NCES Blog

National Center for Education Statistics

NCES Fast Facts Deliver Data to Your Door

By Molly Fenster, American Institutes for Research

Have you ever wondered how many public high school students graduate on time? Or wanted to know the types of safety and security measures schools use, or the latest trends in the cost of a college education? If so, the NCES Fast Facts website has the answers for you!

Launched on March 1, 1999, the Fast Facts site originally included 45 responses to the questions most frequently asked by callers to the NCES Help Line. Today, the more than 70 Fast Facts answer questions of interest to education stakeholders–such as a teacher, school administrator, or researcher–as well as college students, parents, and community members with a specific interest or data need. The facts feature text, tables, figures, and links from various published sources, primarily the Digest of Education Statistics and The Condition of Education, and they are updated periodically with new data from recently released publications and products. 

For example, the screenshot below shows one of the most accessed Fast Facts on high school dropout rates:

Access the site for the full Fast Fact, as well as links to “Related Tables and Figures” and “Other Resources” on high school dropout rates.

The other facts on the site feature a diverse range of topics from child care, homeschooling, students with disabilities, teachers, and enrollment, to graduation rates, educational attainment, international education, finances, and more. The site is organized to provide concise, current information in the following areas:

  • Assessments;
  • Early Childhood;
  • Elementary and Secondary;
  • Library;
  • Postsecondary and Beyond; and
  • Resources.

Five recently released Fast Facts on ACT scores; science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education; public school students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch; postsecondary student debt; and Historically Black Colleges and Universities offer the latest data on these policy-relevant and interesting education topics.

Join our growing base of users and visit the Fast Facts site today!

Where Are They Now? Following up with High School Ninth-Graders Seven Years Later

By Lauren Musu-Gillette and Elise Christopher

Seventy-two percent of all fall 2009 ninth-graders had enrolled in postsecondary education by February 2016, about 3 years after most students had completed high school. Among these students who enrolled in postsecondary education, the majority (82 percent) had enrolled within 4 months of leaving high school. These findings come from the most recent wave
of the High School Longitudinal Study of 2009 (HSLS:09). HSLS:09 follows a nationally representative sample of students who were ninth-graders in fall 2009 from the beginning of high school into higher education and the workforce. 

Among all 2009 ninth-graders who had enrolled in postsecondary education by February 2016, about 36 percent first enrolled at a public 2-year college, 41 percent at a public 4-year college, 16 percent at a private nonprofit 4-year college, and the remainder (7 percent) attended a for-profit or other type of institution.

A higher percentage of females (77 percent) than males (68 percent) had enrolled in any postsecondary education by February 2016. Additionally, a higher percentage of Asian students (88 percent) had enrolled in postsecondary education than students of all other racial/ethnic groups shown. The percentage of enrollees was also higher for White students (76 percent) than for Black students (65 percent), Hispanic students (68 percent), and students of Other or Two or more races (69 percent).


Percentage of fall 2009 ninth-graders enrolled in postsecondary education as of February 2016, by race/ethnicity: 2016

NOTE: Race categories exclude persons of Hispanic ethnicity.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, High School Longitudinal Study of 2009 (HSLS:09) Second Follow-Up: A First Look at Fall 2009 Ninth-Graders in 2016.


Twenty-two percent of fall 2009 ninth-graders who had enrolled in postsecondary education after high school had not attained a postsecondary credential but were no longer enrolled as of February 2016. When asked to select one or more reasons for leaving postsecondary education without earning a credential, 48 percent selected personal or family reasons, 40 percent picked financial reasons, 24 percent chose academic reasons, 22 percent chose work-related reasons, and 9 percent chose none of these.

The data collected in this 2016 follow-up collection allow researchers to examine an array of outcomes among fall 2009 ninth-graders, including delayed high school completion, postsecondary enrollment, early postsecondary persistence and attainment, labor market experiences, family formation, and family financial support. Analyses of these outcomes can capitalize on data already gathered about the students in fall 2009, in spring 2012 (when most were 11th-graders), and in summer and fall 2013 (when most had completed high school). HSLS:09 is also collecting students’ postsecondary financial aid records and postsecondary transcripts in 2017 and 2018. A First Look report and data from these documents are scheduled for release in 2019.

