Undergraduate Profile Classification

Classifications are time-specific snapshots of institutional attributes and behavior based on data from 2008-2010. Institutions might be classified differently using a different timeframe.

For a flowchart illustrating the logic of the six all-inclusive Classifications click here

Data Sources

Data are from the IPEDS Completions survey corresponding to degree conferrals from July 1, 2008 through June 30, 2009 and 2009 Institutional Characteristics and Fall Enrollments Surveys, and the College Board Annual Survey of Colleges corresponding to Fall 2010. These were the most recent data available for all institutions as of 2010.

Level of Institution

Institutions were identified as two- or four-year based on a combination of IPEDS Completions and Institutional Characteristics data. If an institution awarded no bachelor's or higher-level degrees, it was included among two-year institutions. When degree data were unavailable (for example, in the case of new institutions), Institutional Characteristics variables on level and degree offerings were used.

Enrollment Status

For two-year colleges, the proportion of students enrolled part-time is based on all undergraduates. For four-year institutions, it is based on degree-seeking undergraduates. (We found that for some four-year institutions, including all undergraduates led to anomalous results).

Achievement Characteristics / Selectivity

Entrance examination scores were only used in the classification of four-year institutions. The measure is based on the distribution of entrance examination scores for each institution's first-time first-year students. Each institution reports its 25th and 75th percentile figures for the SAT Verbal, SAT Math, and ACT Composite. (The 25th percentile score is the top score for the bottom quarter of the distribution of scores at that institution; the 75th percentile score is the top score for the bottom three-quarters of the distribution.) We found comparable results using either the 25th or the 75th percentile figure; we elected to use the 25th percentile figure because it describes more students (three-quarters of first-year students scored above this point). We used both IPEDS data and College Board, with priority given to IPEDS data.

Because schools report SAT scores, ACT scores, or both, we used a concordance table to map combined SAT scores to the ACT Composite scale (College Board). We converted to the ACT scale because it has fewer possible scores than the combined SAT (verbal plus math), and fine distinctions were not required for this analysis. Because of differences in the granularity of the two scales, converting from SAT to ACT involves less risk of error than converting in the opposite direction.

For schools that reported both ACT and SAT scores, we created a weighted composite score based on the proportion of students who submitted each type of test score. If these percentages were not given we weighted the two scores equally. Fractional composite scores were rounded to the nearest whole number.

Among schools that did not report test score data on either survey, the vast majority do not require applicants to submit scores. These tend to be institutions with few admission requirements, and consequently they were included among schools with lower 25th percentile scores. There are exceptions, such as institutions that only enroll upper-division students, but we have no alternative basis for assigning the small number of such institutions. (Many selective institutions that do not require test scores report them nonetheless).

Although the intent of the undergraduate profile classification is to describe the undergraduate population, it is difficult to label groups based on test scores in a way that does not lead to inferences of relative quality. Although the labels are framed in selectivity terms, we did not use other selectivity measures. The three groups correspond to 25th percentile ACT-equivalent scores of less than 18, 18-21, and greater than 21.

Because very few "medium full-time" institutions qualified as more selective, the selective and more selective groups were combined. Similarly, there was insufficient variation on the score variable to justify sub-dividing the group with the largest percentage of part-time students.

NOTE: Admissions test scores refer to first-time first-year students only. For institutions that admit a large share of new students as transfers, this measure may not be reflective of the student body as a whole.

College Board, SAT-ACT Concordance Tables. (Accessed October 6, 2010)

Transfer Origin

The measure of transfer origin was only used for four-year institutions. We used College Board data to calculate transfer enrollees as a percentage of all entering undergraduates. This data element was missing for a number of institutions, especially among institutions included in the "less selective" group. As a result, it was only used to differentiate the selective and more selective groups. A small number of institutions in these categories were not classified due to missing data on transfer entrants.

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