New national data shows 1 in 5 USHE students transfer institutions

The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) is a system of interrelated surveys conducted annually by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) within the United States Department of Education. It is considered one of the primary sources for postsecondary data. For example, the Utah System of Higher Education (USHE) uses IPEDS data to measure degrees and awards of its institutions. USHE bases several metrics related to performance-based funding on IPEDS information.

Historically, some IPEDS data is limiting when comparing year-over-year performance by cohort, only measuring students that were “first-time” (students attending for the first time as an admitted undergraduate student) and “full-time” (12 or more credits per semester). This narrow definition leaves out many kinds of students – especially those enrolling in less than 12 credits per semester.

In 2015, IPEDS adjusted its methodology to improve the collection of student progression and completion data on a more diverse group of undergraduate students, and lengthened its time measure from 6 years to 8 years. Its data collection now includes part-time and non-first time students. IPEDS recently released the latest survey of data under these new definitions and with it a much clearer picture of student progression in Utah. Given this is the first year this data has been collected, IPEDS will adjust its collection methodology to improve the accuracy of the data in coming survey years.

Utah Students 8 Years Later (2007 entering cohort)

The new data show a large number of students enrolled at USHE institutions transfer to another institution over an eight year period. While almost half (46.4%) of USHE students from the 2007 cohort IPEDS measured received a degree or certificate at the institution they originally enrolled, 21.1% of USHE students of that same cohort subsequently transferred to another institution by 2015. For Salt Lake Community College (SLCC), more students transferred to another institution than actually earned a degree or certificate from SLCC.

By comparison, just 2.1% of students enrolled at private for-profit 4-year institutions in Utah (e.g. University of Phoenix, Provo College, Neumont University) subsequently enrolled at another institution after eight years.

6.1% of students enrolled at private non-profit institutions (e.g. Westminster College, Western Governors University, Stevens-Henager) subsequently transferred.

The high rate of student transfer among USHE institutions is largely due to the common course numbering of general education and its automated transferability of credit between Utah’s public colleges and universities.