NPEC-IPEDS: Collecting and Disseminating Data on Certificate Awards

December 2016 — The National Postsecondary Education Cooperative (NPEC) of the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) commissioned this research paper to identify trends in the postsecondary certificate landscape and assess the extent to which the IPEDS Completions survey data accurately reflect those trends. Information gathered and analyzed through a literature review, data analysis, informational interviews, and program scans reveals a complex and changing picture of the certificate landscape.

Included among the report’s findings are the emergence of transfer certificates, stacked credentials, micro-credentials and retroactive awarding of certificates, and the need to update survey definitions and instructions to better reflect these trends and ultimately, the relative student gains realized by each reported completion. This report, like all NPEC-commissioned research, is exploratory in nature and meant to provide background information for National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) Technical Review Panels, to set the stage for further investigation, and aid in future decisions about changes to survey instruments.

The Certificate paper and its supplemental tables are posted on the NPEC Products website.