IPEDS Definitive Guide for Senior Leaders: 2023-24

As a higher education administrator, your plate is always full. And those are the good days. As a senior leader, you know your institution’s IPEDS reports and data submissions are important. Very important. But you don’t have time to be an IPEDS expert. And the IEHE doesn’t think you should have to. So, we’ve developed the IPEDS 2023-24: Definitive Guide for Senior Leaders.

Our guide:

  • Summarizes key information about IPEDS
  • Explains key changes in the IPEDS reports for the 2023-24 reporting year
  • Offers strategies for overseeing the office that coordinates your institution’s IPEDS reporting
  • Poses five questions senior leaders should ask their IPEDS keyholder for each IPEDS submission
  • Provides resources and training for your IPEDS keyholder

Because we know your time is limited, we’ve organized the guide into sections.

  • An IPEDS Primer
  • 2023-24 IPEDS Changes
  • Overseeing the IPEDS Submission
  • Five Questions to Ask Your IPEDS Keyholder
  • Resources and Training

The IPEDS 2023-24 Definitive Guide has been developed by IEHE’s own IPEDS expert – Kristina ‘KP’ Powers – who has served as a national IPEDS Educator for 15 years. In this role, KP delivers IPEDS workshops across the country and online and develops new curricula in cooperation with IPEDS and the Association for Institutional Research.


This section of the IPEDS 2023-24 Definitive Guide will give you a brief overview of IPEDS.


IPEDS stands for the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System and is part of the National Center for Education Statistics.



All U.S. institutions that have agreed to administer federal financial aid are required to submit institutional data to IPEDS every year across multiple reports. While you will hear the phrase “IPEDS surveys” used, an IPEDS survey is not optional like most surveys. Rather, think of each IPEDS survey as an IPEDS report. In this IPEDS Definitive guide, we’ll refer to IPEDS reports since they are mandatory as part of the federal Program Participation Agreement (PPA) that institutional representatives sign. International institutions are not eligible to participate in IPEDS. A small number of institutions that do not administer federal financial aid elect to participate, though they are not mandated to do so.



As part of an institution’s ability to administer federal financial aid, accurate and timely participation is required. Participation in IPEDS data collection allows easy access to comparison/benchmarking data – for free!!!



Institutional keyholders submit multiple IPEDS reports over the course of the year. [Some reports will not apply to some institutions. Institutions will only see the reports they are required to submit.]


For the IPEDS 2023-24 submission, three are submitted in the Fall:

  • Institutional Characteristics
  • Completions
  • 12-month Enrollment

Five are submitted in Winter:

  • Student Financial Aid
  • Graduation Rates
  • 200% Graduation Rates
  • Admissions
  • Outcome Measures

Four are submitted in Spring:

  • Fall Enrollment
  • Finance
  • Human Resources
  • Academic Libraries



Each institution has a designated IPEDS keyholder. This person coordinates IPEDS report submissions and is the primary point of contact with IPEDS. This is similar to an accreditation liaison position. Typically, IPEDS keyholders are in institutional research, institutional effectiveness, or registrar offices. However, anyone that the President/CEO designates can be the IPEDS keyholder. The IPEDS Keyholder is the only person who can lock and submit the reports on behalf of the institution. It is important to note that the IPEDS portal does allow for other designated institutional representatives to have access to IPEDS reports, but only the IPEDS Keyholder can lock and submit the reports on time.


2023-24 IPEDS Changes

While most of the IPEDS reports are consistent across years, there are occasional annual changes that can vary from minor to significant.

The great news – IPEDS provides a listing of all changes each year. Some changes only impact select institution types (e.g., two-year institutions, graduate institutions, clock-hour institutions).

This reporting year, 2023-24 – IPEDS has 94 changes across all reports, registration, and resource materials. The number of changes in the 2023-24 reports

is shown to the right. Starting early on with reports that have changes and alerting those involved in those reports to review the detailed changes can make incorporating the changes a smoother process.


As a senior administrator, you likely oversee your institution’s IPEDS 2023-24 submission in some way, shape, or form. Perhaps the IPEDS keyholder reports to you. Or maybe someone asked questions about the public IPEDS data, prompting you to dig in more. Whatever the reason, senior-level involvement in the IPEDS submissions process helps ensure accurate and timely data.


Even IPEDS views senior leaders having a role in the data submission by:

  • Giving the responsibility for selecting an IPEDS keyholder to the President/CEO
  • Emailing the President/CEO:
    • at the beginning of the IPEDS season as a reminder, the cycle is beginning soon.
    • if the IPEDS Keyholder submits reports at least 3 weeks +1 day (22 days) before the due date. This is done to thank the institution for working ahead of schedule.
    • if the institution hasn’t started the report two weeks before the deadline.
    • if the institution is late in its submission. [You want to avoid this one as the institution is fined for late submissions.]
    • to provide a copy of the institution’s Data Feedback Report –a collection of key metrics using IPEDS data. [This is courtesy of IPEDS and doesn’t cost a thing!]



Mark your calendar – Have the IPEDS Keyholder send you calendar invites as reminders of key due dates for IPEDS. These won’t be meetings – just a heads up that the IPEDS reports are coming due soon.

Remember – it takes a village (or a campus) – No one can complete all of the IPEDS reports on their own. Some reports are completed by individual departments, such as finance or human resources. Others require a joint effort with several people contributing various pieces and parts that the IPEDS keyholder assembles into one report.

Support an IPEDS Kick-off meeting each year or season – Given all of the places where IPEDS data show up in the public, it is important that all contributors (described in the bullet above) understand the importance of the IPEDS submission and its accuracy. A kick-off meeting can be short – but make it powerful. It can include reminding people of key IPEDS due dates, discussing the changes to IPEDS reports for the season, discussing any institutional changes that may impact reporting, as well as the review process.