Data for the second follow-up are available in several formats. Restricted-use data are currently available for analysis using the PowerStats and QuickStats tools in the DataLab suite. Public-use microdata are available for download via the Online Codebook

Differences in Postsecondary Persistence by Student and School Characteristics

By Cris de Brey

About 70 percent of first-time postsecondary students who started at 2-year or 4-year colleges in 2011-12 were either still enrolled or had attained a degree or certificate three years later. But a recent spotlight in the Condition of Education shows that there are differences in postsecondary persistence based on the type of institution attended and student demographics. 

Given the economic and employment benefits of postsecondary education, it’s important that students who enroll in postsecondary education persist to degree completion. Persistent students are those that were enrolled at any institution or had attained a degree or certificate 3 years after first enrolling. The spotlight uses data from the Beginning Postsecondary Students Longitudinal Study and focuses on differences in persistence rates by demographic and college or university characteristics.

In spring 2014, the persistence rate for students who began at 2-year institutions in 2011–12 was 23 percentage points lower than for students who began at 4-year institutions (see Figure 1).


Figure 1. Persistence rates of first-time postsecondary students who began at 2- and 4-year institutions during the 2011–12 academic year, by race/ethnicity: Spring 2014

NOTE: Race categories exclude persons of Hispanic ethnicity. Students who first enrolled during the 2011–12 academic year are considered to have persisted if they were enrolled at any institution in Spring 2014 or had attained a degree or certificate by that time.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2012/14 Beginning Postsecondary Students Longitudinal Study (BPS:12/14). See Digest of Education Statistics 2016, table 326.50.


A gap between persistence rates at 2- and 4-year institutions was also observed for students who were White, Black, Hispanic, Asian, and of Two or more races. The difference in persistence rates between students who began at 2- and 4-year institutions ranged from 19 percentage points for Hispanic students to 25 percentage points for White students and Asian students.

Among students who began at 4-year institutions, Asian students had a higher persistence rate as of spring 2014 than White students. Both Asian and White students had a higher persistence rate than Hispanic, Black, and American Indian/Alaska Native students.

Looking at age differences, the persistence rate for students who were 19 years old or younger was higher than the rates for older students who began at both 2-year and 4-year institutions (see Figure 2).


Figure 2. Persistence rates of first-time postsecondary students who began at 2- and 4-year institutions during the 2011–12 academic year, by age when first enrolled: Spring 2014

NOTE: Students who first enrolled during the 2011–12 academic year are considered to have persisted if they were enrolled at any institution in Spring 2014 or had attained a degree or certificate by that time.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2012/14 Beginning Postsecondary Students Longitudinal Study (BPS:12/14). See Digest of Education Statistics 2016, table 326.50.


There was no measurable difference between the persistence rates for the oldest three age groups who began at either type of institution.

The persistence rate for students 19 years old or younger who began at 2-year institutions was 24 percentage points lower than the rate for their same-aged peers who began at 4-year institutions. Unlike the youngest students, there were no measurable differences in persistence rates by level of institution for students who began their postsecondary education when they were 20 to 23 years old, 24 to 29 years old, and 30 years old or over.

For more information on postsecondary persistence rates, see the full spotlight on this topic in the Condition of Education. 

Expanding Student Success Rates to Reflect Today’s College Students

By Gigi Jones

Since the 1990s, the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) has collected and published graduation rates for colleges and universities around the country. These rates were based on traditional college students—first-time, full-time degree- or certificate-seeking undergraduate students (FTFT) who, generally, enrolled right after high school.

While these data are insightful, some have argued the FTFT graduation rate only provides a part of the picture because it doesn’t consider non-traditional students, including those who are part-time students and transfers. This is an important point because, over the past decade, the number of non-traditional students has outpaced the increase in traditional students, mostly driven by growth in those who have transferred schools.  

The new IPEDS Outcome Measures survey was designed to help answer these changes. Starting with the 2015-16 collection cycle, entering students at more than 4,000 degree-granting institutions must be reported in one of four buckets, also called cohorts (see Figure below).

