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.

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.

Read more at Inside Higher Ed: https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2017/10/12/new-federal-higher-ed-outcome-measures-count-part-time-adult-students