graduation rates, but nearly a quarter of board members do not believe that the United States needs more college graduates. While more than half of board members think higher education is too expensive, only 17% think their own institution is too costly, and half believe their institution is doing all it can to control expenses.  


The Missing “One-Offs”: The Hidden Supply of High-Achieving, Low Income Students (Scott Jenkins)


A recent report  from the National Bureau of Economic Research, The Missing “One-Offs”: The Hidden Supply of High-Achieving, Low Income Students, examines the college application behavior of students designated as high-achieving, low-income students. A higher proportion of high-achieving, low-income students applied to non-selective schools than their high-income counterparts, despite data suggesting high-achieving, low-income students receive comparable financial assistance and progress at similar rates as high-achievers in the top family income quartile. The high-achieving, low-income students who apply to non-selective schools often live in areas without selective public high schools, may not have a critical mass of high-achieving high school peers, and are less likely to encounter teachers or older cohort of students who attended a selective school. Based on such findings, the report offers improved recruiting strategies for high-achieving, low-income students. This report can be purchased for $5 from the SSRN website. 


Higher Education: A Small Percentage of Families Save in 529 Plans (Ellen Peters)


According to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) Survey of Consumer Finances report, Higher Education: A Small Percentage of Families Save in 529 Plans, a small percentage of U.S. families saved in 529 plans in 2010, and those who did tended to be wealthier than others. Even among those families who considered saving for education a priority, fewer than 1 in 10 had a 529 plan or a Coverdell Education Savings Plan, a similar but less-used college savings plan. Families with these plans had about 25 times the median financial assets, three times the median income, and were twice as likely to have earned college degrees as those families without either type of savings plan. States offer consumers a variety of 529 plan features, which along with several other factors, can affect participation. Some of the most important features families consider when choosing a 529 plan are tax benefits, fees, and investment options.  


2012 Year-End Poll of Employers:  A Look at Hiring and Salary Projections for the Coming Year (Marv Noltze)


The Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) reports hiring prospects for business graduates in the report, 2012 Year-End Poll of Employers: A Look at Hiring and Salary Projections for the Coming Year. According to this report, hiring projections are looking up in 2013 for a broad spectrum of business graduates, particularly for MBA graduates.  2013 salaries are also expected to increase at or above the rate of inflation. In addition, internships will be abundant for MBA students. The report details employment prospects by industry and business specialty as a resource for graduate business programs, campus career centers, and institutions overall.      


Doctorate Recipients from U.S. Universities: 2011 (Bruce Mentzer) 


Results from the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) annual Survey of Earned Doctorates are now available through an interactive web portal: Doctorate Recipients from U.S. Universities: 2011. The report provides information on individuals who receive research doctoral degrees including demographic trends, common paths to the degree, fields of study, financial support/debt, and labor market outcomes and salaries. The 2011 report shows an increase in the number of doctorates awarded in science and engineering, the increased representation of women in all fields, and a tight labor market.  A summary report, an interactive report, and detailed data tables are available through the NSF web portal. 


Policy Watch

Rethinking the Carnegie Unit
(Sean McKitrick)


The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching announced in December 2012 that it would use a grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation to examine the Carnegie Unit and its role in American education. The Carnegie Unit has historically formed the basis of measuring student progress in secondary and higher education, but it is increasingly criticized as an outdated and inadequate measure of student learning.   


Published January 3, 2013 


Special Announcement (1/3/2013)  


IPEDS TRP Report: Additional Selected Outcomes of the Advisory Committee on Measures of Student Success (Mary Sapp)


Feedback is requested on suggestions from the IPEDS Technical Review Panel (TRP) #40 report: “Additional Selected Outcomes of the Advisory Committee on Measures of Student Success,” which is posted on the TRP webpage under the “Recent Summaries Open for Comment” section. Comments should be sent to by January 14, 2013. The TRP suggested that IPEDS reporting be expanded to include reporting on outcomes for four student cohorts: full-time (FT) and part-time (PT) first-time degree/certificate-seeking undergraduates and FT and PT non-first-time degree/certificate-seeking undergraduates. Students would be reported in the following outcome categories: 1) whether a formal award was received or not, crossed-tabulated with 2) enrollment status (at reporting institution, at another institution, or unknown). NCES requests feedback on two potential approaches for timing: at two points after matriculation (i.e., six years and eight years for 4-year institutions and three years and six years for 2-year institutions) or after only the longer time period. NCES would also appreciate comments on the feasibility of, and reporting burden associated with, reporting the status of past entering cohorts.

Published December 10, 2012
Completing College: A National View of Student Attainment Rates (Christine Keller) 

A November report by the National Student Clearinghouse, Completing College: A National View of Student Attainment Rates, provides new analyses about the pathways, progression, and completion of students in U.S. postsecondary education. Several of the findings from this report indicate higher college completion rates than other published data on college completion. For example, more than 1 in 5 students who completed a degree did so at an institution other than the one where they started, and over 15% of two-year starters completed a degree at a four-year institution within six years. The Clearinghouse manages institutional data for 94% of students at all types of institutions and enables analysis of enrollment and completion for students across multiple institutions.  


Transfer: An Indispensable Part of the Community College Mission (Melodie Christal)


The American Association of Community College policy brief, Transfer: An Indispensable Part of the Community College Mission, reports that 28% of bachelor’s degree recipients began their postsecondary education at a community college, and 47% took at least one course at a community college. This brief addresses the role of community colleges in bachelor’s degree attainment, the mobility of credits between different types of institutions, and cost savings accrued to students who start at a community college. Challenges associated with capturing the effects of transfer include providing a “precise, data-driven definition” and the ability to identify and track transfers given the nonlinear paths of students in their postsecondary endeavors.   


Record Shares of Young Adults Have Finished Both High School and College (Jeff Johnson)


The percentage of American adults who have completed a bachelor's degree has reached a record high, according to the Pew Research Center study, Record Shares of Young Adults Have Finished Both High School and College. Richard Fry and Kim Parker show that 31% of the population over 25 has completed at least a bachelor's degree, up from 12% in 1971 and 26% in 2001. Gains among young adults (25 to 29 years old), however, were not equally distributed across demographic groups. In 1971, 20% of men but only 14% of women had completed a bachelor's degree; by 2012, 37% of women but only 30% of men had done so. Racial gaps persist but have narrowed somewhat, with completion rates doubling among Whites (from 20% to 40%) but tripling among Blacks and Hispanics (from 7% to 23% and from 5% to 15%, respectively). Fry and Parker conclude the "education reversal" of the early 2000s, which saw declining rates of college completion among young adults for several years, has ended. The pattern of educational attainment has shifted away from being exclusively an early adulthood event, with increasing educational attainment beyond the age of 29 for a cohort. The study is based on recently released data from the U.S. Census Bureau's Current Population Survey. 


Context for Success: Measuring Colleges’ Impact (Christine Keller)


A series of papers and issue briefs released by HCM Strategists explore the development of assessment tools for evaluating the performance of postsecondary institutions while taking into account the differing levels of preparation by entering students. The papers are part of the Context for Success project funded by the Gates Foundation.  As part of the project, education scholars and practitioners were convened to discuss and outline the theoretical and practical issues that should be considered in designing “input-adjusted” metrics for judging the effectiveness of colleges and universities. The research papers apply or discuss each of three approaches to outcomes measurement:  progression/completion, labor market outcomes, and direct assessment of student learning. 


Top-Ten IT Issues, 2012 (Jeff Johnson)


Implementing new technologies and consumer-facing IT initiatives are the key issues for IT leaders in higher education, according to EDUCAUSE's annual survey. Top-Ten IT Issues, 2012, published in June, identified "updating IT professionals' skills and roles to accommodate emerging technologies and changing IT management and service delivery models" as the greatest concern for 2012. Supporting new technologies and delivery systems such as "bring your own device," cloud computing, big data, and analytics were common concerns. Other issues raised in the survey included how to use IT to directly support campus information consumers such as decision makers, researchers, and those engaged in operations and assessment. The results of the survey are not comparable to previous EDUCAUSE annual surveys due to a change in the methodology aimed explicitly at raising issues that had not been raised in previous surveys. 


Higher Education and the 2012 Elections (Melodie Christal)


Higher Education and the 2012 Elections, a new Policy Matters brief published by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, summarizes fiscal and policy implications from the November elections for higher education. Consequences of federal elections are explored, including issues that may be addressed by Congress in 2013. The brief also highlights outcomes of state elections and ballot measures that influence funding, access, capital improvements, and governance for higher education.  


Promoting Student Learning and Institutional Improvement: Lessons from NSSE at 13Annual Results 2012 (Melodie Christal)


The National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) released its new report, Promoting Student Learning and Institutional Improvement: Lessons from NSSE at 13—Annual Results 2012, in mid-November. This report presents findings from the 2012 NSSE survey with a focus on updating key findings from NSSE’s first 13 years. It also provides examples of how colleges and universities use NSSE to enhance the quality of undergraduate education. The report notes that a majority of students worry about paying for college and 1 in 3 frequently opt not to purchase course materials because of the cost. Full-time students who work more than 20 hours per week have the greatest stress, and 3 in 5 students report that work interferes with their academic performance. The report also provides insights on the student use of social media. Nine out of ten students use social media to connect with friends and family, and students using social media to interact with peers, faculty, and campus staff are more engaged. On the other hand, students who used social media during class for non-class activities have lower grades.  


NSSE is launching an updated survey in 2013. For information about the history of NSSE, or using the results, visit the NSSE website  or refer to the New Directions for Institutional Research, Using NSSE in Institutional Research, Number 14, Spring 2009. 


