Earlier today I critiqued the new National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) report on the “The Returns to Online Postsecondary Education”, calling it “a hot mess that that conflates online students, enrollments, programs, institutions and uses a bizarre and misleading data set for its analysis”. That post looked mostly at the interpretation of Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) data to define which institutions were exclusively online or substantially online based on the author’s definition. But this report has a bigger flaw that I initially missed – it shows historical data on online enrollments from the late 1990s and claims to analyze in detail online enrollment data from 2009 – 2014, yet IPEDS did not collect distance education data until 2011.

In the data section, the author states:

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