Where in the World Are Our Distance Education Students?: IPEDS Reality Check

This is the second in a series of blog posts examining data recently released by the U.S. Department of Education’s IPEDS survey on distance education enrollments. Our first blog post in this series looked at the percentage of students enrolled exclusively in distance education or taking at least one distance education course.  What about the location of students?
Russ Poulin

There has been much discussion about the population of students studying online at U.S. institutions of higher education. State authorization compliance is known to be an issue, but until there was data to support the claims that institutions were serving students beyond their state borders, no one knew how many students and institutions were affected. We now have data that begins to bring the current situation into focus.

Photo of the Earth focusing on North and South America

Where in the world are our distance education students?

Location of DE Students
The Fall 2012 IPEDS data gives us our first national view of where the DE students served are located in relation to the schools that are serving them. The issue of enrolling students from out-of-state and out-of-country is an important topic for all institutions concerned about state authorization compliance. This data gives us our first look at the magnitude of this challenge.

It is noteworthy that all of the data reported on the location of students is for “students enrolled exclusively in DE courses” only.  And those enrolled “exclusively in DE courses” represents about 13% of all enrollments and only half of all DE enrollments reported.

Since students who participate in a combination of on-campus and DE courses are probably physically located near the campus, it is a reasonable assumption that data for these students would not change the national snapshot. But since they do represent half of the DE students, the fact that we don’t have data on half of the population is important to recognize. It is also likely true that as students choice of how they will take their courses change from semester to semester, they could be counted in one semester and not in another. These numbers will be interesting to track over time.

Nevertheless, it gives us an important glimpse into the potential size of the challenges facing institutions who need to come into state authorization compliance.  It also gives insight into the scope of the number of institutions and students involved in cross-border transactions for policymakers and regulators who are creating the systems and monitoring the activities of IHE’s.

Students Enrolled Exclusively Online and Students’ Location


All Degree-granting Institutions

 

Students Enrolled Exclusively in Distance Education Courses

 

 State

Number of
enrollments exclusively in DE courses

% of Total enrollment

 % enrolled in same state as IHE

% enrolled not in same state as IHE

 % enrolled located outside U.S.

% enrolled in U.S., state unknown

% enrolled student location unknown/ not reported

Total Enrollment—All Degree-Granting IHEs in U.S.

