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Beyond the Rankings: College Welcome Guide

What kind of culture and political atmosphere does your prospective campus have?

Use our tool to find out.

To create our College Welcome Guide we relied on more than a dozen data sources. If you haven’t seen our tool, you can find it here. Read on to learn more about where the information comes from.

Campus-level data

All of the data other than what is shown on the maps or otherwise noted comes from IPEDS, the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System. IPEDS data is reported directly by colleges to the U.S. Department of Education. Our dataset includes all two- and four-year colleges.

Figures for total enrollment and enrollment by race/ethnicity and gender show the 12-month unduplicated undergraduate student numbers in 2021-22, the latest year for which the information is available. When 12-month enrollment was unavailable, as was the case for enrollment by age and attendance status (part- or full-time), data from the fall 2021 semester has been used. Pell Grant enrollment data is from 2020-21.

Institutional affiliation indicates whether a private, nonprofit institution is associated with a religious group or denomination.

Graduation rates were calculated using the most recent five years of data. In the case of institutions for which those five full years were not available, the graduation rate was calculated from the available years. This figure represents the percentage of students who complete a bachelor’s degree within six years or an associate degree within three years.

The proportion of students with disabilities represents the percentage of undergraduates in the fall who formally registered with their institutions’ offices of disability services.

Under the IPEDS definition, a point of contact for veterans refers to whether a school has dedicated support services for veterans, military service members and their families. An institution is shown as having services for student veterans if it offers at least one of the following: the Yellow Ribbon Program, academic credit for military training or a recognized student veteran organization; or if it is a member of the Department of Defense Voluntary Education Partnership Memorandum of Understanding. The number of students receiving Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits and tuition assistance includes spouses and dependents. Only benefits awarded through or certified by the institution are shown.

Hate crimes are reported by institutions to the U.S. Department of Education and are defined as crimes for which there is evidence “that the victim was intentionally selected because of the perpetrator’s bias against the victim.” The data, which was downloaded from the department’s Campus Safety and Security Data Analysis Cutting Tool, includes hate crimes committed in any building owned or controlled by an institution or student organization or on any public property within or adjacent to a campus, such as streets, sidewalks and parking facilities.

Data about first-generation students came from the Department of Education’s College Scorecard, which gets it from the National Student Loan Data System. Under the federal definition, students are considered first generation if they do not have a parent who graduated with a four-year degree. First-generation status is self reported by the student.

Data about whether or not there is an LGBTQ+ student resource center on a campus comes from the Consortium of Higher Education LGBT Resource Professionals.

In addition to indicating which institutions are designated as historically Black, Hispanic-serving or affiliated with a religion, we used data from the MSI Data Project to show colleges and universities that have Black, Hispanic, Asian-American and Indigenous enrollments that exceed the proportion of the general population for those categories. We also used data from the Alliance for Research on Regional Colleges to indicate which institutions are considered rural-serving, meaning they’re in rural places or serve students from those places.

State-level data

Information about whether a state allows undocumented immigrants residing in that state to pay in-state tuition comes from the Higher Ed Immigration Portal.

Veterans’ tuition status was determined on a state-by-state basis by a review of policies of public higher education institutions, as well as state higher education and veterans’ agencies.

States that restrict the teaching of critical race theory are tracked by PEN America. Legislatures that have constrained or banned the use of diversity, equity and inclusion programs were identified through legislative tracking services and news reports. Some states that have not yet limited or banned DEI have ordered that public universities disclose how much they spend on those programs. We included this measure because it is a step that has historically been a precursor for legislatures to cut public institutions’ budgets by those amounts.

Anti-LGBTQ+ laws affecting college students are monitored by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Trans Legislation Tracker. Anti-trans laws are those passed since 2022 and include legislation restricting trans athletes or medical procedures for trans people including those of college age.

Information on state laws allowing or restricting the use of student IDs to vote comes from the Voting Rights Lab.

LGBTQ+ Profile scores produced by the Movement Advancement Project are based on measures including the proportion of adults and of workers who are LGBTQ+ and a state’s policies and laws around LGBTQ+ issues.

Data from the Center for Reproductive Rights has been used to show abortion laws by state.

Download the data here.

This College Welcome Guide was produced by The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education. Sign up for the Hechinger newsletter.

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