2012 Open Doors Report (Bruce Mentzer)


The Institute of International Education updated the information on international students and U.S. students studying abroad within their Open Doors data portal, including 10 years of data, charts, graphs, and maps displaying trends by state, country, and institution. Overall, the 2012 report shows  the number of international students at colleges and universities in the U.S. increased by 6%, to a record high of 764,495 in the 2011-12 academic year, while U.S. students studying abroad increased by 1%. The print version of the Open Doors 2012: Report on International Educational Exchange will be released in late January 2013. 


Survey of College and University Admissions Directors (Melodie Christal)


The 2012 Inside Higher Ed Survey of College and University Admissions Directors  provides information on key issues for admissions professionals, including policies and practices related to recruiting, admission procedures, and higher education costs and programming. Highlights from the survey responses indicate that a substantial number of admissions directors believe the current average loan volume is reasonable, and students and parents are increasingly interested in identifying degree programs with strong job prospects. Other topics included in the survey are: “What student populations are the focus of admissions recruitment efforts? Are higher education costs and levels of student indebtedness affecting admissions choices? Are two-year colleges increasingly competing with four-year colleges/universities for students?”  


Published November 30, 2012


Policy Watch


Gainful Employment Update (Becky Gerambia)


The Department of Education issued Gainful Employment Electronic Announcement #41- Requirements for Adding New Educational Programs on November 21, setting forth requirements for notifying the Department of Education when an institution adds new educational programs. The Announcement reinstates and describes program regulations in effect prior to July 1, 2011.


The Department of Education issued Gainful Employment Electronic Announcement #42 - 2011-2012 Disclosures for Gainful Employment Programs on November 23. Announcement #42 states that institutions must now update their Gainful Employment program disclosures for the 2011-2012 award year no later than January 31, 2013, and provides additional information regarding the content, format, and method of GE program disclosures. Institutions that have already updated their disclosures are advised to review those disclosures to ensure they are consistent with the guidance and timeframes set forth in the Announcement. 

Published November 12, 2012

ECAR Study of Undergraduates and Information Technology, 2012 (Melodie Christal) 


The ECAR Study of Undergraduates and Information Technology, 2012, from the Educause Center for Applied Research, provides information on communication technologies undergraduate students are using and the students’ perceptions of how these technologies contribute to their academic achievement. Based on responses from more than 100,000 students, 66% report they were prepared to use technology when they entered college. Student respondents believe technology is critical to their academic success and a key to their future accomplishments. They expect faculty to use technology to engage them in the learning process and want to access course material and grades on their mobile devices. In the 2012 study, more students reported that instructors use technology to aid in understanding course material (70%) than they did two years ago (49%).  


College Board: Trends in Higher Education Series (Melodie Christal)


The annual College Board’s Trends in Higher Education Series was released in late October and presents information and analysis on college pricing and student aid.  


Trends in College Pricing 2012 provides information on 2012-13 tuition and fees as well as room and board costs for public two-year, public four-year, and private four-year institutions. The report focuses on both published prices and net prices that take into account grant aid. Trend data on institutional finances and family income also provide measures of college affordability. 


Trends in Student Aid 2012 covers the types, sources, and amounts of financial aid available to assist students and families in paying for postsecondary education. The report looks at both undergraduate and graduate debt. Data in this report are from the 2011-12 academic year. 


Student Debt and the Class of 2011 (Melodie Christal) 


The Project on Student Debt report, Student Debt and the Class of 2011, provides data on the cumulative student loan debt of recent graduates from four-year institutions. It is estimated that two-thirds of 2011 college graduates have student loan debt, with an average loan of $26,600 for those graduating with loans. The report includes data for each state on the average student debt for 2011 graduates and the percentage of graduates with debt. High-debt states are primarily in the Northeast and Midwest, with most low-debt states in the West and South. A list of high-debt colleges is also included. The report concludes with recommendations to reduce the risks and burdens of student debt.  


Graduating to a Pay Gap (Melodie Christal)


The American Association of University Women (AAUW) report, Graduating to a Pay Gap: The Earnings of Women and Men One Year after College Graduation, examines the pay gap between men and women college graduates working full-time after graduation. In 2009, women out of college for one year earned 82% of what their male peers earned. College major is one factor driving differences in pay, as men are more likely to major in higher-paying fields (e.g., engineering, computer science). Other factors such as selected occupation and hours worked also explain some of the gap, but even after those factors are taken into consideration, women still earn about 7% less than men on average. The report also found 20% of women and 15% of men use more than 15% of their earnings to pay student loan debt. The report provides several explanations for the difference in salaries and makes recommendations to eliminate the pay gap and address the burden of student loan debt.  


Census Bureau (Melodie Christal)


Using data from the American Community Survey, the report Work-Life Earnings by Field of Degree and Occupation for People With a Bachelor’s Degree: 2011, provides evidence that educational attainment, college major, and occupation affect work-life earnings. The data show a $1 million difference in earnings over a lifetime of high-school graduates and those with a bachelor’s degree. A bachelor’s degree recipient can expect to earn $2.4 million over his or her work life, with those majoring in engineering, computers, math, science fields, business, and social science earning higher than the average.  


Field of Degree and Earnings by Selected Employment Characteristics: 2011 provides information on majors and earnings of baccalaureate recipients of the population 25 years and older. In 2011, there were 59 million people with a bachelor’s degree or higher. Business was the most popular major with 12 million people majoring in this field, followed by education with 8 million majors. Engineering majors had the highest earnings at $92,000 per year. Majors with the lowest earnings included visual and performing arts, communications, education, and psychology.  


National Center for Education Statistics (Melodie Christal)


The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) preliminary First Look report, Enrollment in Postsecondary Institutions, Fall 2011; Financial Statistics, Fiscal Year 2011; and Graduation Rates, Selected Cohorts, 2003-08, (NCES 2012-174) presents preliminary findings from four components of the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) Spring 2012 data collection: student financial aid, Fall 2011 enrollment, graduation rates within 150 percent and 200 percent of program completion, and fiscal year 2011 finances.   


Published October 23, 2012 


Special Announcement (10/22/2012) 

IPEDS TRP Report: Improving Finance Survey Forms for For-Profit Institutions (Mary Sapp) 

Feedback is requested on suggestions from the IPEDS Technical Review Panel (TRP) #39 report, “Improving Finance Survey Forms for For-Profit Institutions,” which is posted on the TRP webpage under the “Recent Summaries Open for Comment” section.  Comments should be sent to by December 7, 2012. The TRP suggested that private, for-profit institutions provide more detail on their Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) forms for revenues, expenses, scholarships and fellowships, and balance sheet information in order to make for-profit IPEDS finance data, which until now has been collected using a simplified form, more comparable to the considerably more detailed reporting required of other sectors. The TRP also recommended that instructions be clarified in order to minimize burden.

Published October 16, 2012  

Cracking the Credit Hour (Christine Keller)

A report by the New America Foundation, Cracking the Credit Hour, argues that the credit hour represents a fundamental disconnect within U.S. higher education - the practice of measuring student seat time rather than student learning. The report outlines the history of the credit hour and recent evidence in support of the view that the credit hour is antiquated – particularly at a time when a college degree is both more important and more expensive. The report concludes that for the U.S. to reclaim its position as the most educated nation in the world, federal policy needs to shift from paying for and valuing time to paying for and valuing learning. 

Delta Cost Project (Melodie Christal)

Using newly released data from the National Center for Education Statistics, the Delta Cost Project is providing a series of updates to the 2011 report, Trends in College Spending: Where Does the Money Come From? Where Does It Go? What Does It Buy? The Delta Cost data contribute information and analyses for the ongoing discussion of higher education affordability. 

Revenues: Where Does the Money Come From? focuses on institutional revenues between 2000 and 2010. The report looks at total operating revenue by source; the interaction between net tuition revenue and state and local appropriations; and tuition discounting and differences between sticker price and gross and net tuition revenues. Report highlights include the following. 

State and local appropriations declined over the decade, decreasing by 24% in both research and master’s universities and by 20% in bachelor’s institutions and community colleges. Tuition revenues exceeded state and local appropriations at public research and master’s institutions, and were nearly equal in public bachelor’s institutions. Tuition discounting rates in 2010 ranged between 27% and 36% at private institutions, and from 10% in community colleges to 18% in research universities.  

Spending: Where Does the Money Go? focuses on institutional spending between 2000 and 2010. The report looks at total spending by expenditure categories; expenditures from all revenue sources; education and general (E&G) spending; and educational and related (E&R) spending, a subset of expenditures based on the educational mission of institutions. Report highlights include the following.  

Spending on instruction between 2009 and 2010 remained flat at public four-year institutions and declined 7% at community colleges while spending for institutional support declined in all categories of institutions. Expenditures on plant operating and maintenance declined considerably at all types of institution, suggesting that colleges and universities are deferring maintenance on their facilities. 

The Delta Cost Project also published a set of briefs analyzing postsecondary student attrition that discuss the institutional costs of student attrition, the measurement of attrition costs, and benchmarking to other industries. The briefs can be found on the Delta Cost Project website. 

A Record One-in-Five Households Now Owe Student Loan Debt (Katie Zaback)

A Record One-in-Five Households Now Owe Student Loan Debt by the Pew Research Center uses Survey of Consumer Finances data to examine student debt. About one in five households (19%) owed such debt in 2010, increasing from 15% in 2007. For households headed by someone younger than 35, a record 40% have student loan debt, with debt for this age group growing at a faster pace than other age cohorts. The amount of student debt per household increased 14%, from $23,349 in 2007 to $26,682 in 2010. While those at upper-income levels are more likely to have student debt, low-income households typically have less capacity to pay off debts. This report adds to the existing literature and data around student loan debt. As tuition increases and the number of students taking on student loan debt also rises, it will become increasingly important for institutions to understand the long-term impact on students.  

