About the Data - Overview
College InSight is a unique resource for anyone interested in college affordability, student debt, economic and racial diversity, student success, and other characteristics of U.S. undergraduate students and the colleges they attend. The site provides easy-to-use college profiles as well as detailed, research-level data for nearly 12,000 U.S. colleges and universities. It includes nearly 200 variables for most academic years since 2000-01, drawn from multiple data sources. In addition to college-level data, College InSight features totals and averages for states, sectors, and other groupings of colleges. Those aggregate figures are calculated from college-level data (see the Limitations page for more details).
You can use College InSight to compare colleges in a variety of ways and shed light on important issues at such as:
- Affordability: the cost of attendance and how students meet that cost through federal, state, and institutional grant aid, as well as student loans.
- Diversity: data on the racial and ethnic diversity of both students and faculty, as well as indicators of student economic diversity, such as the percentage of undergraduates who received federal Pell Grants and the income distribution of students who applied for aid.
- Student success: graduation rates and the number of degrees and certificates awarded.
The Institute for College Access & Success, College InSight, http://college-insight.org. College-level student debt and undergraduate financial aid data © 2015 Peterson's, a Nelnet company, all rights reserved.
For more details about the data on College InSight, see the sections on Sources and Variables below.
The data on this website are taken from four primary sources:
- IPEDS (Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System) files: these files provide data on fall term and 12-month enrollments, the distribution of students and faculty by race/ethnicity, the cost of attendance, student success measures, and basic institutional characteristics, such as location. Colleges report these data in response to annual surveys from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). These files are available on the IPEDS website.
- Pell Grant files: these files provide the number of federal Pell Grant recipients and the total Pell Grant dollars awarded at each college, supplied by the U. S. Department of Education. These files are available on the Department of Education website.
- FISAP (Fiscal Operations Report and Application to Participate) files: these files provide the income distribution of all federal financial aid applicants and the 12-month undergraduate enrollment count. Colleges report these data to the Department of Education when applying to participate in the federal campus-based financial aid programs (Work-Study, Perkins loans, and Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants). Information about these programs is available on the Department of Education website.
- CDS (Common Data Set) files: these files provide data on undergraduate financial aid, including grants and the cumulative debt of graduates. The CDS data are provided voluntarily by colleges, and the questionnaire is used by publishers of college guides. The CDS data in College InSight are licensed from the Peterson’s Undergraduate Financial Aid and Undergraduate Databases, © 2015 Peterson’s, a Nelnet company. All rights reserved.
The data set includes two types of variables, those that were taken directly from the sources as reported and those that were calculated. In general, most of the percentages and averages were derived from the reported totals. The codebook and pop-up variable descriptions indicate the source where the data were reported, whether a variable was derived, and (if applicable) how the variable was derived.
The variables in College InSight are grouped into the following categories. These categories are used to organize options in the Explore All Data tab:
- Cost of Attendance: The estimated tuition and fees, books and supplies, room and board, and transportation and personal expenses for undergraduates, as reported by colleges to IPEDS (Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System).
- Economic Diversity: The percentage of undergraduates receiving federal Pell Grants, the income distribution of dependent and independent students (as reported in the FISAP - Fiscal Operations Report and Application to Participate), and the percentage of undergraduates determined to have financial need (as reported by colleges in the Common Data Set survey).
- Enrollment: The fall term and 12-month enrollments reported in IPEDS, the 12-month enrollments reported in the FISAP, and the estimated full-time equivalent (FTE) enrollment, calculated as the number of full-time students plus about 40% of part-time students. Since any of these enrollment counts can be used as the denominator in calculating percentages (of Pell Grants, for example), it is important to choose an appropriate variable. Federal financial aid applications, Pell Grants, and Stafford loans to students are counted over a 12-month period, so the most appropriate denominator for those variables is the 12-month enrollment count. The percentage calculations in College InSight use the 12-month enrollment figures from FISAP.
- Financial Aid – Full-time Freshmen: The number and percentage of full-time freshmen receiving federal, state, and institutional grant aid and student loans, as well as the average and per capita amounts received. These variables were either directly reported from colleges in the IPEDS survey or derived from those reported figures.
- Financial Aid – Undergraduates: A variety of measures of undergraduate financial aid, as reported by colleges in the CDS (Common Data Set) survey or the FISAP (Fiscal Operations Report and Application to Participate).
- Work Study: The number of undergraduates receiving federal and other work study, as well as the total and average amounts received.
- Financial Aid Applicants: The number and percentage of undergraduates who applied for financial aid, as well as details about how many were determined to have financial need, how many received financial aid, how many had their need fully met, and the family income of financial aid applicants (both dependent and independent).
- Grants: The number and percentage of undergraduates receiving federal Pell Grants, the total and average amounts of Pell Grants received, and the total amount distributed in need-based and non-need-based federal, state, institutional, and external grant aid.
- Loans: The percentage of graduates of four-year colleges who had student loan debt and the average amount of debt for those who borrowed. For the most recent years, data are available about both overall borrowing and federal loans specifically.
- Institutional characteristics: city, state, sector, control, level, web site address, Carnegie classification, and identification codes (UNITID and OPEID), as reported by colleges to IPEDS. Additionally, the data set includes derived variables pertaining to systems, such as the number of campuses within a system and the system name. More information about systems can be found on the Limitations page.
- Racial Diversity: The number and percentage of undergraduates and faculty members within each racial/ethnic group, as reported by colleges to IPEDS. Undergraduate enrollment by race is available for both the fall and 12-month reporting periods.
- Student Success: The freshman retention rate, graduation rate (150% of normal time, which would be 6 years for four-year schools and 3 years for two-year schools), and the number of undergraduate and graduate degree and certificate recipients, as reported by colleges to IPEDS.