About the Data in TCS Online

Source: The Trends in College Spending (TCS) Online system presents select data drawn from the Delta Cost Project IPEDS Database. .* For institution-level data, TCS Online uses an enhanced version of this database to provide disaggregated information for institutions that may be part of combined parent/child institutions (e.g. grouped institutions) in the main database. The Delta Database is primarily comprised of data from the U.S. Department of Education’s Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS); all postsecondary institutions participating in federal student financial aid programs are required to report data on enrollments, finance, staffing, and completions each year. The TCS online system provides data for a select number of finance, completion, and enrollment variables that are particularly helpful in understanding college spending. The data are presented using six “metrics” compiled by the Delta Project.

*Note: The current Delta Cost Project IPEDS database produced by the U.S. Department of Education only includes data through 2010. The 2011 data were generated by the Delta Cost Project using the same procedures and formulas applied to earlier database updates, resulting in comparable estimates over time.

Sample: TCS Online includes data for public two-year (Associate’s) and four-year institutions, as well as private nonprofit four-year institutions; more than 2,400 institutions (with a Carnegie 2010 classification) are included. For national trend data presented in TCS Online, a standard institutional classification is used, separating the public and private nonprofit sectors into mission based groupings. Trend data are reported using a panel or subset of institutions that is consistent over time, so that variations in patterns are not attributable to changes in the institutions reporting data. Institutions that consistently report data on full-time equivalent (FTE) enrollment, instruction expenditures, and the number of total completions over the reporting period are included in the national-level analyses; the more than 2,100 institutions that meet the panel criteria comprise the vast majority of enrollments at degree-granting institutions in higher education.

Imputations: A review of the data showed that some institutions did not have data for the FTE enrollment, completion and instructional expenditure variables that were used to place them into the matched set. To develop a more robust dataset, we adopted a relatively conservative approach to impute data for an institution any time that there was a one-year gap between two data values (e.g., we would fill in missing 2005 data for a series if there were data for 2004 and 2006). The approach we used was conservative because if the gap between values was two years or more, we did not fill in the gap. In addition, when there were missing data at the beginning or end of the series for an institution, we did not try to fill in these values. Any data that have been imputed are shown in italics in the institutional reports.

Harmonization: In some instances, the Delta Project adjusted the reported IPEDS data to allow for more consistent comparisons over time and across different reporting standards. Public institutions generally report their financial data using GASB accounting standards while private institutions report under FASB accounting standards. In some instances where reporting standards differed, we adjusted the reported data to harmonize (as much as possible) the expenditure data for public and private institutions.

Standardization: All financial data in TCS Online are reported per full-time equivalent (FTE) student and can be shown in current or inflation-adjusted dollars (using the Consumer Price Index (fiscal year), the Higher Education Price Index, or the Higher Education Cost Adjustment Index).