The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) is the federal government's core postsecondary data collection program. Approximately 6,800 postsecondary schools are required to complete annual IPEDS surveys on topics including enrollment, graduation rates, and finances. As policymakers have sought additional data to increase accountability in postsecondary education, the number and complexity of questions on the IPEDS surveys have increased. GAO was mandated to examine: (1) the time and cost burden for schools completing the IPEDS surveys, (2) options for reducing this burden, and (3) the potential benefits and challenges of collecting additional graduation rate data. To do this, GAO interviewed staff from 22 postsecondary schools, reviewed existing estimates of the IPEDS time and cost burden, interviewed officials at the Department of Education (Education) and Office of Management and Budget, and interviewed higher education associations and higher education software providers.
Recommendations for Executive Action
|Department of Education||To improve the availability of reliable information to Congress and postsecondary institutions about postsecondary institutions' data collection efforts, the Secretary of Education should direct the Commissioner of National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) to reevaluate the official IPEDS burden estimates and establish new baseline estimates as appropriate.|
|Department of Education||To help reduce the reporting burden on postsecondary institutions, the Secretary of Education should direct the Commissioner of NCES to improve how NCES communicates IPEDS training opportunities to a wider range of institutions, particularly smaller career and technical institutions outside of traditional higher education networks.|
|Department of Education||To help reduce the reporting burden on postsecondary institutions, the Secretary of Education should direct the Commissioner of NCES to coordinate with higher education software providers to help enhance the quality and reliability of IPEDS reporting features.|