IPEDS and the trouble with student metrics in the US

The Campus

Elizabeth Harris
January 7, 2022
The IPEDS education data surveys hold great weight in the HE system, but they are not inclusive enough and thus no longer fit for purpose, says Elizabeth Harris
We’re in the midst of the most magical time of year for the institutional research community. That’s right, the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) surveys have been released for the winter and spring collections. For non-traditional, four-year institutions, this heralds the Sisyphean task of stuffing round pegs into square holes.
IPEDS is a series of 12 surveys that schools are required to answer. It’s considered the “primary source for information on US colleges, universities and technical and vocational institutions” and contains metrics such as number of degrees awarded, enrolment figures and retention and graduation rates, which are then reported in almost every major accreditation and ranking.
Institutions are required to include this information on their websites, according to the Higher Education Act, and it has become an important factor for students assessing colleges, as the US Department of Education College Scorecard pulls directly from IPEDS information.