Financial Stress: An Everyday Reality for College Students (Melodie Christal)

In An Everyday Reality for College Students, Inceptia, a division of the National Student Loan Program, surveyed college students and recent college graduates on the impact of financial stress. The survey covered personal finances, family life, work commitments, academics, and time management. The top five stressors identified were: the need to repay loans, the cost of education, borrowing money for college, the need to find a job after graduation, and the academic challenge of course work. Almost three-quarters of the survey respondents worked during the academic year, with 15% working full-time. One-third said financial stress had a negative impact on their academic performance or progress, and 20% reported having to reduce their course load to deal with stressors. Inceptia recommends colleges and universities examine the impact of financial stress on their students and graduates and dedicate more resources toward supporting the financial success of their students.  

Career and Technical Education: Five Ways That Pay Along The Way to the B.A. (Ellen Peters)

In Career and Technical Education: Five Ways That Pay Along the Way to the B.A. the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce reports there are 29 million jobs that pay $35,000 or more on average and do not require a bachelor’s degree. These “middle jobs” represent one in five jobs in the U.S. and nearly half of all jobs that pay middle-class wages. The report details five Career and Technical Education pathways to educate and train Americans for these jobs: associate's degrees, postsecondary certificates, employer-based training, industry-based certifications, and apprenticeships. The report recommends that the federal government formalize a “learning and earning exchange” to provide transparency to the relationship between Career and Technical Education and the labor market. It also recommends creating career and technical education programs that link high school and postsecondary education with employer-based training. 

The Three-Year Bachelor’s Degree: Reform Measure or Red Herring? (Melodie Christal)

The Three-Year Bachelor’s Degree: Reform Measure or Red Herring?, the September 2012 Policy Matter brief of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, examines the three-year degree programs typically designed to improve college affordability, help students complete college in a timely manner, and/or increase institutional productivity. The brief explores goals and models of three-year degrees as well as the benefits and drawbacks. The brief concludes that overall, three-year degree programs have failed to receive sufficient participation to be considered effective, but policymakers should continue to create new models and strategies that will lead to greater student persistence and success. 

Graduate Enrollment and Degrees: 2001 to 2011 (Melodie Christal)

Graduate Enrollment and Degrees: 2001 to 2011 presents finding from an annual survey conducted by the Council of Graduate Degrees (CGS) and the Graduate Record Examinations Board (GRE). The report provides data on graduate applications and enrollment for fall 2011, degrees conferred in 2010-11, and trend data for one-, five-, and ten-year periods. About 1.7 million students were enrolled in graduate programs in fall 2011 with more than 441,000 first-time graduate students. About 75% of students enrolled in programs leading to a master’s degree or certificate and more than one-half enrolled in education, business, or health science programs. In 2010-11, approximately 92,900 doctoral degrees, 517,000 master’s degrees, and 25,200 certificates were awarded. 

Education at a Glance (Melodie Christal)

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Education at a Glance 2012: OECD Indicators is a compendium of international education statistics for the 34 OECD member countries and Argentina, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and South Africa. This year’s report includes indicators on spending on education, tuition fees, adult participation in education, class sizes, salaries, and national exam systems. The indicators are organized thematically and provide the policy context and information on how to interpret the data. Education at a Glance 2012: Highlights provides a “reader-friendly introduction” to the OECD data focusing on educational levels and student numbers, the economic and social benefits of education, paying for education, the school environment, and equity. 

Policy Watch (Christine Keller) 


CEDS Update

On September 19, NCES announced the release of CEDS Connect. This new tool allows users to find and create "Connections" from data elements to practical applications across the P-20W (early learning through workforce) environment. Connect can be used to find out how others in the field are using data elements to answer policy questions, calculate metrics and indicators, and report to various data requestors.   

Project Degree Completion

Nearly 500 four-year public colleges and universities have pledged to boost college completion by 3.8 million students to help the nation reach the goal of 60% of adults possessing a college degree by 2025. Through Project Degree Completion: A Public University Initiative, the institutions will increase the number of college degrees they award from an estimated 14.6 million to 18.4 million over the next 14 years. The participating institutions are members of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) and the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU). Their membership represents nearly all the four-year public colleges and universities in the country.

Published September 21, 2012

Online College Students 2012: Comprehensive Data on Demands and Preferences (Ellen Peters)

In Online College Students 2012: Comprehensive Data on Demands and Preferences, The Learning House, Inc. reports survey results of 1,500 individuals enrolled in or planning to enroll in fully online undergraduate or graduate programs. The survey compiled data on motivation for online study; strengths and weaknesses of online formats; services needed; and effective promotion and advertising of online programs. The report notes that students of all ages participate in online education with about 40 percent of online students younger than 30. Most online students live within 100 miles of the physical location of the institution in which they enroll and about two-thirds attend not-for-profit institutions. Survey findings also indicate that online students rely on institutional websites for communication and want compressed terms of study at an affordable cost.   

The College Advantage: Weathering the Economic Storm (Katie Zaback)

The Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce report, The College Advantage: Weathering the Economic Storm, provides a broad analysis of how educational attainment impacts employment for workers in times of recession. The report shows that although unemployment levels increased sharply for all workers, individuals without a college education bore the brunt of the recession’s job losses – losing nearly 5.6 million jobs. Further, the jobs gained during the recovery that began in 2010 have been limited to those requiring a college education. The analysis also examines the differential effects of the recession on wages and by industry, occupations, and for men and for women.  The report concludes that the recession exposed the shortcomings of the U.S. workforce and accelerated the long-term trend toward more skilled jobs requiring higher levels of postsecondary education.   

Dynamics Affecting Public Higher Education Financing and Highlights from States’ Legislative Sessions in 2012 (Christine Keller)

Dynamics Affecting Public Higher Education Financing and Highlights from States’ Legislative Sessions in 2012 was released in July by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU). The brief is part of AASCU's State Outlook series and outlines economic and state policy issues affecting postsecondary education, in particular the dynamics influencing public higher education financing at the start of the 2012-13 fiscal year. The report discusses economic and state revenue conditions and forecasts, as well as specific pressure points affecting state budgets and future public higher education funding. The report also provides a review of state legislative activity involving higher education in the 2012 session. Integrated throughout the report are links to an array of information-rich resources including data from the National Governor's Association (NGA), the National Association of State Budget Officers (NASBO), and the State Higher Education Executive Officers (SHEEO). 

The Condition of College & Career Readiness 2012 (Melodie Christal)

Using ACT College Readiness Benchmarks and test scores, The Condition of College & Career Readiness 2012 provides snapshots of college readiness for 2012 high school graduates for the nation and each state. ACT defines “college and career readiness” as “the acquisition of the knowledge and skills a student needs to enroll and succeed in credit-bearing first-year courses at a postsecondary institution without the need for remediation.” ACT estimates approximately 28 percent of 2012 high school graduates taking the ACT are not academically prepared for first-year courses in English composition, college algebra, biology, and social sciences. The individual state reports allow policymakers to assess if students enrolled in P-16 are taking core courses, if the courses are sufficiently rigorous, if younger students are on track for college and career, and how the 2011 graduating class is doing.  

The ACT Profile Report provides information for each state on the performance of the 2012 high school graduates who took the ACT as sophomores, juniors, or seniors. The report focuses on performance, access, percent of students pursuing a core curriculum, course rigor, college readiness, the extent to which student aspirations match performance, and the colleges and universities to which students sent their test results. ACT also provides suggestions for states on how to improve students’ scores and college readiness. 

Strategies for Success: Promising Ideas in Adult College Completion (Melodie Christal)

The Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE) Policy Exchange, Strategies for Success: Promising Ideas in Adult College Completion, addresses five topics relevant to increasing adult degree and certificate completion: (1) the need for better data on adults with prior college; (2) partnerships between employers and higher education institutions; (3) effective marketing campaigns targeted to reach adults with prior college credits; (4) evaluation of transfer credits; and (5) credit for prior learning and work experience. The report highlights promising strategies and practices for each topic.

Performance-Based Funding of Higher Education: A Detailed Look at Best Practices in 6 States (Melodie Christal

In Performance-Based Funding of Higher Education: A Detailed Look at Best Practices in 6 States, the Center for American Progress summarizes the history of performance-based funding and outlines experiences in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Tennessee, Washington, and Louisiana. Best practices include involving key stakeholders in the funding model design and recognizing institutional differences with separate formulas or metrics, ensuring sufficient funding to create incentives strong enough to change behavior, and using indicators to emphasize incremental progress such as course completion.

U.S. Department of Education and National Center for Education Statistics (Christine Keller

In late August, the congressionally mandated report Higher Education: Gaps in Access and Persistence Study (NCES 2012-046) was released. The 46 indicators and multivariate analyses document the scope and nature of gaps in access and persistence in higher education by sex and race/ethnicity. Report findings showed that females were more likely than males to graduate with a high school diploma, enroll in college, and earn an associate's or bachelor's degree. The gender gaps were generally consistent for all racial and ethnic groups. Findings also indicated that Black and Hispanic students had a lower probability of earning an associate's or bachelor's degree (43 percent and 25 percent lower respectively) than did White students after accounting for background characteristics.

This report presents indicators that include the most recently available, nationally representative data from NCES, other federal agencies, and selected items from ACT and the College Board. The report draws on multiple sources that represent different years and different populations and provides nationally comparative data for postsecondary institutions to track access and persistence for students in their institution or region.