The FTFT cohort is similar to what has been collected since the 1990s, but the Outcome Measures adds three new student groups to the equation: 

  • First-time, part-time students (FTPT), who attend less than a full-time credit workload each term (typically less than 12-credits) and who have no prior postsecondary attendance; 
  • Non-first-time students, also known as transfer-in students, who are enrolled at a full-time level (NFTFT); and
  • Non-first-time students, also known as transfer-in students, who are enrolled at a part-time level (NFTPT).

For these four cohorts, postsecondary institutions report the awards conferred at two points of time after the students entered the institution: 6 years and 8 years. If students did not receive an award, then institutions must report their enrollment status one of three ways: 1) Still enrolled at the same institution; 2) Transferred out of the institution; or 3) Enrollment status is unknown.

These changes help respond to those who feel that the FTFT graduation rates do not reflect the larger student population, in particular public 2-year colleges that serve a larger, non-traditional college student population. Since 2008, steps have been taken to construct and refine the data collection of non-traditional college students through a committee of higher education experts (PDF) and public Technical Review Panels (see summaries for panels 37, 40 and 45).

The 2016-17 preliminary Outcome Measures data were released on October 12, as part of a larger report on IPEDS winter data collection. The data for individual schools can be found on our College Navigator site.  The final data for 2015-16 will be released in early 2018. Sign up for the IES News Flash to be notified when the new data are released or follow IPEDS on Twitter. You can also visit the IPEDS Outcome Measures website for more information. 

While this is an important step in the process, we are continuing to improve the data collection process. Starting with the 2017-18 Outcome Measures collection, the survey includes more groups (i.e., Pell Grant v. Non-Pell Grant recipients), a third award status point (4-years after entry), and the identification of the type of award (i.e., certificates, Associate’s, and Bachelor’s). Watch for the release of these data in fall 2018. 

EDITOR'S NOTE: This post was updated on October 12 to reflect the release of Outcome Measures data.

Education at a Glance 2016: Situating Education Data in a Global Context

By Lauren Musu-Gillette

Putting educational and economic outcomes in the United States within a global context can help researchers, policy makers, and the public understand how individuals in the U.S. compare to their peers internationally.  Education at a Glance, an annual publication produced by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), provides data on the structure, finances and progress of education systems in the 35 OECD countries, including  the U.S., as well as a number of partner countries. This type of data is important to understand as our students compete in an increasingly global society.

The recently released 2016 edition of the report indicates that the U.S. is above the average on some measures, but there are others presented in the report in which the U.S. lags behind our international peers.

For instance, the share of U.S. adults with a postsecondary education remains above the OECD average. In the U.S., 45 percent of adults, ages 25-64, have at least some postsecondary education, which is 10 percentage points above the OECD average. However, this advantage is shrinking because the postsecondary enrollment in other OECD countries is increasing more rapidly than in the U.S., where enrollment rates have begun to level off.

The United States continues to be a global leader in attracting international students to attend our postsecondary institutions at the postbaccalaureate level. In 2014, international students made up only 3.5 percent of students enrolled in bachelor’s or equivalent programs, compared with 9% in master’s or equivalent programs and 35% in doctoral or equivalent programs. The U.S., along with the United Kingdom and France, attract more than half of master's and doctoral international students worldwide.

In terms of labor market outcomes, gender disparities in earnings are wider in the U.S. than the OECD average. Among adults in the U.S. with postsecondary education, women earn only 68% of what men earn. This gender gap is larger than the gap for all other OECD countries except Brazil, Chile, Israel, Mexico and the Slovak Republic. Similar gaps exist for males and females in the U.S. across all levels of education.

This is just a small slice of the information that can be found in Education at a Glance 2016. You can also find a wealth of other data on topics of perennial interest, such as the percentage of 3- and 4-year-olds enrolled in early childhood education programs; working conditions of teachers, including time spent in the classroom and salary data; and education finance and per-student expenditures. A relatively new feature is an international comparison for states and other subnational units on key education indicators.

Browse the full report to see how the U.S. compares to other countries on these important education-related topics.