The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) is a system of interrelated surveys conducted annually by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), a part of the Institute for Education Sciences within the United States Department of Education. IPEDS consists of twelve interrelated survey components that are collected over three collection periods (fall, winter, and spring) each year as described in the Data Collection and Dissemination Cycle. The completion of all IPEDS surveys is mandatory for all institutions that participate in, or are applicants for participation in, any federal financial assistance program authorized by Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended.
The IPEDS program department of NCES was created in 1992 and began collecting data in 1993.
IPEDS collects data on postsecondary education in the United States in the following areas: institutional characteristics, institutional prices, admissions, enrollment, student financial aid, degrees and certificates conferred, student persistence and success (retention rates, graduation rates, and outcome measures), institutional human resources, fiscal resources, and academic libraries.
Institutional characteristics data are the foundation of the entire IPEDS system. These include basic institutional contact information, tuition and fees, room and board charges, control or affiliation, type of calendar system, levels of awards offered, types of programs, and admissions requirements.
IPEDS collects institutional pricing data from institutions for full-time, first-time degree/certificate-seeking undergraduate students. This includes tuition and fee data as well as information on the estimated student budgets for students based on living situations (on-campus or off-campus).
Basic information is collected from institutions that do not have an open-admissions policy on the undergraduate selection process for first-time, degree/certificate-seeking students. This includes information about admissions considerations, admissions yields, and SAT and ACT test scores.
Because enrollment patterns differ greatly among the various types of postsecondary institutions, there is a need for both different measures of enrollment and several indicators of access. In IPEDS, the following enrollment-related data are collected:
IPEDS collects data on the number of full-time, first-time degree/certificate-seeking undergraduate students who receive different types of student financial aid, including grants and loans, from different sources at each institution. IPEDS also collects data to show the average dollar amount of aid received by these students. Finally, as a result of the Higher Education Act (1965), as amended, IPEDS collects data to calculate the average net price at each institution for the following two groups: (1) full-time, first-time degree/certificate-seeking undergraduate students who receive grant and scholarship aid; and (2) full-time, first-time degree/certificate-seeking undergraduate students who receive Title IV federal student aid.
IPEDS collects data on the number of students who complete a postsecondary education program by type of program and level of award (certificate or degree). Type of program is categorized according to the Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP), a detailed coding system for postsecondary instructional programs. These data provide information on the number and location of completers by field. Business and industry, the military, and other groups that need to recruit individuals with particular skills use these data extensively. The data also help satisfy the mandate in the Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Technical Education Act for information on completions in postsecondary career and technical education programs.
IPEDS collects two types of data to help track postsecondary student progress and success.
IPEDS collects institutional data on human resources and finances.
Information on collection access, expenditures, and services provided by libraries at degree-granting institutions. Data collected through the IPEDS system replaces the previous U.S. Census and NCES Academic Libraries Survey, which collected data from institutions every other even-number year and was not mandatory.
College Navigator is a "free consumer information tool designed to help students, parents, high school counselors, and others get information about over 7,500 postsecondary institutions in the United States - such as programs offered, retention and graduation rates, prices, aid available, degrees awarded, campus safety, and accreditation." Most of the data comes from IPEDS, although other data sources within the Department of Education are also used. The website went live in September 2007 as a replacement for College Opportunities On-line (COOL) and was named in a December issue of Money magazine that year as "the best first screen" for researching colleges.
In March 2005, the U.S. Department of Education released a study about the feasibility of a student unit record system within IPEDS. This Unit Record proposal met with immediate and vocal opposition from congressional leaders as well as colleges and universities. The Department of Education argued that the development of a national student unit record tracking system, with appropriate privacy safeguards, which collects, analyzes and uses longitudinal student progression data was a vital tool for accountability and policy-making. This sparked an immediate reaction regarding the implications of what this means for institutions of higher education. Unit record reporting, as originally conceived, would require institutions that report to IPEDS to upload not summary data but rather to upload files that contain individual student records. These files would contain a wide range of information on the student but would, most importantly, include the student's Social Security Number. Concerns were raised that attending even one course would mean you are added to a federal database for the rest of your life. In a report issued in March 2006 by the Department of Education, Social Security Number was specifically excluded from the Unit Record upload data. It has been suggested that SSN will still be collected but it will be done so by a third-party before it is uploaded to the IPEDS Unit Record Database.