Survey Quality Measures
Availability of Data
The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) is an integrated system of surveys conducted by the National Center for Education Statistics. The Completions Survey is the survey within this system designed to collect information on the number and types of degrees awarded by U.S. postsecondary institutions and to collect information on the characteristics of degree recipients.
The survey is completed by institutional representatives.
c. Key variables
- Academic institution
- Field of degree
- Field of study
- Level of degree
- Race/ethnicity (Hispanics)
- Type of institutional control (public versus private)
2. Survey Design
a. Target population and sample frame
The population consists of all accredited 2- and 4-year postsecondary educational institutions in the United States and its outlying areas.
b. Sample design
The IPEDS data normally examined by the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics (NCSES) consist of a census of institutions accredited to award degrees.
c. Data collection techniques
Initial data collection for this survey uses mail techniques. Follow-up is conducted by mail and phone. Data are checked for consistency with prior-year responses.
d. Estimation techniques
No weighting techniques are used. Since this is a census and imputation is used to correct for unit nonresponse when institutions have previously responded, this only results in a slight underreporting.
3. Survey Quality Measures
a. Sampling variability
Since the data used by NCSES are a census of all U.S. institutions, there is no sampling error.
Coverage is believed to be extremely high; accreditation lists are checked each year.
(1) Unit nonresponse - Institutional response rates to the survey have exceeded 99% each year between 1966 and 2008. Data for nonresponding institutions are imputed from prior-year returns, when available. Adjustments for the remaining nonrespondents are not made in NCSES publications.
(2) Item nonresponse - There is some item nonresponse in information reported to NCES. For example, among bachelor's degree recipients in 1997, racial/ethnic data were imputed for 0.6% of the white, non-Hispanic recipients at one extreme and for 2.6% of non-resident aliens at the other.
A 1979 evaluation of the Higher Education General Information Survey (HEGIS) Completions survey that preceded the IPEDS indicated that the major sources of nonsampling error were the differences between the NCES program taxonomy and the taxonomies used by the institutions, classification of double majors and double degrees, operational problems, and survey timing.
4. Trend Data
Care must be taken in analyzing trend data because it is necessary to modify the degree field taxonomy over time.
5. Availability of Data
Data from this survey are published annually in detailed statistical tables in the series Science and Engineering Degrees and in Science and Engineering Degrees, by Race/Ethnicity of Recipients. Information from the survey is also included in Science and Engineering Indicators, Women, Minorities, and Persons With Disabilities in Science and Engineering, and in special publications.
b. Electronic access
Data from this survey are available on the SRS Web site and on WebCASPAR. Additional electronic access is available through NCES.
c. Contact for more information
Additional information about this survey can be obtained by contacting:
 IPEDS also collects information from a sample of technical and vocational institutions.