Resource Roundup - Data

ACCN Blog As many who work in the world of adult college completion know all too well, tracking down relevant data can be tough. With a significant proportion of publicly available data focused on first-time, full-time students, identifying trends among adult learners with prior credit is challenging. However, over the past few months, some promising new resources have emerged.

  • The Postsecondary Data Collaborative: An initiative of the Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP), this collaborative (“PostsecData” for short) “advocates for high-quality postsecondary data.” PostsecData facilitates a working group of data experts, shares news and research related to postsecondary education data, and—likely of most interest to the ACC Network—features an easy-to-navigate web page of available data resources. The site’s “Mapping the Data Landscape” page is a wealth of information, detailing both voluntary data initiatives (such as the Voluntary Framework for Accountability) and national data collections (for example, IPEDS). Page features include: fact sheets on data sources, a crosswalk of data measures collected by voluntary iniatives, and a searchable resources list.

    Bottom line: If you want to know what data sources are out there, what they do and do not cover, and where to find them, this is the place to start. However, a number of the data sources described are not public (which is noted in their description).
  • Non-First-Time Student Enrollment & Persistence Dataset: This national dataset—released on March 16—features enrollment and persistence patterns of non-first time (NFT) college students and includes breakdowns by age, type of institution, type of credential earned, and state. The data come from a collaboration (described in an earlier blog post) between the American Council on Education (ACE), InsideTrack, NASPA – Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education, the University Professional and Continuing Education Association (UPCEA), and the National Student Clearinghouse. This dataset offers an unprecedented look at national and state-level trends among NFT students.

    Bottom line: The dataset is broad in scope and will serve those interested in national and state-level persistence trends for students with prior college credits. The data do not explore institutional-level results.
  • Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) Distance Education Enrollment Data: While this dataset is not specific to adult learners (and is not segmented by age), given the increasingly popularity of distance education options for adult students seeking flexibility, it may be of interest to ACC Network members. IPEDS began collecting data on distance education in 2012, and recently released fall 2013 enrollment numbers. While these two datasets theoretically allow for users to compare trends in distance education between years for the first time, we strongly recommend reading WCET’s series of blog posts on the data (first post, second post, third post). These posts include analysis, as well as some important caveats to consider before using this self-reported information.

    Bottom line: It is exciting to be able to examine trends in distance education at the national level, and these new datasets offer some interesting insights (e.g. one in eight students is enrolled exclusively at distance). However, due to confusion around reporting methodology, be cautious in using these first two datasets. 


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