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The Cooperative Institutional Research Program (CIRP)

The Cooperative Institutional Research Program (CIRP) is a national longitudinal study of the American higher education system. Established in 1966 at the American Council on Education, the CIRP is now the nation’s largest and oldest empirical study of higher education, involving data on some 1,700 institutions and over 10 million students.

Program Overview

The CIRP Freshman Survey is designed to be of immediate use to institutions. Participating institutions receive a detailed profile of their entering freshman class, as well as national normative data for students in similar types of institutions (e.g., public four-year colleges, moderately selective Protestant colleges, highly selective Catholic colleges, public two-year colleges). These campus profile reports, together with the national normative profile, provide important data that are useful in a variety of program and policy areas:

  • Admissions and recruitment
  • Academic program development and review
  • Institutional self-study and accreditation activities
  • Public relations and development
  • Institutional research and assessment
  • Retention studies
  • Longitudinal research about the impacts of campus policies and programs.

Although the normative data provided with the institutional reports (and published annually in The American Freshman) are based on the population of first-time, full-time freshmen, participating institutions also receive separate reports for their part-time and transfer students. Additionally, participating campuses can obtain supplemental reports profiling students by various subgroups (for example, by intended major or career, by academic ability, by home state) as part of the basic participation costs.

The Survey Instrument

The freshman survey questionnaire is appropriate for students in all institutions. The four-page survey instrument covers a broad array of issues:

  • Demographic characteristics
  • Expectations of the college experience
  • Secondary school experiences
  • Degree goals and career plans
  • College finances
  • Attitudes, values, and life goals
  • Reasons for attending college

The freshman survey instrument repeats items from previous years to help institutions assess trends in the characteristics, attitudes, values, and aspirations of their entering freshmen. At the same time, the freshman survey is revised annually to reflect the changing needs of institutional participants. Moreover, the survey form provides space for participating campuses to add up to 21 local option items to those that already appear on the questionnaire.

For more information, please visit the UCLA Higher Education Research Institute, home of the CIRP.