AK

              5,553

17%

91%

8%

1%

0%

0%

           32,797

AL

            50,008

16%

44%

53%

2%

0%

1%

         310,311

AR

            16,700

9%

85%

12%

1%

0%

2%

         176,458

AZ

          360,189

49%

17%

81%

1%

1%

0%

         736,379

CA

          170,347

6%

83%

14%

1%

1%

1%

      2,621,460

CO

            72,801

20%

41%

56%

1%

1%

1%

         367,055

CT

            14,701

7%

54%

46%

0%

0%

0%

         202,625

DC

              7,496

8%

5%

92%

1%

2%

0%

           90,150

DE

              4,010

7%

58%

38%

0%

0%

3%

           58,128

FL

          194,066

17%

43%

43%

1%

0%

13%

      1,154,929

GA

            53,428

10%

70%

28%

1%

0%

1%

         545,358

HI

              8,736

11%

85%

9%

5%

1%

0%

           78,456

IA

          144,223

40%

13%

85%

1%

0%

1%

         361,183

ID

            13,848

13%

42%

12%

4%

40%

2%

         108,008

IL

            90,053

10%

40%

56%

1%

0%

3%

         867,110

IN

            50,893

11%

67%

31%

1%

0%

1%

         447,262

KS

            33,339

16%

65%

23%

12%

0%

0%

         213,786

KY

            56,067

20%

86%

12%

0%

0%

2%

         282,125

LA

            11,037

4%

85%

15%

0%

0%

0%

         258,825

MA

            30,516

6%

57%

38%

2%

0%

3%

         516,331

MD

            55,786

15%

80%

19%

1%

0%

0%

         379,032

ME

            10,053

14%

62%

35%

2%

0%

0%

           72,810

MI

            48,766

7%

79%

17%

1%

0%

3%

         663,825

MN

          119,366

26%

25%

72%

3%

0%

0%

         451,661

MO

            54,859

12%

50%

47%

1%

1%

2%

         441,371

MS

            16,371

9%

86%

13%

1%

0%

0%

         176,665

MT

              3,410

6%

84%

15%

1%

0%

0%

           53,254

NC

            66,558

12%

91%

6%

1%

0%

2%

         578,031

ND

            12,718

23%

62%

37%

1%

0%

0%

           55,169

NE

            23,826

17%

63%

34%

0%

2%

0%

         139,578

NH

            14,812

18%

36%

62%

1%

0%

1%

           82,678

NJ

            34,421

8%

60%

35%

1%

4%

0%

         439,965

NM

            20,357

13%

81%

19%

0%

0%

0%

         156,424

NV

            12,038

10%

90%

7%

0%

3%

0%

         118,300

NY

            82,408

6%

47%

50%

2%

1%

0%

      1,315,590

OH

            70,404

10%

78%

21%

0%

1%

0%

         709,818

OK

            26,253

11%

72%

25%

1%

2%

0%

         228,464

OR

            22,948

9%

71%

26%

1%

0%

3%

         254,695

PA

            62,517

8%

58%

40%

1%

0%

0%

         777,242

RI

              1,347

2%

59%

38%

3%

0%

0%

           83,952

SC

            15,598

6%

91%

8%

1%

0%

0%

         259,617

SD

            11,803

21%

72%

28%

0%

0%

0%

           56,058

TN

            21,279

6%

83%

17%

0%

0%

0%

         343,641

TX

          139,714

9%

90%

7%

2%

0%

1%

      1,540,298

UT

            62,026

23%

25%

74%

0%

0%

0%

         267,309

VA

          109,927

19%

45%

52%

2%

1%

0%

         588,696

VT

              4,507

10%

53%

39%

2%

0%

5%

           44,703

WA

            27,848

8%

30%

7%

0%

62%

0%

         365,514

WI

            28,398

8%

49%

12%

1%

0%

38%

         369,732

WV

            66,096

41%

10%

83%

3%

3%

0%

         162,179

WY

              4,228

11%

83%

17%

0%

0%

0%

           37,812

Total %

51%

45%

1%

1%

2%

Enrollment Totals

2,638,653

1,336,873

1,176,009

33,561

36,779

55,431

20,642,819

In interpreting the data, the percentage is of all students enrolled in institutions located in that state, NOT of all students resident in that state.  Take Arizona as an example.  The 49% of student who are “enrolled exclusively in DE courses” takes into account the large number of students that are enrolled at institutions (i.e., Arizona State University, Grand Canyon University, University of Phoenix) that are headquartered in that state, but enroll students from a broad geographic region.  It does NOT mean that 49% of higher education students resident in the state of Arizona are “enrolled exclusively in DE courses.”

Students in Other States
Of students enrolled exclusively in DE courses, overall half (51%) were reported to be in the same state as the institution (1,336,873 students), 45% (1,176,009 students) were reported to be not in the same state as the institution and 1% (33,561) were reported to be located outside of the U.S. In addition, the IPEDS data has two additional categories “located in U.S.; state unknown” at 1% and “location of student unknown/not reported” at 2%.

Reviewing the location of students by state, we see that most IHEs predominantly service in-state students with their exclusively DE programs. Exceptions, based on the IPEDS data provided, include Iowa 85%, West Virginia 83%, and Arizona 81% of enrollments are out-of-state.

These states all have large institutions that provide online programs. A few examples are provided below.

