Frequently Asked Questions

    Winthrop’s Office of Institutional Research’s mission is to provide accurate historical institutional data and analyses to the campus community and external stakeholders by conveying mandated accountability data to the state and federal government, supporting institutional and specialized program accreditation and academic program review efforts, and working collaboratively with other units on campus to support and encourage evidence-based planning and decision making.

    • Official, historical data
    • Data about students
    • Student outcome data
    • Faculty and staff demography
    • Facilities and information
    • Basic finance data

    Summaries and analyses are available to students, faculty, or staff in academic and support units needing information for publicity, presentations, reports, grants and contracts, public relations, news releases, or other legitimate university functions.

    Yes. While IR typically generates summary data, it is the responsibility of everyone at Winthrop University to maintain the privacy of student records, particularly when handling files containing personally-identifiable information. More information on FERPA, the federal act giving students certain rights regarding their education records, can be found at Winthrop University: Records & Registration - FERPA

    Sources of comparative data can be found at:

    • The US Department of Education
    • The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), including IPEDS
    • The South Carolina Commission on Higher Education (CHE)
    • Association for Institutional Research (AIR)
    • Southern Association for Institutional Research (SAIR)
    • South Carolina Association for Institutional Research (SCAIR)
    • The Chronicle of Higher Education

    Institutional Research’s website includes recurring reports, organized into an electronic Fact Book, frequently requested metrics under Quick References, Common Data Set information, and outcomes on the Student Achievement and Student Consumer Information websites.

    IR’s data resources are based on official information submitted according to deadlines set by state and federal reporting agencies. The timing of updates depends on whether it is based on census data, approximately six weeks into the term, or end-of-semester data, approximately three days after Commencement.

    The IR Data Dictionary defines frequently-used IR terms. Establishing data definitions is a work in progress. If you have any questions or are unable to locate a definition, please contact us at

    Please complete a data request form at least ten days prior to when your data is needed. The Office of Institutional Research uses this system to track and manage workload. If you submit a request by telephone or e-mail, you may be directed to complete this brief form.

    Institutional Research fills data requests involving official, historical university data. Requests for operational information from live data are handled by Business Intelligence and Data Management (BIDM). BIDM’s data request form can be accessed here. Requests to update or alter an existing WebFocus report should also be directed to BIDM. 

    “Official data” are university data used for state and/or federal reporting and are based on a specific point in time (ex., beginning of term, census day, end of term). Official data are appropriate for using in trend analyses and comparisons against other institutions or benchmarks. Because official data represent a snapshot frozen in time, reports generated using live data will not match official data.

    Census day is a date when the Office of IR takes a snapshot of university data for the purpose of state and federal reporting. The fall and spring census days typically fall about six weeks into the semester. The summer census day falls in early August in order to capture enrollments in the various summer terms. The majority of IR produced reports and data visualizations are based on census data.

    Census dates follow reporting guidelines established by the US Department of Education/IPEDS and the SC Commission on Higher Education. Taking a census approximately six weeks into the term, for fall and spring terms, allows institutions to account for enrollment through the drop-add process, delayed enrollment of high school special dual enrollment students, and courses with later start dates. After census data are frozen, processes to identify and resolve discrepancies are completed, and data are submitted to CHE by the end of October for fall, the end of March for spring, and the end of August for summer terms. Final enrollment numbers are usually available within a week or two of those dates. Any enrollment numbers released earlier are preliminary, because there is no guarantee they will match the official numbers sent to the state.

    The convention for reporting official higher education data is to report on an academic year cycle, from fall to fall. Comparing enrollment across types of semesters (fall, spring, and summer) can make it more difficult to identify trends and patterns. For this reason, some Fact Book tables exclude spring and summer semesters, while others include them in a separate table from fall. If you need official data not included in the Fact Book, please complete a Data Request Form.

    Many variables used in reporting can be defined in different ways. The number will depend on the operational definition. For example, the term “in-state student” can refer to the student’s geographic origin at the time of first admission, or it can be based on the student’s residency classification for fee purposes.

    The term “freshman” can be defined according to the number of earned hours a student holds (fewer than 24 semester hours of credit) or by status as a first-time college student. Because of dual enrollment and AP/IB exams, first-time freshmen may enter the University with enough earned hours to be classified as sophomores or juniors. Similarly, a returning student may continue to be classified as a freshman based on earned hours not exceeding the threshold for classification as a sophomore.

    Additionally, the cohort of students entering in a specific term are specially defined as “first-time freshmen,” regardless of earned hours. This is the cohort of students tracked to determine official retention and graduation rates for state and federal reporting. When requesting data about freshmen at Winthrop, please specify whether you mean “first-time freshman,” which is a specific cohort, or students who have the academic status of freshman based on their number of earned hours in that particular semester, which could include transfer students and students entering at different times.