On Higher Education Accountability

Summary: In education, government mandates monitor the accountability and transparency of institutions. In higher education, government mandates result to implementation of new processes and policies (Hall & Hord, 2011). Higher education policies result to increased effectiveness of educational programs The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data Systems (IPEDS) provides a one-stop higher education informational website for all prospective students and parents.

Accountability in Higher Education

Integrated Postsecondary Education Data Systems (IPEDS)IPEDS combines the surveys conducted by the U. S. Department of Education and the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), to provide information on all postsecondary institutions as well as all technical and vocational schools participating in federal student aid programs or Title IV funding programs (NCES, n.d). According to the Higher Education Act (HEA) of 1965, all institutions receiving Title IV funds must submit specific data about their educational programs, student population, enrollment, attrition, and completion rates, staff and faculty, financial information, tuition and fees, and allocation of all student financial aid (NCES, n.d.)IPEDS HistoryIn 1995, NCES established the National Postsecondary Education Cooperative (NPEC) as a “voluntary organization that encompasses all sectors of the postsecondary education community including federal agencies, postsecondary institutions, associations, and other organizations interested in postsecondary education data collection” (NPEC, n.d., p. 4). NCES assigned NPEC to conduct research for IPEDS (NPEC, n.d.). IPEDS data collection is a compilation of all data from postsecondary schools through large-scale surveys (NPEC, n.d.). The purpose of NPEC in creating IPEDS is to “promote quality, comparability, and utility of postsecondary data and information that support policy development at the federal, state, and institution levels” (NPEC, n.d., p. 7).According to the Association for Institutional Research (AIR), there are more than “7,000 institutions that participate in IPEDs surveys” (p. 1). "Institutions that fail to submit required IPEDS surveys are warned or are mandated to pay penalties as high as $27,500 per incidence or loss of Title IV funding” (AIR, n.d., p. 1). “Researchers, school administrators, accountability groups, and accrediting agencies utilize the IPEDS data" (AIR, n.d., p. 3). The public has access to these data through the NCES’ College Navigator website (AIR, n.d., p. 3).IPEDS and the Principle of ChangeUnderstanding that “innovations come in different sizes” is one of Hall and Hord’s (2011) principles of change (p. 7). Innovations can be changes in the “processes” (Hall & Hord, 2011, p. 8). In IPED’s case, NCES continually mandate changes in the way higher education institutions report their data. Changes come in various sizes and are critical in maintaining accountability and transparency in higher education (Hall & Hord, 2011).  Since “change is a process and not an event,” NCES provides at least “one-year” notification for higher education institutions to implement these changes (Hall & Hord, 2011, p. 5; NCES, n.d.).NCES applies Hall & Hord’s (2011) sixth principle of change, requiring organizations to provide “interventions such as training sessions” to successfully implement changes (p. 8).  NCES provides “online, face-to-face,” and “regional” IPEDS training programs to ensure that higher education institutions are prepared to implement newly mandated changes (NCES, n.d.). Through AIR, “online tutorials, workshops, and additional resources” including links to “NCES presentations” are easily accessible (AIR, n.d.; NCES, n.d.). These types of interventions can prevent stakeholders from resisting government-mandated changes (Hall & Hord, 2011).IPEDS provide Student Financial Aid (SFA) surveys to acquire information on funds for higher education institutions participating in Title IV funding programs. Answers to surveys help disseminate data from institutions. However, there is a need for IPEDS to “expand the scope of the detailed questions on federal, state, and institutional grants and federal and nonfederal loans to collect data on all undergraduates” (Steele, 2011, p. 8). Detailed information related to financial aid can help consumers identify suitable institutions for their individual cases. A typical IPEDS report identifies the number of students utilizing federal and state funds as well as nonfederal funds.Limits of IPEDS While working as a postsecondary researcher, I can easily access IPEDS data through the NCES website. However, while working as an online instructor for various colleges and universities, IPEDS data collection does not include the institutions’ history of hiring activities and massive lay-offs. Access to these information in the IPEDS data collection are crucial for online instructors when deciding whether or not to accept specific job offers or online teaching assignments. Finally, the knowledge of whether or not institutions utilize mentors or teaching assistants and information on teacher to student ratios in online classrooms can help online teachers gauge the number of hours needed for them to teach. Several institutions do not disclose the fact that their faculty to student ratios can even be as tremendous as 1:80, yet this is a common standard – a standard that both prospective college students and faculty members must realize before signing on board.IPEDS Policy and Internal Organizational Governance Structures in Higher EducationOrganizations do not change until the individuals in it change” (Hall & Hord, 2011, p. 7). In higher education, leadership is usually centralized and all employees follow institutional policies and procedures set forth by the board members and leadership committees (Rogers, 2003). This type of leadership governs all policies and procedures through written documents. These documents include institutional catalogs, faculty contracts, employment manuals, training workshops, and visual messages such as bulletin board posters, or email messages to all employees. Likewise, leaders enforce departmental rules accordingly.In enforcing documentations for IPEDS, reporting protocols are completed from top-down, distributing reporting duties across the campus. An institution’s personnel department is responsible for documenting and reporting the staff data needed in IPEDS surveys. The financial aid office is responsible for documenting and reporting data regarding financial aid awards, scholarship awards, and other pertinent information related to tuition, fees, and student loans. The admissions department is responsible for documenting and reporting student demographics, admissions requirements, and enrollment rates. The registrar’s office is responsible for documenting and reporting data on transfer students, undergraduate students, and graduate students with information related to graduation rates, completion rates, and the average number of years for students to complete their programs. Institutional researchers acquire detailed reports from various departments and utilize all departmental data to submit accurate reports to NCES for IPEDS data collection.Examples of Implementation Efforts and Goals to AchieveHigher education institutions include several goals in their strategic planning processes. One of these goals is the streamlined data acquisition for IPEDS data collection. Since the data collection is mandatory for all institutions receiving Title IV funds, timeliness in acquiring and reporting data is critical. Therefore, most institutions include these data reporting requirements in their strategic plans, institutional budgets, and an institutional research department for collection of all data.IPEDS Outcomes and ResultsIPEDS’ mandated data collection has positive outcomes and results. Critical data including the schools’ financial state are monitored. In addition, IPEDS data collection is crucial in helping institutional leaders assess the effectiveness of their faculty members, programs, and new initiatives. Finally, IPEDS data collection allows accreditation agencies to review the institutions’ overall effectiveness in delivering quality education to their students. Overall, IPEDS data collection plays a crucial role in delivering accountability and transparency in education and in assessing institutions’ success in achieving their mission, short-term and long-term goals.Three to five years in the futureWith the support from NCES, NPEC, and the National Science Foundation (NSF), AIR has been at the forefront of funding research and dissertations that utilize IPEDS data to address critical issues in higher education (AIR, n.d.). NCES and NSF support research studies that utilize IPEDS data to improve “policies, theories, and practice in higher education” (AIR, n.d.). Likewise, NPEC funds research studies that focus on specific issues in higher education (NCES, n.d.). For 2014, NPEC will fund research studies specifically focused on “noncredit instructional activity at postsecondary institutions" (AIR, n.d.). In the next three to five years, IPEDS data collection will continue to define additional “taxonomy of definitions,” and disseminate new data to analyze new trends in higher education (IPEDS, n.d.).Lasting impact of IPEDS in higher education. Consistent with NCES’ mission, IPEDS data collection will continue to acquire new higher education data that can affect how college students decide on their educational and career pathways. Moreover, it will continue to monitor specific data related to financial aid, degree programs, attrition rates, and completion and graduation rates attributed to the quality of education and the effectiveness of higher education institutions.ConclusionThe U.S. Department of Education and other government agencies support IPEDS data collection to ensure accountability and transparency in higher education. College students benefit greatly from IPEDS data as they work through their educational plans. As new innovations are introduced with new teaching pedagogies and practices, IPEDS data collection will continue to acquire and disseminate data that can change or improve institutional policies.References

