A tremendous amount of postsecondary education data is available online to education leaders wanting to move to a culture of data-driven innovation and teaching practices — so much, in fact, that it is often difficult to know where to start for university and college administrators, faculty and instructional designers. To make the search for education data related to higher education simpler, we’ve curated a list of our favorite sources in information.
In compiling this list, we’ve focused on sources that can provide context to higher ed leaders grappling with common challenges such as:
- Improving completion rates
- Boosting enrollment, persistence and retention rates
- Improving learning outcomes
- changing student demographics
- Improving the quality of online courses
This list includes student demographics, surveys, faculty studies, completion data, financial aid data, and sources of higher ed data by state and by country.
Many of these statistics come from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the primary source for learning data for K-12 and higher ed in the U.S.. But some of the sources we’ve listed here are authoritative private or nonprofit organizations, such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
While we tried to curate a list for researchers, program directors, faculty, and administrators in higher education that is both comprehensive and limited to the most authoritative and useful, there is certainly much more out there. If you’d like to recommend an education data source to add in a future update, please leave a comment below or contact us.
An overview of U.S. postsecondary education data
College Scorecard: The U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard allows a comparison of schools by degree program, size, location, or name. College Scorecard is a new tool; new federal reporting requirements are yielding data about colleges that has not been available to the public before, such as average salary after graduation and how well four-year institutions are serving low-income students.
IPEDS data from NCES: The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System from NCES is a trove of information for colleges and universities.
The Digest of Education Statistics: NCES annually compiles education statistics covering preschool through terminal degrees. (The postsecondary information in the digest is in its own section.) The information in the digest, which is taken from government and private sources, paints a broad picture of education in the U.S. in any given year.
Demographics of incoming college students, current students, and graduates
The Characteristics of Postsecondary Students: From NCES’s annual Condition of Education report, this resource offers a broad look at the demographics of college students: who they are, where they’re going to school, and if they are working.
Educational Attainment in the United States: A 2015 report from the U.S. Census Bureau detailing the highest level of education completed by U.S. citizens. The report offers data on degree levels, fields of study, and lifetime earnings of people who hold bachelor’s degrees.
High School Benchmark Report: The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center produces a report annually about public and private high school students’ completion, outcomes, and demographics.
Enrollment, persistence, and completion rates
College Completion: This site, produced by The Chronicle of Education, is a map synthesizing completion data by state and by institution.
The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center: The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center publishes several reports on completion, transfer rates, and enrollment trends.
Graduation rates: Data on graduation and completion rates from NCES.
The Student Achievement Measure: The Student Achievement Measure tracks student movement across postsecondary institutions. It’s an alternative to the federal graduation rate, which tracks only first-time, full-time students at one institution and provides a wider picture of the completion rate.
Postsecondary Education Transcript Studies: Seven longitudinal studies of transcript data from NCES.
The Baccalaureate and Beyond Longitudinal Study: This study from NCES examines graduates’ work and educational experiences after graduation from college.
The Perkins Collaborative Resource Network’s Consolidated Annual Report: The Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006 (Perkins IV) provides federal funding to states and grantees to improve secondary and postsecondary career and technical education programs. Each year, states provide Perkins with their student performance data. The Perkins Data Explorer allows researchers to create reports using that data.
U.S. Postsecondary Faculty in 2015: A study by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation of postsecondary faculty, and faculty members’ attitudes towards online learning and new pedagogies.
National Study of Postsecondary Faculty: NCES used to conduct periodic surveys of hires, tenure, retirement, and workloads of college faculty members, but the last survey was completed in 2004. If you know of another source on this topic, please let us know in the comments below.
The 2015 Online Learning Report Card: This 2015 Survey of Online Learning was conducted by the Babson Survey Research Group and co-sponsored by the Online Learning Consortium (OLC), Pearson, StudyPortals, WCET, and Tyton Partners. It provides a snapshot of online education in the U.S., including how many students are enrolled in online courses, what types of postsecondary institutions those students attend, and the opinions of academic leaders when it comes to distance learning.
EDUCAUSE: EDUCAUSE’s Center for Analysis and Research contains a wealth of research pertaining to educational technology, including reports on new pedagogies, campus IT and security, and digital tools.
Education data by state
National Information Center for Higher Education Policymaking and Analysis: Aimed at policymakers, this site allows researchers to look at college information — including college affordability, college access, retention, completion, and labor demand — at the state level.
Grapevine: An annual compilation of state financial support for higher education, created by Illinois State University’s Center for the Study of Education Policy in cooperation with the State Higher Education Executive Officers (SHEEO).
Global postsecondary education data
The Education Policy and Data Center: EDPC is the research arm of FHI 360, a nonprofit human organization. Its database contains a wealth of information about postsecondary education worldwide. Researchers can explore global postsecondary data by continent, income-level, or by geopolitical boundaries.
Economics of higher education
The Economics of Higher Education: A 2012 report by the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Department of Education, examining the economic state of postsecondary education, the higher education market, and financial aid..
Trends in College Pricing: An annual report by the College Board, covering the cost of undergraduate education, including room and board, tuition, faculty salaries, and other economic data pertaining to college.
Financial aid data
The Federal Student Aid Data Center: A clearinghouse of financial aid data, including data on student aid, schools, businesses who assist in providing aid, and the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program.
The National Student Aid Profile: An annually updated overview of federal aid for college students, updated every year by the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA.)
The Federal Pell Grant End of Year Report: Provides data on the recipients of Federal Pell Grants, broken down by demographics as well as economic data — like expected family contribution and income — as well as educational data, like enrollment status.
FAFSA Application Volume Reports: A breakdown of the students who completed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), by school, state, or demographic.
Acrobatiq data that may interest you
Are you looking for data on adaptive learning in particular? Be sure to check out our page of research publications as well as our library of white papers and case studies. And you may be interested in these articles in particular: