NAICU Washington Update

GAO Report on IPEDS Reporting Burden Leads to Department of Ed Proposal for Comment

September 02, 2010

A new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report has shown that the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data Systems (IPEDS) collection burden for institutions is much higher than Department of Education estimates. Of the 22 schools reviewed by the GAO, 18 reported spending more time than the 15 to 41 hours estimated by the Department to collect the required data.  Collection times varied widely among the institutions, from a low of 12 to a high of 590 hours.

The GAO noted that, given the small sample size, the findings can't be generalized across all 6,800 postsecondary institutions completing IPEDS.  However, the office did recommend that the Department of Education: (1) reevaluate its official IPEDS burden estimates and adjust them as necessary; (2) improve communication about IPEDS training opportunities, particularly to small career and technical institutions; and (3) improve coordination with higher education software providers.

In responding to the study, the Department of Education has proposed a revised burden estimate for the completion of IPEDS.  The proposal increases the estimated time for a four-year institution to complete the report to a range of 137 to 206 hours, depending on the keyholder's level of experience.  The Department is now soliciting comments from institutions on the new estimates by October 1.  NAICU encourages all member institutions to respond to this request.  To submit comments, send an email with the subject line "IPEDS BURDEN" to by October 1, 2010. Please include your type of institution and years of experience as a keyholder in your comments.

The GAO study, which was required by the Higher Education Opportunity Act, also examined the feasibility of collecting additional graduation rate data.  The GAO concluded that additional information could be of some use, but that reporting additional information -- particularly graduation rates by income -- would be burdensome to institutions.  Given this concern, the office didn't recommend any modification of current reporting requirements in this area.

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