Return to Charts and Data Making the Case Sources

Making the Case charts and data are based on several national research studies. These include:


1. Comparative Alumni Survey

Hardwick-Day, Inc. was commissioned by CIC to conduct a study in 2003 of alumni of four-year colleges and universities from graduating classes of 1970 through 1998. This study was a continuation of alumni research that Hardwick-Day has conducted since 1998, resulting in a database that contains over 10,000 alumni interviews.

Sample and Sources of Data

The sample for this study consisted of 1,176 interviews with alumni from 610 four-year colleges and universities in the U.S., drawn both from a database of alumni interviews from prior Hardwick-Day studies and a new round of interviews commissioned by CIC to broaden the representation of the sample. Interviews selected from the combined dataset included in this study were proportioned to be representative of the average number of students over the study years by type of institution (according to Carnegie Classification) and region of the country.

Interviews from the original database that are included in this dataset were drawn principally from two surveys: 1) conducted by the Lutheran Educational Conference of North America (LECNA) and focusing on LECNA member colleges, flagship and non-flagship public universities, and other independent colleges and universities conducted in October and November 1998 (n = 647 or 55 percent of interviews), and 2) conducted by the Annapolis Group of Liberal Arts Colleges and focusing on member liberal arts colleges conducted in July 2002 (n = 53 or 5 percent of interviews). Additional interviews were conducted with the Great Lakes College Association in 1998 and the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities in 2001, along with state consortia in Minnesota in 1999, Illinois in 2001, and Indiana in 2003. Together these additional sources make up 3 percent (n = 39) of interviews included in this study.

New interviews conducted for CIC focused on alumni of Baccalaureate and Masters-level independent colleges, Doctoral level independent universities, and national and regional public universities. Interviews were conducted in November 2003 and make up 37 percent (n = 437) of the interviews included in this study. The CIC sample was obtained from a national marketing list service and screened for college graduation status, college attended, and year of graduation, among other qualifiers. The telephone interviews averaged 20 to 23 minutes. The initial response rate was 28 percent. Of those qualified to participate, 82 percent completed interviews.

Survey Response Groupings

Interview responses are grouped by type of institution attended as defined by Carnegie Classification, U.S. News "national" university status, and public or independent governance. These groupings are as follows:

Independent Colleges and Universities: 356 alumni of independent colleges and universities (280 four-year colleges represented) includes Baccalaureate-General, Baccalaureate-Liberal Arts, Masters I, and Masters II Carnegie categories.

Regional Public Universities: 383 alumni of public universities that are Baccalaureate-General, Baccalaureate-Liberal Arts, Masters I, and Masters II Carnegie categories, as well as the Extensive or Intensive Doctoral/Research universities that are not considered "national" institutions in U.S. News and World Report ratings (204 four-year campuses represented).

National Public Universities: 360 alumni of national "flagship" public universities that are Extensive or Intensive Doctoral/Research universities, and are considered National institutions in U.S. News and World Report ratings (95 institutions represented).

Total Public Universities: 743 alumni of the Regional and National Public Universities combined (299 institutions represented). The proportion of national and regional institutions is reflective of the enrollments of each type.

Independent Research Universities: 77 alumni of top independent universities that are Carnegie Extensive or Intensive Doctoral/Research universities and are in the top 50 National institutions in U.S. News and World Report ratings (31 universities represented).

For additional information about Hardwick-Day, please consult their website.

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2. National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE)

The NSSE measures the extent to which students are engaged in educational practices that correlate with high levels of learning. The Survey is designed to obtain, on an annual basis, information from hundreds of colleges and universities nationwide about student participation in programs and activities that institutions provide for their learning and personal development. The results provide an estimate of how undergraduates spend their time and what they gain from attending college. Survey items on The College Student Report represent empirically confirmed "good practices" in undergraduate education. That is, they reflect behaviors by students and institutions that are associated with desired outcomes of college. Five scales are utilized in the analysis of the NSSE data: Academic Challenge, Active and Collaborative Learning, Student Faculty Interaction, Enriching Educational Experiences, and Supportive Campus Environment. While these scales are calculated at the student level, benchmarking comparisons are calculated at the institutional level (for additional information on the benchmarks, visit the NSSE website).

