Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS)

DATE: September 4, 2017

AUTHOR: Aaron Fernandes


The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) is the biggest primary source for national comparisons of institutional finance and is the underlying data source for a vast number of secondary sources and reports. It is comprised of several separate surveys linked to an institution’s IPEDS ID number. While connecting one survey to another is usually relatively simple, there are many cases in which for administrative reasons different ID numbers are used across different surveys, or where they vary across time. (See the Delta Cost Project for data that substantially account for these differences.) Key surveys for analyzing postsecondary finance include:

Finance. There are separate files for public, nonprofit, and for profit institutions, based on different accounting standards.

Student Financial Aid. This includes data on categories of financial aid awarded to students and processed through the institution. There is more detail on first-time freshmen than on other categories of students.

Pricing and Tuition. This includes tuition and fee data for different categories of students and net price data for students at different income levels. The net price data remain highly inconsistent due to varying methods institutions use to estimate non-tuition charges.

Institutional Characteristics. This includes information to categorize institutions based on state,

Carnegie classification, sector, and many other variables.

Other files (e.g. 12-month enrollment, Fall enrollment, Completions) can provide contextual data (or denominators) for finance variables.

Overview link:

Data link:

Numerous tools for beginning and intermediate users are available on the primary data use page, as are the complete data files which come formatted with metadata for SPSS, SAS, or STATA. (From above link, select Survey Datadownload option.)

Best for:

Institutional finance comparisons.

Not as good for:

Current pricing/net price estimates, disaggregating financial aid by student characteristics


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