In July, the U.S. Department of Education released college attainment numbers by state based on Census Bureau data from 2009 to 2010. The percentage of 25-34 year olds with some kind of postsecondary credential increased from 38.8 percent to 39.3 percent, marking progress toward President Obama’s goal for America to become first in the world in the proportion of college graduates

Trends Among Young Adults Over Three Decades, 1974-2006 (NCES 2012-345) reports on the transition from high school to adulthood for four cohorts of high school seniors. The data are from four NCES studies: the National Longitudinal Study of the High School Class of 1972; High School and Beyond (1980); the National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988; and the Education Longitudinal Study of 2002. The report addresses postsecondary enrollment, labor force roles, family formation, and civic engagement through voting or military service.  


Published September 10, 2012


Policy Watch 


Common Education Data Standards (CEDS), Version 3, was released for public comment on September 5. This version includes a significant expansion of postsecondary data elements. All are encouraged to review this draft of the standards and submit comments by September 28 via the CEDS website

There will be two additional CEDS releases this month:

  • Race to the Top Assessment Support - Elements to support the Assessment Interoperability Framework (AIF) will be released this week (week of September 10). The documentation on this work can be found at the CEDS website.
  • Connect Tool - On September 19, CEDS will expand with the release of the latest tool, Connect. This tool allows users to develop Connections (metrics, indicators, and policy questions mapped to necessary data elements) relevant to the educational world for others to view and use.

CEDS supports the development of a common vocabulary for P-20W (early learning through workforce). It is a collection of definitions and formats for the most commonly used P-20W education data elements.  

Published August 22, 2012

Making Performance Funding Work For All (Katie Zaback

The Working Poor Families Project (WPFP) policy brief, Making Performance Funding Work For All, provides a history of performance funding since its inception in the 1970s. According to the brief, current performing funding models, referred to as Performance Funding 2.0, have six design characteristics: 1) links performance funding to achievement of clear, shared, state policy goals; 2) provides meaningful, stable financial rewards; 3) recognizes the diversity of institutional missions; 4) encourages simplicity in measurement systems; 5) defines performance broadly; and 6) signals clear expectations, starting small and building steadily. WPFP offers five recommendations for how states can link performance funding to statewide workforce and economic development goals to ensure postsecondary systems best meet the needs of America's low-income working families. Recommendations include articulating the connection between postsecondary success and economic prosperity; defining postsecondary education broadly; adopting performance criteria that reward intermediate educational outcomes such as persistence; offering incentives for serving low-income populations; and emphasizing the development of robust state data systems and outcome measurements.

National Center for Education Statistics (Melodie Christal

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) First Look publication, Postsecondary Institutions and Price of Attendance in the United States: 2011-12, Degrees and Other Awards Conferred: 2010-11, and 12-Month Enrollment: 2010–11 (NCES 2012-289), presents preliminary data from three components of the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) fall 2011 data collection: Institutional Characteristics (including information on tuition and fees and price of attendance); Completions, and 12-Month Enrollment.

The NCES First Look publication, Employees in Postsecondary Education, Fall 2011 and Student Financial Aid, Academic Year 2010-11 (NCES 2012-156), presents preliminary data from two survey components in the IPEDS winter 2011-12 data collection: Human Resources and Student Financial Aid

In order to make IPEDS data available as quickly as possible for national, state, or institutional level analyses, IPEDS data will now be publicly released in three stages, beginning with data submitted in the 2011-12 data collection cycle. The three stages are preliminary, provisional, and final. The recently released First Look publications based on preliminary data from the fall and winter collections provide users with full access to IPEDS data soon after the close of the data collection.

Additionally, the IPEDS Analytic: Delta Cost Project Database has been updated to include 2009-10 data. The database includes institutional data from the IPEDS finance, enrollment, staffing, completions, and student aid surveys from 1987-2010 and can be used to support longitudinal analyses. This database is updated annually

Reverse Transfer: A National View of Student Mobility from Four-Year to Two-Year Institutions (Melodie Christal

The National Student Clearinghouse (NSC) Research Center released a new report, Reverse Transfer: A National View of Student Mobility from Four-Year to Two-Year Institutions, as a follow-up to its second Signature Report, Transfer and Mobility: A National View of Pre-Degree Student Movement in Postsecondary Institutions. Focusing specifically on students who move from four-year to two-year institutions or “reverse transfers,” the report indicates 14.4% of first-time students enrolled at four-year institutions in fall 2005 transferred to a two-year institution. Only 16.6% of these reverse transfer students returned to the four-year institution where they began, and 28.3% later transferred to a different institution in the four-year sector. By the end of six years, one-third of reverse transfers had completed a bachelor’s degree or were enrolled in a four-year institution. The report recommends a more in-depth examination of reverse transfers so policies can be developed to help institutions meet their enrollment goals and to ensure student success. 

How America Pays for College 2012 (Melodie Christal

Sallie Mae’s How America Pays for College 2012 describes the decisions families make in paying for a college education, focusing on undergraduate students ages 18 to 24. The study provides the average amounts and proportion of total costs paid from each funding source a “typical” family uses to pay for college. In 2011-12, average family spending declined for the second year in a row, dropping by 5 percent to $20,902. In addition, families shifted how they pay for college. Drawing from savings, income and loans, students paid 30% of the total bill, up from 24% four years ago, while parents covered 37% of the bill, down from 45% four years ago. The report also addresses the use of credit cards by families and students to cover college costs as well as the effect of the Card Act of 2009, which restricted the marketing and distribution of credit cards to students. 

Is College Affordable? In Search of a Meaningful Definition (Mary Sapp)

The Institute for Higher Education Policy Issue Brief, Is College Affordable? In Search of a Meaningful Definition, argues that perceptions about college affordability are more negative than reality as it is difficult for people to think about college as an investment. The brief recommends shifting college affordability discussions from sticker price to net price and treating college as an investment with a high rate of return that should not simply be funded from residual family income. The affordability debate is further complicated as investments in a college education do not pay off equally for all students and are typically not viewed as an investment to be paid over time from increased lifetime income. The report proposes better information about complex pricing, financial aid, and the benefits of postsecondary education as well as efforts to provide more grant aid, targeted tax subsides, and better protection for students who cannot repay loans. 

New Americans in Postsecondary Education (Melodie Christal

The NCES Statistics in Brief, New Americans in Postsecondary Education: A Profile of Immigrant and Second-Generation American Undergraduates, presents data from the 2007-08 National Postsecondary Student Aid Study (NPSAS:08) on undergraduates who immigrated to the United States or who had at least one immigrant parent, i.e., a second-generation American. The report compares background characteristics, educational pursuits, and attainment for these two immigrant groups with all undergraduates (excluding foreign students). The report also compares immigrants of Asian and Hispanic descent—the most prevalent immigrant and second-generation American undergraduates. 

Policy Watch

Published August 7, 2012 (Special Announcement)

IPEDS TRP Report: Using IPEDS Data to Construct Institutional Groups for Consumer Comparisons (Mary Sapp

Feedback is requested on suggestions from the IPEDS Technical Review Panel (TRP) #38, “Using IPEDS Data to Construct Institutional Groups for Consumer Comparisons” (upper right corner of page under “Recent Summaries Open for Comment). Comments should be sent by August 27 to  The TRP recommends comparison groups for consumer information tools such as the College Scorecard be defined using IPEDS data. Pre-defined groups should be based on the predominant undergraduate degree awarded, and consumers should also be able to define their own comparison groups by choosing specific institutions or by using other criteria (e.g., region, selectivity, etc.).

Published July 26, 2012

Assuring Academic Quality in the 21st Century: Self-Regulation in a New Era
(Christine Keller)

Assuring Academic Quality in the 21st Century: Self-Regulation in a New Era
, from the American Council on Education (ACE) National Task Force on Institutional Accreditation, considers the central characteristics of accreditation and outlines common criticisms of the process. It offers six major recommendations for colleges, universities, and regional accreditors to ensure accreditation meets its public accountability responsibilities given the enormous diversity of American higher education. The academic leaders who made up the task force also urged the higher education community to strengthen and improve the quality and public accountability of the institutional accreditation process.
Remediation: Higher Education’s Bridge to Nowhere (Alice Van Ommeren) 

Remediation: Higher Education's Bridge to Nowhere, a report from Complete College America, finds that more than one-half of students entering community colleges and about 20% of students entering four-year institutions are placed in remedial classes. The report cites the large numbers of students in remedial classes as a significant barrier to certificate/degree completion. Fewer than 1 in 10 students who start in remedial courses graduate from a community college in three years and only about one-third complete a bachelor’s degree in six years. Instead of traditional remediation, the report suggests four steps states can take to increase student success: (1) strengthen high school preparation; (2) place students with deficiencies in redesigned college-level courses with built-in, co-requisite support; (3) build extra support around gateway courses; and (4) encourage students to enter programs of study when they first enroll. The report provides Common Completion Metrics data from 31 states as well as examples of successful initiatives.  
Going the Distance in Adult College Completion: Lessons from the Non-Traditional No More Project (Melodie Christal) 

The Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE) report, Going the Distance in Adult College Completion: Lessons from the Non-Traditional No More Project, summarizes policies and practices targeted at increasing adult degree completion. WICHE worked with Arkansas, Colorado, Nevada, New Jersey, North Dakota, and South Dakota to identify and eliminate barriers keeping adult learners with a significant number of college credits from returning to college to complete their degrees. The report addresses five areas in which barriers were identified and promising strategies were designed to better serve the adult learner. The report recommends that institutions offer a single point of contact for returning adults to help them through the readmission process and increased flexibility regarding policies and practices.

