Notes From The Field #2

American Council on Education. (2010). College Graduation Rates: Behind the Numbers. Retrieved from

Research Center Notes on the ACE report

The IPEDS Data Center lists 6,898 Title IV postsecondary institutions for the academic year 2008-09. The ACE report states that graduation rates can be calculated only for 38% of these institutions using Clearinghouse data. Two observations are in order:

1. The denominator used by ACE in determining this percentage includes non-degree-granting institutions that may, depending on the purpose of a given study, be more appropriately excluded from a calculation of degree coverage rates.

The 2008 universe of 6,898 Title IV institutions includes 4,574 that are degree-granting, 2,313 categorized as non-degree-granting, and another 11 that are listed as unknown in IPEDS. The degree-granting institutions account for 97.4% of the total Title IV enrollment. (The average enrollment of non-degree institutions was 224 students).

The non-degree-granting institutions fall into the following IPEDS sectors:

Sector of Non-Degree Institution Count of Institutions
Administrative Unit 2
Private for-profit- 2-year 318
Private for-profit- less-than 2-year 1,438
Private not-for-profit- 2-year 90
Private not-for-profit- 4-year or above 14
Private not-for-profit- less-than 2-year 88
Public- 2-year 110
Public- 4-year or above 1
Public- less-than 2-year 252
Total Title IV Non-Degree Institutions 2,313

The majority of these institutions (62%) are in the Private for-profit- less-than 2-year category. As the ACE paper notes, this is a sector where Clearinghouse’s coverage has traditionally been lower than in other sectors. It comprises a diverse group of institutions providing education in a broad range of fields including, but not limited to, technology, business, cosmetology, hair styling, photography and fashion.

2. The 38% coverage rate used by ACE is based on the percent of institutions, not the percent of enrollments. When the coverage is calculated as the percentage of students, rather than institutions, then Clearinghouse’s DegreeVerify service currently accounts for approximately 74% of the students enrolled in Title IV institutions, which means that graduation rates can be calculated for roughly 74% of all Title IV students.