Institutional Characteristics (3.0)

Credit Language

PRE 3: Institutional Characteristics – Version 3.0

Questions & Answers

How has this credit changed between STARS Version 2 and Version 3?

This credit represents a consolidation and simplification of 2.2’s PRE 3, 4 and 5 (boundary, operational numbers and demographics now under one credit). Institutions must now report in square meters where applicable. There is a new documentation field: Percentage of students that live in campus housing. A comprehensive list of differences can be found in the STARS 3.0 Summary of changes.

How do we determine our institution type?

Institution Type in STARS is adapted from the International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED) and the U.S. Carnegie Basic Type Classification®.The following institution types are recognized in STARS: 

  • Associate/Short-cycle (ISCED 5, Carnegie Associate’s Colleges). Includes tertiary institutions where all degrees, certificates, and/or diplomas are between secondary education and baccalaureate degree level (e.g., associate degrees), or where baccalaureate degrees account for less than 10 percent of all undergraduate degrees. This may include community colleges, further education colleges, (higher) technical colleges, technician or advanced/higher vocational training, and similar institutions. 
  • Baccalaureate (ISCED 6, Carnegie Baccalaureate Colleges). Includes tertiary institutions where baccalaureate degrees represent at least 10 percent of all undergraduate degrees and where fewer than 50 Master’s degrees or 20 doctoral degrees are awarded annually. May include some institutions above the Master’s degree threshold. 
  • Master’s (ISCED 7, Carnegie Master’s Colleges and Universities). Generally includes tertiary institutions that award at least 50 Master’s degrees and fewer than 20 doctoral degrees annually. 
  • Doctoral/Research (ISCED 8, Carnegie Doctoral Universities). Includes tertiary institutions that award at least 20 research/scholarship doctoral degrees or at least 30 professional practice doctoral degrees in at least two programs annually (e.g., doctoral-level degrees that qualify recipients for entry into professional practice, such as the JD, MD, PharmD, DPT, and so on). 
  • Other (ISCED 2-4 and other entities). Includes secondary schools and other non-tertiary institutions. This may include college preparatory schools, primary professional and technical education designed for direct entry into the labor force, and adult education institutions primarily focused on social, recreational, or self-development goals.

Report the institution type that is most appropriate given your context and with the credit language. For consistency, U.S. colleges and universities should select their current Basic Carnegie Classification (search by institution name), with the exception of Special Focus Institutions, Baccalaureate/Associate’s Colleges, and Tribal Colleges, which should select the best category based on the definitions provided above.

What are acceptable reasons for excluding parts of our campus in our institutional boundary?

Each institution is expected to include its entire main campus when collecting data, however AASHE recognizes that this may not always be feasible. You can choose to exclude a feature, school, or building for any reason, as long as a majority of the campus space and demographics are included. The rationale for any exclusions must be provided in the appropriate documentation field.

Can we exclude parts of our campus from certain credits and not others?

The general expectation is that the institutional boundary will be the same for the entire STARS report. Therefore, care should be taken in selecting the institutional boundary so that consistent reporting is possible across all credits.

During the reporting process, however, if you find it impossible to include a building, feature, or demographic in a credit due to data limitations or other reasons, you may exclude it as long as you document the rationale for doing so in the public Notes field within impacted credits. We recommend consistency within each impact area whenever possible. For example, if you count satellite students in one Curriculum credit, you should do so in all Curriculum credits. 

Can different timeframes apply to different credits across a single STARS report? 

Yes. Institutions have the option to reference data from a consistent performance timeframe across all/most of STARS if they wish, but the reporting process is designed to provide flexibility (e.g., assessments can be up to 3 years old to qualify. This 3-year timeframe is common across most STARS credits, and can allow institutions to stagger assessments across a three year reporting cycle.

Are there other credits that ask for the same information?

Yes. Gross floor area of building space is reported under the following credits: 

  • PRE 3: Institutional Demographics
  • OP 3: Water Use
  • OP 5: Energy Use
  • OP 6: Greenhouse Gas Emissions
  • OP 12: Waste Generation & Recovery 

Employee and Student FTE figures are reported under the following credits: 

  • PRE 3: Institutional Demographics
  • OP 3: Water Use 
  • OP 5: Energy Use
  • OP 6: Greenhouse Gas Emissions
  • OP 12: Waste Generation & Recovery 
  • OP 14: Commute Modal Split

Generally speaking, these figures should be consistent across credits if the same performance year is being used. To simplify reporting, the Reporting Tool will allow you to copy the figures reported under the Institutional Characteristics into other credits. If it is necessary to deviate from one or more PRE figures when completing a credit, the rationale for doing so should be recorded in the Notes field for the affected credits (e.g., difference in reporting timeframe).  

See related article on Can information be shared between credits?

Can we report student and employee headcount instead of full time equivalent (FTE)?

Institutions should report FTE to normalize based on level of use intensity. Whereas headcount refers to the absolute number of individuals, full-time equivalents are adjusted to reflect the intensity of participation or attendance of those individuals. Full-time equivalent fields for students and employees should be lower than headcount fields for most institutions. Identical amounts are only valid if the institution has no part-time employees/students. Lower student headcount amounts are only valid if a significant number of students enroll in more courses than the standard full-time load. Valid discrepancies should be clarified in the Notes field.

Can student employees also be reported under the employee FTE count?

To avoid double-counting, each individual should only be counted once under the FTE category that is most relevant. For example, count student resident assistants (RAs) as students, even if they are also considered to be part-time employees.

If this is not possible due to data collection practices, information about the methodology for counting such individuals should be provided under the Notes field.

Resources, Templates & Tools

Suggestions for Institutions

  • Complete this credit early. Amounts in some numeric fields (FTE, building space) can be carried over to other credits. (You have the option to carry over PRE 3 data but are not required.) 
  • Be sure to explain valid discrepancies between PRE 3 and other credits in the Notes field, e.g., “FTE/floor area amounts differ slightly due to the performance year timeframe differences between these credits”.

Potential Data Quality Issues

  • Institution Type – US institutions should match Carnegie Data, with the exception of Tribal Colleges, Baccalaureate/Associate’s Colleges, and Special Focus Institutions, which should fall under one of the other options. 
  • Timeframe – Response references most recent operational and demographic characteristics for which data are available at the time of submission.

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