NASSGAP Annual Survey Report on State-Sponsored Financial Aid (Melodie Christal) 

The National Association of State Student Grant and Aid Programs (NASSGAP) report, 42nd Annual Survey Report on State-Sponsored Financial Aid, provides data on 2010-11 state-funded expenditures for postsecondary student financial aid. In 2010-11, states awarded approximately $11 billion in state-funded financial aid, a 2.5% increase from the prior year with the majority of aid awarded in the form of grants; 71% of the grants were need-based and 29% were non-need-based. States provided more than $1.8 billion in non-grant student aid, including loans, work study, and tuition waivers, down almost 5% from last year. Additional resources are available on the NASSGAP website, such as a State Data Quick Check tool, which shows expenditures by programs for a selected year, and an online tool that allows for customized queries of survey data.

What It’s Worth: Field of Training and Economic Status in 2009 (Melodie Christal) 
The U.S Census Bureau’s Household Economic Study What It’s Worth: Field of Training and Economic Status in 2009 explores the relationship among educational attainment, field of training, and occupation and earnings using data collected in the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP). The report includes comparisons between 1984 and 2009 for specific degrees including vocational certificates, associate degrees, and advanced degrees - data not available in most other time series. Managerial and professional jobs are predominately held by those with a bachelor’s degree or higher and the majority of positions in technical fields are held by those with credentials lower than a bachelor’s degree.  Not only do occupations vary by education level, but higher levels of earnings are associated with higher educational attain­ment. 

College Enrollment and Work Activity of 2011 High School Graduates (Melodie Christal)

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has published a report providing information on 2011 high school graduates (16 to 24 years old) and their educational attainment and work activity. As of October 2011, 68.3% of 2011 high school graduates were enrolled in postsecondary education, with women enrolling at a higher rate than men (72.3% vs. 64.6%). The enrollment rate of Asians (86.7%) was higher than whites (67.7%), blacks (67.5%), and Hispanics (66.6%). Recent high school graduates who were not enrolled in college in October 2011 were more likely to be working or looking for work than those who were enrolled in college - 68.7% compared with 38.8%.

Condition of Education 2012 (Melodie Christal

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) Condition of Education 2012 report presents 49 indicators on the status and condition of education covering all levels of education from early childhood through postsecondary education. This year’s report examines how demographic and policy changes have impacted high schools over the past 20 years.

Policy Watch

Open Data Initiatives and the Education DataJam

In June, the Obama Administration launched the Education Data Initiative, an effort to make education data more available and useful to key stakeholders and consumers. As part of this initiative, staff from the White House, the U.S. Department of Education, educational technology experts, and others participated in a “DataJam” on July 10 to brainstorm new applications, products, and services that could be developed using education data to facilitate student success. Materials from the DataJam can be found at the bottom of the Office of Educational Technology website. More information can also be found on the White House blog. The Department of Education will also be hosting a similar “Data Palooza” event this fall. 
Resources for 2012-13 IPEDS Changes on Distance Education

The 2012-13 IPEDS data collection cycle will include several new items related to distance education on the Institutional Characteristics, Completions, and Enrollment components of the IPEDS surveys. More information is available in the July 10 edition of This Week in IPEDS. To view the new items as they will appear on the survey forms, select the 2011-12 Survey Materials; and click on the icons in the far right column under “2012-13 Changes.” AIR is also preparing a web tutorial on the topic.  

Published: July 11, 2012
Gainful Employment Update

A day before the Department of Education’s new regulations for vocational programs (commonly known as “Gainful Employment”) went into effect on July 1, a federal judge invalidated one of its key elements and blocked enforcement. The judge ruled that the Department of Education had failed to provide sufficient evidence to justify the third standard: the requirement that at least 35 percent of a program's former students repay their federal student loans. While the judge's ruling undercut some provisions of the gainful employment rule, it reinforced the Department of Education’s authority to address the problems associated with underperforming vocational education programs - i.e., excessive student debt and limited job prospects. As of July 8, the Department of Education had not issued an official statement on planned next steps for the regulation. Read more from Inside Higher Ed and the New York Times.
Published: June 21, 2012 

Pathways Through Graduate School and Into Careers (Mary Sapp)

The Council of Graduate Schools and the Educational Testing Service report, Pathways Through Graduate School and Into Careers, projects that over the next eight years jobs requiring a master's degree or doctoral/professional degree will increase by 22% and 20%, respectively and calls for greater cooperation among universities, business, nonprofit organizations, and government. The report urges universities to clarify and strengthen career pathways by tracking careers of their graduates, providing better career counseling services, connecting graduate students with graduate alumni, developing business-related skills valued by employers, and creating more opportunities for interactions with nonacademic employers. Businesses are encouraged to expand collaboration with universities, invest in graduate programs, provide more internships, offer sabbatical/research opportunities for faculty, and provide financial support for employees to attend graduate school. Governments are advised to provide professional development for graduate students, increase funding for graduate education, and create an advisory commission to clarify pathways. 

The Completion Arch: Measuring Community College Student Success (Melodie Christal)

The College Board Advocacy and Policy Center report, The Completion Arch: Measuring Community College Student Success, summarizes indicators linked to student progress and success at community colleges from national and state data as well as from other initiatives. Metrics and summary statistics are available on the Completion Arch web tool. The indicators are organized in five key areas: (1) enrollment, (2) developmental education placement, (3) progress, transfer, and completion, (4) workforce preparation, and (5) employment outcomes. Each indicator includes a graphic display of data and explanatory text describing what the data mean, who is counted, why it is important, and other information including limitations and caveats.

Certificates: Gateway to Gainful Employment and College Degrees (Melodie Christal)

Postsecondary certificates are the fastest growing form of college credentials in the nation, with more than one million awarded annually. The Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce report, Certificates: Gateway to Gainful Employment and College Degrees, describes the value of postsecondary certificates in terms of earnings and employment. The report includes data on the demographic characteristics of certificate holders and states where certificates provide the highest return on earnings.

Return on Investment Dashboard (Melodie Christal)

The Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) and the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems (NCHEMS) have developed a Return on Investment (ROI) Dashboard. This interactive tool uses data from the Census Bureau, the National Center for Education Statistics, and the Department of Education data to project the short-term and long-term effects on federal and state revenue of increasing the number of adults with postsecondary credentials. Data are provided for the United States and each state. The data show that even in tough economic times, increasing credential attainment pays off for individuals, families, communities, states, and the country. For example, if the U.S. meets the 2025 goals of postsecondary educational attainment, the average annual per capita income would increase by approximately $1,400 in 2025 and federal revenues would be $67 billion, about six times higher than the estimated cost of increasing credential attainment. State revenues would also increase to approximately $64 billion, triple the estimated state cost for increasing the credential attainment.

Latino College Completion in 50 States (Melodie Christal)

Excelencia in Education’s report provides a summary of college completion among Latinos in Latino College Completion in 50 States. The report emphasizes that increasing Latino educational attainment is essential for the United States to meet its future societal and workforce needs. The report highlights three initiatives to improve Latino degree attainment. Fact sheets for each state provide a snapshot about Latinos in the educational pipeline and the equity gap between Latinos and whites.

Beyond Need and Merit (Katie Zaback)
Beyond Need and Merit, a report from the Brookings Institution State Grant Aid Study Group provides recommendations for how states should target financial aid systems to help optimize support for educational attainment in the face of declining state funding and increasing tuition levels. The report, developed by national, state, and institutional leaders, recognizes there is no one model for state financial aid but recommends all states should consider structuring aid programs to: (1) focus resources on students whose chances of enrolling and succeeding in college would be improved by state support; (2) consolidate and simplify programs for college students and their families; and (3) encourage success within postsecondary education as well as access. An inventory of 2009-10 state grants is included in the report and is also available as a spreadsheet.
2012 National Freshman Attitudes Report (Ellen Peters)
According to the Noel-Levitz 2012 National Freshman Attitudes Report, male college freshmen tend to be less likely than females to enjoy reading, to study hard, or to take careful notes in class. The seventh annual study examines a range of student attitudes and motivations at the beginning and again at the middle of the first year. The report’s findings emphasize the importance of monitoring students' attitudes and behaviors and following up with appropriate services to help more students complete their coursework and succeed in college.

Policy Watch

Principles of Excellence for Military Tuition Assistance and Veterans Education Benefits Programs (Lesley McBain)

In April 2012, President Obama issued an Executive Order requiring the Departments of Defense, Veterans Affairs, and Education to establish “Principles of Excellence” applying to all institutions receiving federal military and veterans education benefit funds (including but not limited to active-duty military Tuition Assistance and the Post-9/11 GI Bill program). In addition to new readmission-, refund-, and accreditation-related requirements, the principles require institutions to provide data on the total cost of the educational program including tuition and fees, financial aid, and student outcomes to prospective military/veteran students and their families. Specific guidance on data and compliance issues has not yet been issued.

College Affordability and Transparency Lists (Melodie Christal)

To comply with requirements outlined in the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 (HEOA), the U.S. Department of Education released the annual College Affordability and Transparency Lists on June 12, publishing lists of the most- and least-expensive colleges, by sector. The data are posted in the College Affordability and Transparency Center, which is linked from the College Navigator website.

Published: May 11, 2012

IPEDS TRP Report: Selected Outcomes of the Advisory Committee on Measures of Student Success

Feedback is requested on suggestions from the IPEDS Technical Review Panel (TRP) #37 report, “Selected Outcomes of the Advisory Committee on Measures of Student Success,” which is posted on the TRP webpage (under the “Recent Summaries Open for Comment” section). Comments should be sent to by May 29, 2012. The TRP suggestions include: (1) a revised definition of Degree/Certificate-seeking Student that spells out groups to include for IPEDS reporting; (2) IPEDS reporting of progression and completion measures for cohorts of part-time students; and (3) alternative reporting schedules for part-time cohorts.