  • Iowa is home to Ashford University, with over 76,722 exclusively DE student enrollments and Kaplan University with over 46,000 exclusively DE enrollments across their Iowa campuses.
  • American Public University System reports 58,115 exclusively DE student enrollments in West Virginia.
  • Arizona has many institutions engaged in fully online offerings.
    • University of Phoenix-Online Campus reports 250,600 exclusively DE enrollments.
    • Grand Canyon University reported 28,417 exclusively DE, which is 58% of their enrollments.
    • Argosy University-Phoenix Online Division had 10,715 exclusively DE student enrollments in fall, 2012.
    • The public schools in Arizona also report large proportions of learners fully at a distance. Rio Salado College reported 16,235 fully DE student enrollments, 67% of total enrollments.
    • Arizona State reported 7,444 exclusively DE enrollment, about 10% of their total enrollments.

In addition, the District of Columbia reports that 92% of exclusively DE students are from outside the district, however the geography of the region likely explains this anomaly.

In Which State is the Student Located?
The current data does not tell us where these students are located in relation to the IHE.  The question asked was if the student was in another state or country.  Institutions were not asked to identify the exact location of the student.

Without that data it is impossible to tell whether students are clustered in close proximity to the state the IHE is located or if the college has a broad national reach.  The data does not help us to determine if an institution is serving students in a state in which it does not have authorization.

Students in Other Countries
Kansas leads with the highest total number of exclusively DE students who are known to be located outside the US, with 4,001 students reported, 12% of their exclusively DE populations. Fort Hays State University accounts for 90% of those enrollment, with 3,609 international students.

About 10 states report having upwards of 1,000 exclusively DE students who are known to live outside the borders of the U.S. In total, 33,561 international students were reported as being enrolled exclusively in DE courses, about 1% of the population. Since the survey did not ask, it is not clear what percentage of these students are military stationed elsewhere, other U.S. nationals located in other countries, or foreign nationals.  While the percentage is small, students located in other countries do represent possible issues including language, culture, providing support services, and in policy considerations for the institutions serving them.

Students Whose Location is Unknown or Not Reported
Only about 1% of students were reported as residing in the U.S., but the state was unknown.  A couple of states have much larger proportions of learners where the state is reported as unknown. Washington, for example, reported 62% of exclusively DE learners as out-of-state, but the state is unknown and Idaho reported 40%.

The last data field reports exclusively DE students for whom the location of the student is unknown or not reported by the IHE. Most states report a very small proportion of learners in this category. But in total there are over 55,000 learners whose locations is reported in this unknown category. The states with particularly high reporting of unknowns are Wisconsin at 38% (the University of Wisconsin System institutions do not report where their students are located) and Florida at 13%.  Some institutions or university systems report not knowing the location of any of their out-of-state students, implying that they are systematically avoiding the first step in state authorization compliance.

The new IPEDS data illuminates the work ahead to ensure full compliance with state regulations. Trend data over time will help determine whether out-of-state and out-of-country enrollments are increasing.

As a nation, nearly half of our enrollments that are exclusively in DE are students outside of the state of the IHE.

Some institutions simply did not report the student location data, rather they reported all exclusively DE enrollments as “location of student unknown/not reported”. If institutions are truly unaware of where their students are located, the likelihood of full compliance is extremely low.Photo of Terri Straut

In our next blog post, we will look at the numbers of institutions (by state) that are enrolling students outside their state and outside the country.

Terri Straut
Ascension Consulting
terri_straut@msn.com

Photo credit: Morgue File.

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4 Trackbacks

  1. […] an old conversation among the student support staff in our department. The article, entitled Where in the World Are Our Distance Education Students?: IPEDS Reality Check, explored the location of distance education students relative to the institutions who serve them. […]

  2. […] noted in the blog post, Where in the World Are Our Distance Education Students?: IPEDS Reality Check, many institutions report serving students who reside outside of the U.S. In this data, both public […]

  3. […] « Where in the World Are Our Distance Education Students?: IPEDS Reality Check […]

  4. […] See on wcetblog.wordpress.com […]

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