This analysis was undertaken at the request of the Council of Independent Colleges (CIC) in 2009. NSSE obtained data from the survey responses of students (first-year and senior) at private and public institutions. In addition to being identified as public or private, institutions also were assigned to four categories for analysis, representing a combination of Carnegie type and control. The four resulting Carnegie/Control categories are:

  1. Baccalaureate and Master’s (BA/MA) private institutions
  2. Baccalaureate and Master’s (BA/MA) public institutions
  3. Doctoral public institutions
  4. Doctoral private institutions

Data were obtained from 385,842 first-year and senior students attending 725 four-year colleges and universities in the U.S. that administered NSSE in 2008. The sample consisted of 362,393 students (175,569 first-year students and 186,824 seniors) attending 649 colleges and universities (273 were CIC member institutions) with the following distribution:

NSSE Sample Distribution
First-YearsSeniors ​Total Students
Number of Institutions
​BA/MA Private
​58,925​57,379​116,304​341
​BA/MA Public
​62,403​72,591​134,994​208
​Doctoral Public
​41,895​45,082​86,977​69
​Doctoral Private
​12,346​11,772​24,118​31
​Total​175,569​186,824​362,393​649


In this analysis, t-tests were used to calculate differences between private and public institutions and ANOVA tests were used to compare different institutional types in addition to their control status. NSSE Benchmarks of Effective Education Practice were analyzed as well as individual items that make up the benchmarks and relevant scales. Analyses were conducted by Allison BrckaLorenz, Tony Ribera, and Robert M. Gonyea at Indiana University’s Center for Postsecondary Research. For additional information about the National Survey of Student Engagement, including sample survey instruments, visit the NSSE website.

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3. Change Magazine

“Intentions and perceptions: A national survey of public attitudes toward liberal arts education,” Change Magazine, March 1, 1997, Richard H. Hersh

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4. National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO)

Located in Washington, D.C., NACUBO serves a membership of more than 2,500 colleges, universities, and higher education service providers across the country, representing chief administrative and financial officers through a collaboration of knowledge and professional development, advocacy, and community. The Executive Summary of NACUBO's 2002 Tuition Discounting Survey is one of the sources cited in the Making the Case website. All 4-year, independent, nonprofit institutions are invited to participate in this annual survey, the results of which are published in NACUBO's Business Officer magazine. For additional information, please consult the NACUBO website.

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5. National Center for Education Statistics (NCES)

As part of the U.S. Department of Education, the National Center for Education Statistics is the primary federal entity for collecting and analyzing data that are related to education in the United States. The NCES sources utilized in the Making the Case site include:

  • 2008-09 Baccalaureate and Beyond Longitudinal Study (B&B:08/09): First Look, U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2011.
  • Beginning Postsecondary Students Longitudinal Study - BPS:96/01 and BPS:04/09, Data Analysis System and PowerStats, U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics.
  • Campus-Based Programs Data Book, U.S. Department of Education, various years.
  • Condition of Education, U.S. Department of Education, various years.
  • Descriptive Summary of 1995-96 Beginning Postsecondary Students: Six Years Later, U.S. Department of Education, 2002.
  • Digest of Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education, various years.
  • Enrollment in Postsecondary Institutions, Fall 2007; Graduation Rates, 2001 & 2004 Cohorts; and Financial Statistics, Fiscal Year 2007: First Look. U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics.
  • Higher Education General Information Survey (HEGIS), U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, various years.
  • Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, various years.
  • National Postsecondary Student Aid Survey (NPSAS) - NPSAS:96, NPSAS:00, NPSAS:04, NPSAS:08, and NPSAS:12, Data Analysis System and PowerStats, U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics.
  • Title IV/Federal Pell Grant Program End-of-Year Report, U.S. Department of Education, various years.
  • U.S. Department of Education, "Default Rates Continue to Rise for Federal Student Loans," September 30, 2013.
  • What Colleges Contribute: Institutional Aid to Full-Time Undergraduates Attending 4-year Colleges and Universities, April 2003.

