The Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) collects data for the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) from all post-secondary education institutions that are eligible to receive federal financial aid. The data is then used to support tools such as College Navigator, as well as to provide lawmakers with a route to collect and analyze full statistics on the condition of post-secondary education in the US. The data is also often used to create benchmarks and to analyze peer institutions by the schools themselves.
The survey is given annually to schools in three parts in the fall, winter, and spring. The schools fill out each part of the survey on their own and then return the forms to NCES. All sections are mandatory for the institutions to complete; however, a few of the fields are only reported every other year. The schools enter their own data through a specific coordinator and the information is checked for consistency with previous years by the entry system; however, the reported data is not heavily scrutinized for accuracy.
IPEDS provides a number of insights into schools, providing detailed demographic information of students and faculty, comprehensive descriptions of the students completing each degree offered, intricate staffing information, multiple institutional characteristics, and more. The scope of the data collection changes from year to year as schools drop in and out of the IPEDS universe, as determined by the fall collection period, with the most recent collection covering about 7,000 post-secondary institutions.
As we mentioned above, the data is released in multiple parts during the year. The data is available at the NCES Data Center. We most recently accessed the revised 2017 IPEDS data on November 14, 2019 and the new 2018 IPEDS data on October 17, 2019 and November 26, 2019.