Published: May 22, 2012

A Stronger Nation through Education (Christine Keller)

Lumina Foundation’s latest report, A Stronger Nation through Education, tracks U.S. progress toward Lumina’s “Big Goal” that 60% of Americans will hold a high-quality postsecondary degree or credential by 2025. The data shows modest gains in college attainment rates with 38.3% of working-age adults (ages 24-65) holding a two-year or four-year degree in 2010. However, the growth rate is not sufficient to reach 60% attainment by 2025. The report provides detailed breakdowns of degree attainment at the national, state, and county levels as well as each of the nation’s 100 most populous metropolitan areas.

It’s A Matter of Time: Low-Income Students and Community Colleges (Christine Keller)

The policy brief It’s A Matter of Time: Low-Income Students and Community Colleges from the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) suggests the current concept of Student Right to Know (150% of “normal time” to complete a degree) is outdated and a shorter time-to-degree is not necessarily a more efficient or better experience for the student. Instead, the needs and attendance patterns of nontraditional and low-income students also need to be factored into the equation. The brief examines the investment of time since students choose to spend their time on what they value. For example, low-income students spend more time studying than students in higher income brackets. The brief provides examples of the potential negative consequences for these student populations when financial aid policy decisions are based on a limited understanding of the time constraints under which low-income students operate.

Tying Funding to Community College Outcomes (Melodie Christal)

The Jobs for the Future report, Tying Funding to Community College Outcomes: Models, Tools, and Recommendations for States, provides tools to help states design performance-based funding systems for community colleges that can influence student and institutional behavior, avoid unintended consequences, and withstand shifts in political and economic climates. States abandoned past efforts to implement performance-based funding after encountering resistance from institutions and failing to achieve desired results. Driven by campaigns to bolster student success, states are now revisiting performance-based funding models to allocate some state support based on institutional progress in improving student retention and degree completion. The report highlights Ohio's new performance-based funding system and the rationale to develop different systems for community colleges and four-year institutions.

Reclaiming the American Dream (Melodie Christal)

In summer 2011, the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) launched a new initiative to educate an additional five million students by 2020. Reclaiming the American Dream is the culminating report from the 21st-Century Commission on the Future of Community College. The report focuses on the “Three Rs:” reform: (1) redesign students’ educational experiences; (2) reinvent institutional roles; and (3) reset the system to create partnerships and incentives for student and institutional success. The report includes seven recommendations and strategies for implementing the “Three Rs.”

Simplifying Student Aid: What It Would Mean for States (Melodie Christal)

The College Board Advocacy & Policy Center report, Simplifying Student Aid: What It Would Mean for States, looks at implications of the federal government's proposal to simplify the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Five states (Kentucky, Minnesota, Ohio, Texas, and Vermont) are studied to determine if a simpler FAFSA would have an impact on state budgets and determining who should receive financial aid. The report concludes the simplified FAFSA would lead to minor changes in the allocation of federal and state awards and the general integrity of financial aid programs would be retained. The report also notes the simpler FAFSA would most likely lead to increased participation in postsecondary education of low-income students.

2011 Year in Review: Global changes in Tuition Fee Policies and Student Financial Assistance (Melodie Christal)

The Higher Education Strategy Associate report, 2011 Year in Review: Global changes in Tuition Fee Policies and Student Financial Assistance, outlines major changes related to higher education affordability around the world in 2011 based on data from the G-40 countries, which account for more than 90% of higher education enrollment and research activity. The report addresses the economic, social, and political context in which higher education operates; tuition and student aid policies; and policy changes in key nations. Tuition fees rose around the world by 2.58% in 2011 but because of inflation, the global tuition index fell by 1.76%. The report concludes that higher education affordability increased in Columbia, France, Germany, Sweden, and Saudi Arabia and decreased in the United States, Philippines, and Spain.

NCES (Katie Zaback)

The schedule for the 2012-13 IPEDS collection cycle is now posted on the IPEDS Data Provider Center (see “Data Submission Info” on the left-hand side of the page). Changes in the data collected are also available.

Data submitted for the IPEDS 2011-12 Human Resource and 2010-11 Student Financial Aid survey components are now available at the Additional Early Release level of the IPEDS Data Center.

The National Center for Education Statistics recently released several enhancements to the IPEDS data tools to support postsecondary data analysis:

  • The IPEDS Trend Generator offers increased flexibility to access select IPEDS data over time. Data currently available include institutional characteristics, enrollment, awards conferred, graduation rates, employment, and institutional revenue. The Trend Generator provides datasets designed to answer specific key questions. For example, under graduation rates one question is “What is the graduation rate within 150% of normal time at 4-year postsecondary institutions?” The tool allows users to create tables or trend charts and to select how to display the data. Depending on the question, data can be displayed by institution type, student type, or state.

  • The College and Career Tables Library is a searchable database of over 5,000 tables from NCES postsecondary publications including IPEDS, Baccalaureate and Beyond, Beginning Postsecondary Students, National Postsecondary Student Aid Study, and the National Study of Postsecondary Faculty. The user can search for tables by data source, keyword, topic, and/or release date.

  • NCES now houses data from the Delta Cost project in IPEDS Analytic: Delta Cost Project Database. The database includes institutional data from the IPEDS finance, enrollment, staffing, completions, and student aid surveys from 1987-2009 and can be used to support longitudinal analyses. This database will be updated annually.


Policy Watch
(Melodie Christal)

The Department of Education developed an action plan for improving measures of student success based on recommendations in the final report of the Committee on Measures of Student Success. For example, broadening graduation rate reporting to include part-time students and students who previously attended another postsecondary institution is being explored.  A meeting of the IPEDS Technical Review Panel was held in February to discuss selected outcomes from the Committee on Measures of Student Success, including the feasibility of establishing a part-time cohort for graduation rate reporting.  A summary of that meeting can be found on the Technical Review Panel website.

A notice in the May 4, 2012 Federal Register Volume 77, Number 87 includes a request for information about practices and policies on education data systems that disaggregate data on subgroups within the Asian and Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Island student population. The Department of Education plans to use the information to help educational entities identify and overcome challenges in disaggregating data on subgroups of this population. Written submissions must be received by the Department of Education on or before July 3, 2012.

Published: April 26, 2012

Transfer and Mobility: A National View of Pre-Degree Student Movement in Postsecondary Institutions (Melodie Christal)

The second in a series of Signature Reports from the National Student Clearinghouse (NSC) Research Center, Transfer and Mobility: A National View of Pre-Degree Student Movement in Postsecondary Institutions examines students’ increasingly complex transfer patterns. Most data analyses currently view students as progressing linearly through college at one institution and treating students who do not receive a degree at that institution as dropouts. NSC found one-third of the fall 2006 first-time students changed or transferred institutions before earning a degree, a rate consistent across all types of institutions excluding the for-profit sector. Of those students who transfer, 37% transfer in their second year, and 22% transfer as late as their fourth or fifth years. In addition, 25% transfer more than one time. Given the mobility of students, the authors suggest postsecondary education should investigate new approaches and metrics to better inform students and institutions about the range of successful enrollment patterns.

The Role of Pell Grants in Access, Persistence, and Completion (Katie Zaback)

The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) released the Issue Brief, The Role of Pell Grants in Access, Persistence, and Completion that examines the shifting policy emphasis from college access to college completion and student success, and the potential consequences for students. The brief suggests access itself is not enough to ensure attainment of a higher education credential, and while Pell grants and student aid programs reduce financial barriers, low- and moderate-income students continue to struggle with persistence and completion. It questions whether the benefits of education should be measured in terms of individual success or as a return on societal investment. The report also explores several approaches to help improve student success.

The For-Profit Postsecondary School Sector: Nimble Critters or Agile Predators? (Melodie Christal)

The Center for Analysis of Postsecondary Education and Employment (CAPSEE) report, The For-Profit Postsecondary School Sector: Nimble Critters or Agile Predators?, uses data from the Beginning Postsecondary Students (BPS) longitudinal survey to compare students attending for-profit institutions with students attending public or private nonprofit institutions. For-profit institutions are more successful than public and nonprofit institutions at retaining students in their first year and getting them to complete short programs at the certificate and associate levels. On the other hand, students enrolled in for-profit institutions have lower earnings six years after entering postsecondary education as well as higher debt levels and default rates on their student loans. This paper is also available in the winter 2012 issue of Journal of Economic Perspectives, 26 (1), 139–164.

State Higher Education Finance FY 2011 (Katie Zaback)

The State Higher Education Executive Officers (SHEEO) annual report State Higher Education Finance (SHEF) provides a comprehensive review of state and local funding and enrollment trends for public higher education. Compiled from data collected from each state, SHEF FY 2011 shows relatively flat state funding for higher education in FY 2011 over 2010, and below the FY 2008 level. Due to continued enrollment growth, FY 2011 educational appropriations per FTE fell to $6,290 and net tuition revenues per FTE reached $4,774. These figures represent the lowest educational appropriations per FTE in inflation-adjusted terms and the highest share from tuition in the 25 years of the study. Supplemental data are also available on the SHEEO website.