Detailed information about these and other NCES datasets, reports, and publications may be found at the NCES website.

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6. The Chronicle of Higher Education's Survey of Public Opinion on Higher Education

The annual Chronicle of Higher Education's Survey of Public Opinion on Higher Education consisted of 1,000 telephone interviews, of 20 minutes each, with a random selection of men and women between the ages of 25 and 65. The survey was designed by George Dehne, in conjunction with The Chronicle, and the interviews were conducted by TMR Inc., of Broomall, Pa. The data were collected and analyzed by GDA Integrated Services, a marketing-and-research company based in Old Sayville, Conn.

The sample was generated using random-digit-dialing methodology. For a randomly obtained sample of 1,000, a conservative estimate of the margin of sampling error for 95-percent confidence intervals is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points. Figures may not add up to 100 percent because of rounding.

The 2003 survey was conducted from February 15 to March 17, 2003. Fifty-one percent of the respondents were women, and 49 percent were men. All states except Alaska and Hawaii are represented in the sample. Twelve percent of the respondents are African-American, accurately representing the U.S. population, but because of language barriers, only 5 percent are Hispanic, about 8 percentage points below the national proportion. In all other ways, including the geographic distribution of respondents, their religious and political affiliations, and their household income, the sample mirrors the U.S. population.

The 2004 survey was conducted from February 25 to March 21, 2004. Fifty-eight percent of the respondents were women, and 42 percent were men. All states except Alaska and Hawaii are represented in the sample. Eleven percent of the respondents are African-American, accurately representing the U.S. population, but because of language barriers, only 6 percent are Hispanic, about eight percentage points below the national proportion. In all other ways, including the geographic distribution of respondents, their religious and political affiliations, and their household income, the sample mirrors the U.S. population.

For additional information, see www.chronicle.com.

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7. Lutheran Educational Conference of North America

National High School Student Research, conducted by Hardwick~Day, November 2003

  • 20-minute telephone survey on various topics regarding the college consideration process
  • 916 high school students (613 juniors and 303 sophomores). Participant names obtained from Student Marketing Group. Selection criteria specified the students be college-bound and dictated a 50/50 gender split

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8. National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU)

Utilizing a variety of sources, mainly from the U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, NAICU conducted much of the analysis used in the Making the Case website. These sources include:

  • Beginning Postsecondary Students Longitudinal Study – BPS:96/01 Data Analysis System, U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics.
  • Campus-Based Programs Data Book, U.S. Department of Education, various years.
  • Current Population Survey, September 2002, U.S. Department of Labor Statistics.
  • Descriptive Summary of 1995-96 Beginning Postsecondary Students: Six Years Later, U.S. Department of Education, 2002.
  • College Student Longitudinal Survey (1994-1998), Higher Education Research Institute.
  • Higher Education General Information Survey (HEGIS), U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, various years
  • Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, various years.
  • National Postsecondary Student Aid Survey (NPSAS) – NPSAS: 1999-2000, U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics
  • Title IV/Federal Pell Grant Program End-of-Year Report, U.S. Department of Education, various years.
  • Trends in Student Aid, College Board, various years.

Most of the analyses conducted by NAICU are available in two publications, Twelve Facts That May Surprise You About Private Higher Education, published in 2003, and Independent Colleges and Universities: A National Profile, published in 2004 jointly by NAICU, The Foundation for Independent Higher Education, and CIC. Additional information about these publications is available from the NAICU website. Additional analyses conducted by NAICU can be found in the online resource Private Colleges: FactFile.

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9. New England Board of Higher Education (NEBHE)

New England Journal of Higher Education: Trends & Indicators in Higher Education 2008. Volume 22, No. 5 (Spring 2008). Data analyzed by the New England Board of Higher Education from a variety of sources, including the U.S. Department of Education, the National Science Foundation, the College Board, the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems, and NEBHE’s own Annual Survey of New England Colleges and Universities. For additional information on NEBHE, see http://www.nebhe.org/.

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10. College Board

Trends in Student Aid and Trends in College Pricing, various years. For additional information, see http://trends.collegeboard.org/.

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