Conduct an IPEDS Report Review – Review the draft report before submission using the PDF output format downloaded through the IPEDS portal. This should be done by someone other than the primary report creator. A fresh set of eyes is needed to ensure accurate reporting. The reviewer(s) should also be generally knowledgeable on the topic. For example, the Associate Provost could review the Academic Libraries submission to be sure nothing stands out as odd.

Review the Planning Document for Senior Leaders – It is hard to keep all reports straight. Who is providing the information? Who should review it? And when is it all due? Wouldn’t it be nice to have one document that shows all of that? We’ve developed a template that you can customize for your institution. Your IPEDS keyholder can complete the template plan and share it with the team at the annual IPEDS kickoff meeting. This way, everyone knows who is doing what. More importantly – you can quickly see if there are any holes in the planning. Maybe a department/person is being used too much or too little, or the responsible person leaves the institution temporarily or permanently, or broader organizational changes shift office responsibilities. And – it is a handy reference document. You can download the Excel editable IPEDS Planning Document (pictured below).

So, you’ve developed a great plan based on the information in the IPEDS Definitive Guide. And you’ve identified talented people on your team who can use their expertise to provide information for the IPEDS reports. You’ve established internal deadlines with some wiggle room to adjust for unexpected circumstances – and still meet the IPEDS deadline.

And then, you get an email with the PDFs of the draft IPEDS report submissions. It’s likely 100+ pages of data and information fun. How will you possibly catch any issues, much less all of them?

Here are a few questions to consider for the folks providing the information.

  1. What changes in methodology should I be aware of?Changes in the methodology can sometimes result in significant differences in data reported from one year to the next.Image of Painted Question Mark Symbolizing the five questions
  2. When these data become public in College Navigator – what will an external critic notice as being different/changing? If the institution’s reported numbers differ dramatically from previous years, you’ll want to know why. Dramatic changes in institutional results are bound to come up in meetings with internal or external stakeholders. So, it would help if you had a clear understanding of the differences and an explanation for them.
  3. Does the IPEDS keyholder have all the backup documentation to support the submissions? If not, who does have that information? It’s important that your institution have careful records of the IPEDS submission supporting documents. The keyholder should be the repository of these records, so they are easily accessible should any questions arise.
  4. What are three “Points of Pride” and three “Numbers to Notice” that the Cabinet should be aware of based on the reports for the term/season? If your institution has improved on some measure – say retention or graduation rates – you want to tell the world about it, right?! Make sure you have identified all the good news in your IPEDS data so that you can use that in your promotional materials.
  5. What questions should we be asking about these data, but haven’t? The IPEDS keyholder and others who work with your institutional data know it inside and out. They work with these metrics every day. Instead of asking for the same metrics year after year, the savvy college president will ask their data specialist what else can be gleaned from the data.

You can help support your institution’s IPEDS keyholder’s professional development and keep up on IPEDS changes. In this section, we share several IPEDS resources and training materials.

Custom IPEDS support – IEHE offers two IPEDS support programs that consist of 1-1 coaching for your institution’s IPEDS submissions.

Made for IPEDS Keyholders or designees who are managing IPEDS for the first time (or in a long time) and want to get their IPEDS reports locked ahead of the deadline.


  • 8 sessions (1 hour calls) for an IPEDS season (fall, winter, OR spring collection) — focusing on all or select IPEDS reports.
  • During our sessions we will discuss your current challenges and develop action steps custom to your needs.
  • Planning calendar that we will populate together.
  • Draft emails to use with your campus partners.
  • Planning framework for getting IPEDS done as quickly and efficiently as possible.
  • Meet with the leadership team to strategize on using the data that is soon to be submitted (~1 hour via Zoom).

All sessions are with IPEDS Educator – Kristina ‘KP’ Powers, PhD.

Made for IPEDS Keyholders who would like to Boost their IPEDS reporting with a review by IPEDS Educator – Kristina ‘KP’ Powers, PhD prior to submission and ask questions on new IPEDS requirements and/or issues and challenges encountered while completing the IPEDS reports.This program includes:

  • 6 hours (30 min, 45 min or 1 hour) zoom sessions over the entire IPEDS year. An average of 2 hours per season – fall, winter, and spring.
  • During our sessions, we will discuss issues/challenges you have encountered while completing the IPEDS reports and potential solutions. To make the most of our Zoom sessions, you are invited to send me your questions/information in advance.
  • Review of one draft of each IPEDS report.
  • Written comments from the review of each IPEDS report.
  • A calendar with suggested weeks for zoom sessions, due dates for the draft IPEDS reports, and IPEDS final due dates.

All sessions and reviews are completed by IPEDS Educator – Kristina ‘KP’ Powers, PhD.


Other Resources:

The IPEDS Training Center offers a variety of options for learning more about the IPEDS reporting process. These free resources can be valuable to institutional staff tasked with these responsibilities.

Video Tutorials – just-in-time training videos provide content in small segments to assist with specific areas of reporting and data tool use.

Face-to-Face and Virtual Workshops – intensive, short-term professional development to increase skills and ​knowledge on various IPEDS topics with individual instruction.

Online Keyholder Courses – mentor-supported online courses that require approximately 10-12 hours of study within one month.

NCES Data Institute – offers an intensive introduction to NCES datasets and research methodologies using large-scale national data sources.

IPEDS Educators – experienced IPEDS users deliver a curriculum that takes a broad view of IPEDS data to assure the quality of​ the submission of these data and improve the skills of those using these data.

Additional IPEDS Resources – a variety of links to other helpful external resources are available through the Training Center.

The IPEDS Finance User Guide developed by the Center on Education Data and Policy is a valuable resource for those tasked with managing the IPEDS Finance reports.