National Center for Education Statistics (Ellen Peters) 

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) First Look report, Enrollment in Postsecondary Institutions, Fall 2010; Financial Statistics, Fiscal Year 2010; and Graduation Rates, Selected Cohorts, 2002-07, (NCES 2012-280) presents findings from five components of the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) spring 2011 data collection: student financial aid, enrollment by selected characteristics; graduation rates within 150 and 200 percent of program completion; and finance, such as revenues and operating expenditures. The report’s data are available through the IPEDS Data Center and the College Navigator for more than 7,000 postsecondary education institutions that participate in Title IV federal student financial aid programs.

CUPA-HR (College and University Personnel Association for Human Resources) (Melodie Christal)

CUPA-HR conducts several surveys on compensation of higher education positions each year and released new reports in February (AAUP) and March (National Faculty and Two-Year College Faculty) of this year. Information on each survey listed below is available at the CUPA-HR website under the Survey tab. CUPA also offers DataOnDemand, a hands-on application that provides institutions aggregate information for peer comparison groups they create. The prices for these reports and services are available on the CUPA website.

  • AAUP Annual Report on the Economic Status of the Profession (Melodie Christal)
    Each year, the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) collects salary and benefit data for full-time instructional faculty from colleges and universities through the AAUP Faculty Compensation Survey. A Very Slow Recovery, 2011-12, presents the most recent survey results. National and regional data are provided as well as institutional data. This year’s report also addresses the rising price of college tuition and what is driving it.

  • The National Faculty Salary Survey for Four-Year Institutions (NFSS) provides average salary data for full-time faculty by rank (professor, associate professor, assistant professor, instructor, new assistant professors) and discipline, based on the four-digit Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP) developed by the National Center for Education Statistics. Data are reported for all institutions and for public and private institutions separately.

  • The Two-Year College Faculty Salary Survey provides average salaries for full-time faculty by discipline at two-year institutions. Because two-year colleges have a diverse pay structure, the survey provides four options for reporting salaries: by level of education/degree, academic rank, discipline with faculty unranked, and discipline with faculty ranked.

The Administrative Compensation Survey (AdComp) collects salary and demographic data for selected administrative positions in colleges and universities. In general, positions at or above the director level are reported in this survey. The report provides a summary of median salaries by position for all institutions.
Chronicle of Higher Education Faculty Salary Database

The Chronicle of Higher Education interactive tool provides information about individual colleges and universities using data from the 2011-12 AAUP faculty salary survey and IPEDS. Some of the data available from this site are average faculty salaries by institution and rank, number of faculty, enrollment, and student-faculty ratio. While these data are available from other sources, the Chronicle of Higher Education makes the current year faculty salary data available earlier than most sources.

The Mid-Level Administrative and Professional Salary Survey collects salary and demographic data for selected mid-level positions in higher education. In general, positions below the director level are reported in this survey.

U.S. Census Bureau (Melodie Christal)
Two new U.S. Census Bureau products address education:
Educational Attainment in the United States: 2011 – The tables present national statistics on the levels of education achieved by various demographic characteristics, as well as changes over time. Data on educational attainment are derived from the question on the Current Population Survey, "What is the highest grade of school...has completed, or the highest degree...has received?"

Field of Bachelor’s Degree in the United States: 2009 – This report estimates fields of bachelor’s degrees by demographic characteristics using data from the 2009 American Community Survey. It also looks at geographic and earnings differences across fields of degree.

Published: March 28, 2012

The American Freshman: National Norms Fall 2011 (Ellen Peters)

The American Freshman: National Norms Fall 2011 report was released in January by the Cooperative Institutional Research Program (CIRP) at UCLA's Higher Education Research Institute (HERI). This annual report of entering first-year students is based on the findings from the 2011 Freshman Survey and includes responses from over 200,000 first-time, full-time students at 270 colleges and universities. The report shows that fall 2011 first-time, full-time students differ from respondents in past years in their political views, academic behaviors and attitudes, resources for paying for college, and use of social networking. In addition, there were differences in the reasons students attend college by intended major and in college choice for first-generation students.

Why Access Matters: The Community College Student Body (Melodie Christal)
The American Association of Community Colleges policy brief, Why Access Matters: The Community College Student Body (2012-01 PBL), discusses the contribution of community colleges in providing access to higher education and how recent policies on completions and public returns on investment may undermine this access for many students. The brief describes the variety of students served by community colleges and explains the shortcomings of current student success measures when applied to community colleges, particularly the federal graduation rate. The brief concludes with recommended actions to ensure that access to community colleges does not deteriorate.

A Matter of Degrees: Promising Practices for Community College Student Success (Melodie Christal)

A Matter of Degrees: Promising Practices for Community College Student Success from the Center for Community College Student Engagement explores innovative, data-informed programs for educating underprepared students, engaging underserved students, and helping students from all backgrounds succeed. The Center’s multiyear project uses input from students, faculty, and college leaders to explore the relative and combined value of 13 promising educational practices, including design principals critical for student success: a strong start, clear pathways, integrated support, high expectations and high support, intensive student engagement, design for scale, and professional development.

Pathways to Success: Integrating Learning with Life and Work to Increase National College Completion (Patrick Rossol-Allison)

The Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance released the report Pathways to Success: Integrating Learning with Life and Work to Increase National College Completion outlining the barriers traditional and nontraditional college students face in completing their degrees. The report highlights best practices at higher education institutions and describes state and federal government strategies to improve student completion rates. The Advisory Committee calculates that increasing the number of successful nontraditional students will require significant modifications in the structure and delivery of higher education as well as changes to federal student aid programs. The proposed changes most relevant to institutional researchers are revisions to IPEDS to better reflect how nontraditional students complete their educational goals and the need for cooperation between different data consortia to define key data elements.

What Do Students Pay for College (Melodie Christal)

NCES Web Tables What Do Students Pay for College? (NCES 2012-263) present data on the average net price of attendance in 2006-07 and 2008-09 for two groups of first-time, full-time undergraduate students (FTFTUG): (1) grant recipients from any source, and (2) Title IV aid recipients. Under the Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA), net price of attendance is calculated as the cost of attendance for FTFTUG minus the total amount of need-based grant aid and merit-based grant aid from federal, state, and institutional sources divided by the number of FTFTUG students receiving this aid. Using data from the IPEDS Institutional Characteristics and Student Financial Aid surveys, the Web Tables present information on the extent to which the average net price of attendance varies by control and level of institution for both the grant recipient group and the Title IV recipient group, and by income levels for the Title IV aid recipient group.


Policy Watch (Melodie Christal, Christine Keller)  

College Scorecard

The White House is seeking feedback on a new tool, College Scorecard, to be included in the College Affordability and Transparency Center to assist prospective students and their families in comparing colleges using five measures of college affordability and value. Comments can be submitted through the College Scorecard website.

The proposed measures include: (1) What will it cost to attend? (2) How likely am I to graduate and how long will it take? (3) Will I be able to repay my student loans after I graduate? (4) How much debt will I have when I graduate? (5) Will I be able to get a job after I graduate?  

Financial Aid Shopping Sheet

In collaboration with the Department of Education, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has designed an example of a Financial Aid Shopping Sheet that institutions might use in presenting financial aid offers to prospective students and families. The CFPB is also requesting feedback through their website about the form and the types of information most useful when evaluating a financial aid offer.

Published: February 22, 2012


AASCU Top 10 Higher Education State Policy Issues for 2012 (Melodie Christal)

Each year, the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) lists the top 10 state issues most likely to affect public higher education during that year. The top state issue in the 2012 Policy Brief is declining state support for public higher education due to the prolonged economic downturn. Other issues listed in rank order are productivity, governance restructuring and regulatory reform, college completion, performance-based funding, tuition policy, state student grant program funding and reform, college readiness, veteran’s education, and immigration policy. In addition to the top ten issues, AASCU predicts discussions will continue on deferred maintenance funding, state level longitudinal data systems, recurring issues of teacher education, weapons on campus, and student enrollment policies.

Grapevine (Katie Zaback)

Illinois State University and the State Higher Education Executive Officers (SHEEO) recently released the results of the annual Grapevine survey of state higher education appropriations for fiscal year 2012. The report shows that nationwide support for higher education declined more than 7%, and 41 states experienced declines between 2011 and 2012. This trend reflects the effects of the lasting recession and the difficulty for states to maintain current funding levels now that federal ARRA (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009) funds are depleted. In fact, 29% of states are currently operating with levels of support lower than those available five years ago in fiscal year 2007. The report also shows significant variation across states with one year percentage changes (excluding ARRA funds) ranging from negative 21% to positive 12%. 

Salary Survey (Ellen Peters)

The January 2012 Salary Survey of the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) reports positive news regarding salary outcomes for the college class of 2011. The overall average salary for 2011 graduates is up to $41,701, 2.3% higher than the 2010 graduate’s average of $40,766. Average salaries have increased across the board, although there are greater gains in engineering and computer science than in other fields. NACE refined its data collection methodology this year, compiling data derived from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Census Bureau, and a master dataset developed by Job Search Intelligence. The NACE Executive Summary is available for free; the full report is available to NACE member institutions or by subscription. 

Hard Time: College Majors, Unemployment and Earnings: Not All College Degrees Are Created Equal (Melodie Christal)

The Center on Education and the Workforce addresses the question “Is college worth it?” in Hard Times: College Majors, Unemployment and Earnings: Not All College Degrees Are Created Equal. This report analyzes employment outcomes by major for recent college graduates, experienced college graduates, and graduate degrees. The authors conclude college is worth it and the best alternative for young people. Although the unemployment rate for students with new bachelor’s degrees is high at 8.9%, it is much higher for high school graduates (22.9%) and even higher for high school dropouts (31.5%). The risk of unemployment for recent college graduates varies considerably depending on the major.  Architecture majors have the highest unemployment rate (13.9%) while majors in healthcare and education have the lowest rates (5.4%). 

