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 over 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:

Suggested citation: 

The Institute for College Access & Success, College InSight, http://college-insight.org. College-level student debt and undergraduate financial aid data © 2018 Peterson's LLC, 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 three primary sources:

  1. 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, financial aid, 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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, © 2018 Peterson’s LLC, 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: