The New, Improved IPEDS

"There has hardly been an easier target for disdain in higher education circles than the federal graduation rate produced through the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System. The federal government's primary data collection vehicle for higher education is both essential and subpar, particularly when it comes to measuring how students move into and through the postsecondary ecosystem," Inside Higher Ed reports.

"The graduation rate, whose importance as an accountability measure for institutions has spiked along with the U.S. government's spending on student financial aid, has been rightly derided as flawed because it has included only those students who enroll full-time and are entering college for the first time (leaving out the ever-increasing numbers of part-time students and those who switch colleges or return as adults). At many community colleges and other institutions that serve large numbers of older students, particularly, the graduation rate has ranged from misleading to virtually useless. ('Flawed' is one of the kinder things you'll hear it called.)

Today, the Education Department's National Center for Education Statistics unwraps a revision of the IPEDS database that will expand the government's tools for measuring postsecondary outcomes, especially for the students who, for lack of a better term, are frequently called 'nontraditional' (even though they now outnumber the 'traditional' 18- to 22-year-olds).

While the changes are partial and leave many policy makers wanting more -- most of which cannot be accomplished unless and until the federal government ends its ban on collecting student-level data -- they are widely seen as a vast improvement.

'This is a step in the right direction, and it's a big step forward for community colleges, particularly,' said Andrew Nichols, director of higher education research and data analytics at the Education Trust, which advocates for low-income and minority students.

Among the most significant changes: for the first time, the government is publishing completion data for part-time and non-first-time students at every two- and four-year degree- or certificate-granting institution, providing a new tool (beyond the existing graduation rate) for gauging institutions' performance. In addition, IPEDS will supplement the existing graduation rate data by providing information on Pell Grant recipients at every college or university that awards federal financial aid.

And in perhaps the most interesting finding from this first (preliminary) release of data, students who were enrolled full-time (but were not first-time enrollees in college) and were seeking a degree or certificate were likelier to earn a credential within eight years than were full-time, first-time students at public four-year, public two-year and for-profit institutions. In other words, transfer students appeared to outperform their peers who started at their colleges right out of high school."

NASFAA's "Headlines" section highlights media coverage of financial aid to help members stay up to date with the latest news. Inclusion in Today's News does not imply endorsement of the material or guarantee the accuracy of information presented.


Publication Date: 10/12/2017

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