Comment on Proposed Removal of the Academic Libraries Component from NCES IPEDS

ACRL joined ALA, the Association of Research Libraries (ARL), and the Association of Southeastern Research Libraries (ASERL) in a comment (PDF) objecting to the proposed elimination of the Academic Libraries component from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), the interrelated surveys conducted each year by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). The associations strongly object to the elimination of academic library data from IPEDS, believing it is essential to understanding the value of libraries and their contributions to the mission of higher education.

Our comments demonstrate that:

  1. the AL component of IPEDS supports the agency mission and statutory obligation, as well as a higher education ecosystem that relies on this data;
  2. data from the AL component of IPEDS is critical to understanding the value libraries provide to the institutional mission;
  3. removal of the AL component from IPEDS—a mandatory and therefore comprehensive reporting system—will deprive institutions of the ability to effectively benchmark with peers for purposes of investment and resource allocation, particularly with respect to student enrollment and success;
  4. with the inclusion of academic library data, IPEDS is a unique longitudinal dataset that enables the higher education sector to understand the cost of information over time, as well as the correlation between research expenditures and the cost of information; and
  5. the AL burden is both lower than other components of IPEDS and willingly met by libraries themselves. 

Given the value of this academic library data and the risks inherent in its elimination, ACRL, ALA, ARL, and ASERL would strongly support work towards a solution that preserves this annual data collection. We recognize the cost to NCES of this effort. However, we do not see in this proposal sufficient rationale for eliminating the Academic Library component in particular, and neither the proposal nor its supporting documents address how that data is used, its value to libraries and the institutions they serve, or alternatives to its elimination. We would welcome the opportunity to contribute to identifying a workable solution to continue this data collection going forward. We strongly believe that elimination of the Academic Libraries component without an alternative solution would do a disservice to libraries and to higher education as a whole.