The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (or IPEDS for short) is a site owned by the National Center for Education Statistics that offers users data on any U.S. college or university for free. 

Sounds awesome, right?

Unfortunately, we’ve seen too often folks underutilizing this resource when it comes to data mining. 

To get a better insight into IPEDS and the opportunities it presents for admission officers and enrollment managers, we reached out to Jim Schlimmer, our Director of Enrollment Analytics. 

Understanding the Timing of IPEDS

Schlimmer is all about the IPEDS. He utilizes the tool on a regular basis to compare institutions with their competition on metrics like net tuition revenue, endowment funds, applicant numbers, financial aid data… you name it. 

“The first thing to understand about IPEDS data is that the numbers are always going to be two years old. So if I go to look for a certain college’s applicant pool total, the most recent numbers I can pull are from 2021.”

Because IPEDS collects its data from schools self-reporting, there’s going to be a bit of a delay. Things moving slow in higher ed? What’s new! 

Despite the two-year lag, these data are still extremely valuable to higher ed leaders. It helps paint the big picture of overall trends. And twenty years worth of data can be collected in under 3 minutes. (Did we time Schlimmer pulling a data set? Maybe…) 

Accessing IPEDS

Once you go onto the IPEDS site, you will need to learn the compare tool in the system. This allows you to review data from at least two institutions. 

After you choose at least two schools for comparison, you may choose more as you get more sophisticated with your research, then you will need to select report variables. These variables range from first-year applicants, tuition charges, retention rates, and much more. 

Learning these skills is a quick study for any seasoned enrollment professional. You may choose from fourteen groups of data and countless choices for combinations. 

How IPEDS Can Help Enrollment Managers 

There are many ways in which proper understanding and utilization of IPEDS is valuable to enrollment management teams. Here’s Schlimmer’s scoop: 

For enrollment officers, IPEDS lets you know where you sit within your market. 

Let’s say your institution’s first-year numbers are down. You can go into IPEDS and see how other schools within your market are doing. If it’s anything like 2020’s enrollment fiasco, everyone’s numbers might be down. So if higher ups are breathing down your neck asking for answers, you can show that your school is still in the norm. 

Similarly, IPEDS data can give you the scoop on your competitors. Are they doing better? Worse? This can be the launching point to figure out what it is they’re doing to achieve these results. 

Learning your position in the market or your competitor set will help you better plan your enrollment strategies.

Now, let’s think about the ever-changing, ever-volatile higher ed job market. From the higher ups like VPs and Directors to the entry level admissions counselors, we all know people in this industry change jobs like they change pants. Constantly. 

A good comprehension of these data (and how to use it) can give employees a leg up in the job market. 

Plus, these data are available to anyone with an internet connection. No paywall, no annoying pop-up ads, no subscription required. Free as can be. 

So rather than pay for an overpriced admissions audit from a large conglomerate that gives you data but doesn’t tell you how to use it, you can run your own admissions audit. 

And if you don’t know what to do with these data or how to interpret it, The Parish Group is here to help. 

Need Help Integrating IPEDS in Your Enrollment Strategy? 

The Parish Group has the data nerds you need to transform IPEDS data into a strong, strategic plan for your institution’s enrollment goals. 

We offer our services a-la-carte or as a part of a larger contract. Reach out to us at or call our office at 828-505-3000.

Can’t get enough IPEDS? Stay tuned for more in our IPEDS blog series. We’ve only scratched the surface of all the benefits this system can bring to your enrollment strategy.