Women in Intercollegiate Sports: A Longitudinal, National Study, Thirty-Five Year Update (Mary Sapp)

This longitudinal report shows that in 2012, 40 years after the enactment of Title IX, the participation of female athletes in sports is at an all-time high with 8.7 women's teams per college and nearly 200,000 female athletes participating on over 9,000 NCAA teams. An increase in the participation of high-school girls in sports was also found. The report documents a record number of women employed in college sports: over 90% of NCAA programs have at least one female administrator, 20% of all athletic directors are female, and a record number of women are coaching women’s teams. The report notes that the proportion of females in administrative positions tends to be lower in Division I programs.  

National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) Reports (Christine Keller)

Beginning Subbaccalaureate Students' Labor Market Experiences: Six Years Later in 2009

This set of web tables presents descriptive statistics on the spring 2009 labor market experiences of subbaccalaureate students who first entered postsecondary education in 2003–04. Data from the 2004/09 Beginning Postsecondary Students Longitudinal Study is used to identify and present the demographic and employment characteristics of certificate and associate’s degree completers and noncompleters. Labor market experiences presented include employment status as of spring 2009, unemployment spells since last enrolled, median salary earned as of spring 2009, employer-offered benefits, and job satisfaction. 

America's Youth: Transitions to Adulthood

America's Youth: Transition to Adulthood (NCES 2012-026) contains statistics that address important aspects of the lives of youth, including family, schooling, work, community, and health. The transition to adulthood in the United States has changed in recent decades resulting in increased participation and attainment in education; extenuation of educational completion and subsequent delayed participation in the labor force; and delays in child rearing. This report examines numerous aspects of the lives of youth and young adults, ages 14 to 24, in the United States over the last several decades. The report features status and trend data from multiple surveys on the distribution of youth and their family structure; on school-, employment-, and health-related factors and on future plans.


Policy Watch

President Obama’s State of the Union Address

In the January 2012 State of the Union address, President Barack Obama called for a comprehensive approach to keeping tuition affordable, proposing that federal student aid be tied to campus tuition policies. The White House followed up with a "fact sheet" outlining the President’s proposal.

Common Education Data Standards Version 2 Released

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) announced the Version 2 release of the Common Education Data Standards (CEDS) on January 31. The CEDS project is a national, collaborative effort to develop voluntary data standards to streamline the exchange, comparison, and understanding of data within and across P-20. Version 2 of CEDS focuses on elements and modeling in the early learning, K12, and postsecondary sectors and includes domains, entities, elements, options sets, and related use cases.  Version 2 of CEDS can be found at the CEDS website.

Published: January 29, 2012

10 Questions State Legislators Should Ask About Higher Education
The American Legislative Exchange Council poses and answers policy questions in 10 Questions State Legislators Should Ask About Higher Education. Some of the issues addressed are college completion rates, student preparation for college, accessibility of a college education, college costs and affordability, how higher education is financed, academic quality, workforce preparation, improving accountability and transparency, and innovations in higher education.
Leveraging Data for College Completion
Leveraging Data for College Completion by the Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP) documents the importance of longitudinal data systems for identifying issues, making decisions, and measuring results. The brief emphasizes the significance of linking higher education data systems to workforce data and K-12 data systems and provides effective strategies for addressing some of the challenges related to data collection and management, as well as data analysis and capacity at the state level. In highlighting the strategies, the report also incorporates several successful state efforts. 
Completing College: Assessing Graduation Rates at Four-Year Colleges
The Higher Education Research Institute (HERI) at UCLA report, Completing College: Assessing Graduation Rates at Four-Year Colleges, introduces a new method for predicting an institution’s graduation rate using data from the Cooperative Institutional Research Program (CIRP) Freshman Survey. Many institutions use basic student information such as gender, race/ethnicity, and test scores to project an expected graduation rate. By using the more detailed data from the CIRP Freshman Survey, HERI reports institutions can increase the precision of their predicted graduation rates. HERI also provides online degree completion calculators allowing institutions to evaluate how their own graduation rates can be improved using alternative scenarios.
National Student Clearinghouse Snapshot Reports
The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center has published three Snapshot Reports highlighting national enrollment trends in two-year and four-year institutions based on their database, which includes 93% of the student enrollments in the United States. The Persistence Snapshot shows that students tended to stay enrolled (i.e., persist) and notes students are often misclassified as dropouts when they may have just transferred to another institution. There were notable differences in fall-to-fall persistence rates of full-time (92.5%) and part-time (71.2%) students. The Mobility Snapshot addresses students who attend more than one institution and the Concurrent Snapshot addresses overlapping student enrollment. In 2010-11, 7.7% of students enrolled in more than one institution and 3.2% enrolled concurrently at more than one institution.
Tuition and Fees in Public Higher Education in the West, 2011-2012
Tuition and Fees in Public Higher Education in the West, 2011-2012 is the latest annual report on tuition and fees from the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE). This report presents tuition and mandatory fees at two-year and four-year public institutions for WICHE’S 15-state region including changes from one, five, and 10 years ago. The report includes weighted and unweighted tuition and fees averages by full-time equivalent enrollment. Enrollment-weighted averages provide a better estimate of the published price a student pays based on enrollment patterns.
Numbers of Doctorates Awarded in the United States Declined in 2010
The National Science Foundation Info Brief, Numbers of Doctorates Awarded in the United States Declined in 2010 (NSF 12-303), presents data and trends on doctorates awarded in science and engineering collected in the 2010 Survey of Earned Doctorates. As noted in the title, the number of research doctorates in 2010 was down from 2009, the first decline in doctorates awarded since 2002. This report includes demographic information on the doctorate recipients.
National Center for Education Statistics (NCES)
The NCES Stats in Brief: Federal Education Tax Benefits: Who Receives Them and to What Extent Do They Shape the Price of Attendance? (NCES 2012-212) examines the three types of education tax credits: the Hope tax credit, the lifetime learning tax credit, and the tuition and fees deduction. The report addresses three questions: (1) What percentage of 2007-08 undergraduates received an education tax benefit and to what extent did these benefits reduce the overall price of college? (2) Among dependent undergraduate students, how did the receipt of the education tax benefits vary by family income? (3) Among dependent undergraduate tax benefit recipients, how did the extent to which education tax benefits lowered the overall price of college attendance vary by family income? The report notes that nearly one-half of the 2007-08 undergraduates received an education tax benefit, thereby reducing college expenses on average by $700.
The NCES First Look publication, Employees in Postsecondary Institutions, Fall 2010, and Salaries of Full-Time Instructional Staff, 2010–11 (NCES 2012-276), presents data from the 2010-11 Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) human resources survey. The report includes the number of staff employed in Title IV postsecondary institutions in fall 2010 by primary function/occupational activity as well as salary data for full-time instructional staff. Almost 3.9 million people were employed at postsecondary institutions in fall 2010 with more than 60% employed full-time. About 2.7 million (70%) of these employees work for four-year institutions. Although the number of instructional staff has increased by 18% since 2004, the percentage of full-time faculty has decreased from 49% to 45%. The average nine-month salary is $104,000 for professors, $74,900 for associate professors, and $63,100 for assistant professors; the average salary for instructors, lecturers, and unranked faculty is about $54,000.
The NCES First Look publication, Academic Libraries: 2010 (NCES 2012-365), presents data from the 2010 Academic Libraries Survey (ALS). NCES first conducted the ALS in 1966 and began an every-other-year collection cycle in 1988. The survey focuses on library services, collections, library staff, expenditures, electronic services, and information literacy. In addition to selected survey findings, this First Look report provides information on the survey methodology, the survey instrument, and a glossary. In fall 2010, academic libraries employed almost 90,000 FTE with librarians accounting for about 30% of the total FTE. In 2009-10, academic libraries conducted approximately 34.6 million information services for individuals, including computer searches. Almost three-quarters of academic libraries now support virtual reference services.
GAO Report on Student Outcomes
The U.S. Government Accountability Office issued the postsecondary education report, Student Outcomes Vary at For-Profit, Nonprofit, and Public Schools (GAO-12-142). The report addresses research on graduation rates, employment outcomes, student loans, and default rates for students at for-profit institutions compared to those at nonprofit and public institutions. It also looks at pass rates on licensing exams for selected occupations. The study uses data primarily from the U.S. Department of Education including the Beginning Postsecondary Students (BPS) Longitudinal Study, the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), and the National Postsecondary Student Aid Survey (NPSAS), and the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS).

Policy Watch
Committee on Measures of Student Success
After a year of deliberation, the federal Committee on Measures of Student Success released its recommendations to the U.S. Department of Education in December 2011. The committee's report addresses issues that make measuring student completion rates at two-year institutions difficult and includes recommendations to the Department to collect more information about students who transfer, attend part-time, or require developmental education. While the committee's recommendations are targeted at two-year institutions, they could potentially affect four-year institutions as well.
CEDS update
Version 2.0 of the Common Education Data Standards (CEDS) will be released this month. CEDS is a voluntary standard that provides definitions and code sets for education data elements. It can improve consistency and comparability of data across institutions, states, and between education sectors. CEDS also has the potential to reduce the reporting burden for IPEDS and other reporting efforts. CEDS defines all data elements needed to complete the IPEDS student surveys, and NCES plans to develop a tool that will allow institutions to use the CEDS-defined codes to create IPEDS import files. A data mapping tool will accompany CEDS 2.0 allowing comparison of existing state data dictionaries to each other and the standard. IR offices are encouraged to discuss CEDS with their IT colleagues, ERP vendors, and other partners committed to ensuring a common understanding of educational data.