Association for Institutional Research. (n.d.). IPEDS overview tutorial. Retrieved from http://www.airweb.org/EducationAndEvents/IPEDSTraining/Tutorials/Documents/IPEDSOverview.pdf

Association for Institutional Research. (n.d.). IPEDS training. Retrieved from http://www.airweb.org/EducationAndEvents/IPEDSTraining/Pages/default.aspx

Association for Institutional Research. (n.d.). Research and dissertation grants overview. Retrieved from http://www.airweb.org/GrantsAndScholarships/Pages/GrantProgramOverview.aspx

Hall, G. E., & Hord, S. M. (2011). Implementing change: Patterns, principles, and potholes. (3rd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education.

National Center for Education Statistics (n.d.). About IPEDS. Retrieved from http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/

The National Postsecondary Education Cooperative (n.d.). Integrated postsecondary education data system: Proposed changes for the 2014–2015 and 2015-16 data collections open for comment. Retrieved from http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/news_room/ana_04_08_2013.asp

The National Postsecondary Education Cooperative (n.d.). The history and origins of survey items for the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System. Retrieved from http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2012/2012833.pdf

The National Postsecondary Education Cooperative (n.d.). Training and outreach: IPEDS training resources. Retrieved from http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/outreach/

Steele, P. (2011). Suggestions for improvements to the collection and dissemination of federal financial aid data. U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC: National Postsecondary Education Cooperative. Retrieved from http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2012/2012834.pdf

Rogers, E. M. (1962). Diffusions of innovations. Glencoe, IL: Free Press.