National Postsecondary Education Cooperative (NPEC) Reports

U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics (NCES)

ASA staff prepare analytical reports for the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) National Postsecondary Education Cooperative (NPEC) regarding the current higher education landscape as related to changes needed to national data collection instruments. Recently, ASA analyzed the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) Admissions and Institutional Characteristics survey components through literature reviews, data analysis, interviews with key stakeholders, and comparisons with external surveys. ASA presented recommendations to NPEC for potential survey improvements to ensure that national data reflect the current student bodies, policy context, and recent trends.

All colleges and universities that participate in federal student aid programs are mandated to report to IPEDS, a system of surveys conducted annually by the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). NPEC’s mission is to “promote the quality, comparability and utility of postsecondary data and information that support policy development at the federal, state, and institution levels.”

NPEC commissioned the Admissions report due to an interest in better representing the myriad of student populations. Based on information collected through an environmental scan, data analysis, and interviews, our analysis suggests a recent shift toward a more holistic admissions process with less emphasis on standardized test scores. We also found an increasing number of external surveys that better represent transfer students and non-academic admission considerations such as extracurricular activities, alumni, and work experience, but data users continue to rely on the IPEDS data because of its broad representation of institutions. Our recommendations to expand the Admissions survey’s usefulness include: expand representation to include transfer and graduate students, open admission institutions, a 12-month data collection (as opposed to a Fall enrollment snapshot), and items reflecting test-optional admissions, GPA, and early admissions. Our research also revealed the necessity of additional items to help assess equity in the admission process, such as financial need, financial aid offered, first-generation status, and alumni status, along with additional items reflecting test scores and test score use.

Using similar research methods, ASA’s investigated the IPEDS Institutional Characteristics (IC) survey component to identify opportunities to better streamline this directory of information about institutions.  The IC survey data is the source of key consumer information for the College Navigator – a publicly available online tool created to provide information and help students, families, and counselors evaluate data reflecting more than 7,000 colleges and universities — by providing the framing methodology for and feeding other IPEDS survey components.