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Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System
Established: 1992
The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, often abbreviated IPEDS, is the core postsecondary education data collection program for the National Center for Education Statistics, a part of the United Statesmarker government. IPEDS has the mandated goal of collecting standardized data from all institutions of higher education that receive federal student financial assistance authorized by Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended (20 U.S.C. 1094(a)(17)).

The department was created in 1992 and began collecting data in 1993.


IPEDS College Opportunities Online Locator (COOL) is a place where anyone can perform research on nearly 7,000 colleges and universities in the United States. Every college and university that fills out the various IPEDS reports will be accessible on this website. The information available is much less detailed than what can be obtained using the IPEDS Peer Analysis Tool but it is much easier to use.

IPEDS Peer Analysis System

The IPEDS Peer Analysis System (PAS) allows anyone to access the Peer Analysis Tool. This tool will give the same data as IPEDS COOL as well as a considerably broadened range of information on colleges and universities. The tool allows a user to build a comparison list of colleges and/or universities and compare them to a linchpin school. This data is downloadable into various formats. Information that can be retrieved in this manner include:
  • Institutional Characteristics and Student Charges
  • Enrollments
  • Completions
  • Graduation Rates
  • Student Financial Aid
  • Finance
  • Faculty Salaries
  • Fall Staff
  • Employees by Assigned Position

A similar tool called the Dataset Cutting Tool (DCT) is available on the same page as the PAS. Both tools allow for similar actions but they do so using different methods.

Controversy surrounding "Unit Record" data reporting

In March 2005 The US Department of Education released a study on the Feasibility of a Student Unit Record System Within the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System. This Unit Record proposal met with immediate and vocal opposition from congressional leaders as well as colleges and universities. The US 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 US 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.


In January 2007 it had become clear that Unit Record reporting was on the upswing. Some of the most vocal opposition was still coming from colleges/universities. It was at this time that the notion of "Huge IPEDS" was floated by Mark S. Schneider, the Education Department’s commissioner for education statistics. In a January 24, 2007, Federal Register notice, the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) announced it is seeking comments on a set of proposed changes to the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) for 2007-08 through 2009-10. The first installment of Huge IPEDS (optional in 07-08, mandatory in 08-09) would include:
  • Collect website addresses for admissions and financial aid offices, instead of phone numbers.
  • Add item to collect an estimate of the number of full-time and part-time students enrolled exclusively in online or distance education, by level.
  • Add the following question: Does your institution have an online application? If yes, provide URL. This link will be added to COOL.
  • Add the following question: Does your institution have its transfer of credit policy posted online? If yes, provide URL. This link will be added to COOL.
  • Does your institution use the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE), Community College Survey of Student Engagement (CCSSE), Collegiate Learning Assessment (CLA), National Measure of Academic Proficiency and Progress (MAPP), or Other assessment tools (please specify)? Yes/No for each. If yes, and if your institution makes the results available on your website, provide URL/s. These links will be added to COOL.
  • Does your institution have a Fact Book online? If yes, provide URL. This link will be added to COOL.
  • Does your institution post information on its website regarding assessment and/or student outcomes? If yes, provide URL. This link will be added to COOL.
  • Item in matrix format to collect information on accountability measures used by the institution, and scores. The matrix will have 3 columns: a column in which to write in the name of the accountability measures used by the institution, a column for the institution's score on that item, and a column for the data year for the score. Note: Once an institution adds a measure, the name of that measure will be added to a list which other institutions will be able to choose from, rather than having to write it in again.
  • Collect more detailed student financial aid data. Currently, the number of full-time, first-time, degree/certificate-seeking undergraduate students receiving aid (fall or full-year cohort) and the average amount of aid received are collected for 4 aid categories: Federal grants, State grants, Institutional grants, and Loans. These categories will be expanded to the following list, and the number of full-time, first-time degree/certificate-seeking undergraduate students receiving aid (fall or full-year cohort) and the average amount of aid received will be collected for each
  • Collect additional information on aid recipients: 9-cell grid to collect numbers of students by dependency status (dependent, independent with dependents, independent without dependents) crossed by living arrangement (living on campus, living off campus without family, living off campus with family). For public institutions, this will be collected by in-district, in-state, and out-of-state status. This information will be posted on COOL.

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