In all research efforts, WAICU seeks input from its members and coordinates required filings to assure federal and state compliance and information security.
The primary filings on which we work are discussed below.
The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), a part of the U.S. Department of Education, is the primary federal entity for collecting and analyzing education data, primarily through the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). WAICU was the first association in the United States to be designated as the state-wide IPEDS coordinator for the private, nonprofit sector.
WAICU reviews member filings to expedite filings, address any anomalies present in filings, and alert members to errors in or possible clarifications for responses.
WAICU’s coordinating role has four primary benefits:
- Our members have an unequaled reputation for the quality and timeliness of their data.
- Members can enhance strategic planning by using the data compilation, aggregation, and analyses we provide.
- WAICU’s effective and efficient handling of these responsibilities has been a major argument in our successful opposition to the establishment of an agency overseeing postsecondary education in Wisconsin and the surrender of members’ data to such an agency or other institutions.
- Our role with IPEDS positioned us to lead the LDS (discussed below).
WAICU interacts with NCES IPEDS staff to stay abreast of issues and changes, which we convey to members annually.
A Longitudinal Data Survey (LDS) collects data over a period of time. WAICU and many of its members participate in an LDS effort, allowing for long-term views of educational issues. Participation by WAICU members is voluntary, though most participate. Under Wisconsin law, presidents of member institutions can opt-in or opt-out of the WAICU LDS at any time; presidents alone decide if their data is to be included in any research using LDS data. We collect information from participants through meticulously secure procedures to develop a database that may assist future research efforts on different educational and workforce issues.
In Wisconsin, an LDS is being built to track Wisconsin public PK-12 students through their higher education. Wisconsin has four interoperable LDSs—WAICU, UW, WTCS, and K-12. The WAICU Board (the presidents) has directed WAICU to act as the sole representative of WAICU-member institutions in this federally mandated and federally funded effort, a partnership with the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (DPI), the University of Wisconsin System (UW), and the Wisconsin Technical College System (WTCS).
Again, under Wisconsin law, WAICU will be the sole owner and controller of the WAICU LDS. The WAICU LDS has been deemed compliant with the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).
WAICU works with all participating WAICU colleges and universities annually to aggregate data, maintain confidentiality, and expedite the submittal of information. WAICU also works in partnership with the UW, WTCS, and K-12 LDSs to assure privacy protections and interoperability.
WISSIS and other HEAB research
Wisconsin Student Support Information System (WISSIS)
Since 2008, WAICU has assumed responsibility for our members’ participation in the Wisconsin Student Support Information System (WISSIS) survey. Each year, the Wisconsin Higher Educational Aids Board (HEAB), which oversees the Wisconsin Grant (WG) and other state student aid programs, collects financial aid data from Wisconsin’s higher education sectors through the WISSIS survey; results are discussed at HEAB’s annual board meeting and publicized in a report titled, “Wisconsin State Student Financial Aid.” The independent colleges and universities (the private, nonprofit colleges and universities), the tribal colleges, the UW System, and WTCS are surveyed regarding students who are FAFSA-filing Wisconsin residents receiving student financial aid while enrolled in at least six credits.
Through this effort, WAICU has been able to:
- Demonstrate our members’ accessibility and lay the groundwork for our role in the Wisconsin LDSs (see above).
- Correct data errors before HEAB, policymakers, or the public see them.
- Set a precedent for performing a key HEAB function, should it ever be necessary.
Wisconsin Grant Allocation Formula
Under Wisconsin law, every year, WAICU makes recommendations to HEAB on the formula used for allocating WG awards to WAICU-sector students. WAICU works with HEAB to run simulations of proposed formulaic changes to determine potential impacts on WG amounts and distributions. These simulations allow WAICU to consult with our financial aid directors while developing recommendations for formula changes, which HEAB has consistently adopted.
Making the case for WAICU members and WAICU policies
The story of accessibility, affordability, and quality at private, nonprofit colleges and universities is part of WAICU members’ successes:
- They provide educational opportunities to low-income and minority students.
- Their students graduate in a timely manner.
- Their graduates consistently secure employment or enroll in graduate school.
WAICU is charged with educating various publics on WAICU members' achievements. WAICU goes beyond IPEDS by conducting the WAICU Institutional Survey annually to obtain data points that address issues of importance that cannot be gleaned from IPEDS or other sources. WAICU uses these results to respond to members of Congress, the state legislature, and others to advocate for our members.