FAQ for Participating Institutions

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These are some of the most frequently-asked questions by participating institutions.  For additional information, or for questions not addressed below, please e-mail us at ucan@naicu.edu.   

Background on U-CAN
Participation in U-CAN
Questions in Connection with Annual Updating
Entering Data into U-CAN 
Questions Regarding U-CAN Elements 
Visual Design of U-CAN 

  Background on U-CAN 

  • Why was the U-CAN initiative developed?  Beginning around 2005, Congress and the U.S. Department of Education (under the George W. Bush administration) started to call for more consumer information to aid prospective students and their families in evaluating and choosing colleges.  Now under the Obama administration, federal initiatives on consumer information for college choice have multiplied dramatically. 

    Better consumer information is a goal that NAICU strongly supports.  However, the mind-boggling array of new federal mandates to provide college students with better college choice and cost information tends either to be too complex to be easily evaluated, or so simplistic as to be misleading. 

    We support a more rational, user‑friendly approach, as demonstrated by U‑CAN - designed to give, in a common format, prospective students and their families concise web-based consumer-friendly information on individual colleges and universities.  Developed through extensive consumer research and refined annually, the U-CAN profiles also include precisely the kinds of information that policymakers are calling for through many of the current federal initiatives. (This more detailed U-CAN overview provides additional background).

  • Does U-CAN rank institutions? U-CAN profiles are not meant to rank or rate colleges and universities. Rather, they are a convenient way for students and families to compare institutions using a standard format.

  • Can consumers search the U-CAN profiles for subsets of institutions? A number of search features - including advanced search options - have been built into the U-CAN website.  These allow users to search for institutions by location, distance from the user's home, and religious affiliation, plus many other variables.

    In the separate NAICU member directory (which is also searchable), the U-CAN logo appears next to all participating members' listings. 

Participation in U-CAN 

  • Is participation in U-CAN limited to NAICU member institutions? All accredited, private, not-for-profit higher education institutions are welcome to participate in U-CAN - whether they are members of NAICU or not.  We unfortunately are unable to accommodate public colleges and universities or for-profit institutions.

  • What is the cutoff date for participation in U-CAN? There is none. U-CAN will continue to add new participants indefinitely. 
  • How does our institution sign up to participate in the U-CAN initiative? Sends us an e-mail at ucan@naicu.edu.  We will then contact you with detailed instructions on how to proceed in building your U-CAN profile

  • Is there a related cost?  There is no charge or fee for participation in the U-CAN initiative, nor is there a charge for consumers to view profiles.  The site also accepts no advertising.

  • Why are there two designated contacts on the U-CAN participation form? Institutions are asked to designate a "Data Contact Person," most likely someone in the office of institutional research with access to institutional reported data such as is in IPEDS or the Common Data Set, and a "Narrative/Web Links Contact Person," most likely an individual in public relations able to coordinate the narrative pieces and provide links to the institution's Web site for the U-CAN template. Both will receive a log-in to the U-CAN data entry system for use in posting and editing institutional information.

  • When will our profile be made public? Institutions control when their profiles become available to the public.  This happens only when they click the "Publish" button at the bottom of the U-CAN data entry home page. 

    We recommend that you wait until your profile is as complete as possible, and you have reviewed the actual display using the preview option (see above), before making your profile publicly available.  Institutions that have signed up to participate in U-CAN, but have not yet completed their profiles, are listed on a "Profiles Coming Soon" page on the U-CAN website.
    (Note that, for the 2015 update period, the new data for all U-CAN participants was mass-published in late February 2015.)

Questions in Connection with Annual Updating

  • I've updated our information, but still see the old information on the live U-CAN site. See above for information on delayed publication of new data during the update period. If this occurs outside of the update period, the most likely cause is that you missed the final step of clicking "Publish" at the bottom right of the data entry home page. Your new data will not appear live until you take this step.

  • What happens if I can't get our U-CAN profile updated during the mass update period? Once we publish all updated U-CAN profiles early each calendar year, all profiles that have not yet been updated will be moved to a separate "Awaiting Update" list on the U-CAN site. A note at the top of that separate list will alert visitors that "The U-CAN profiles for these institutions have not yet been updated for [current year]. When you view these profiles, keep in mind that the information is a year older than for updated U-CAN profiles."

    You can update and publish your new data, or make edits to posted data, at any time. In fact, the only time throughout the year that you can't access and edit your U-CAN data is during the annual update period. Once you've done that, and have clicked "Publish" as described above, your institution's listing will move from the "Awaiting Update" list to the main U-CAN profile list.

    Institutions that have not updated their U-CAN data for two consecutive years are removed from the published list. To have your intitution's profile reinstated, contact us at ucan@naicu.edu.

  • I'm confused about why you're asking for data for previous years. We mirror the current CDS and/or IPEDS dates for all data collected. Please follow the U-CAN template and instructions to ensure that we have comparability across U-CAN profiles even if you have later data available. (If you still have questions on this point, though, feel free to contact us at ucan@naicu.edu.)

  • How do I find out how many visits our institution's U-CAN profile has received? In the last box on the U-CAN data entry home page is an item, "Total Profile Page Hits." This is a real-time cumulative count of the number of visitors that have viewed your U-CAN profile since the initial U-CAN launch in October 2007.

Entering Data into U-CAN

  • When will U-CAN data be updated? U-CAN has one update period each year. The 2014-15 update period will run from December 2014 to late February 2015.  The schedule has been developed around IPEDS and Common Data Set deadlines. This schedule also allows institutions to provide the most current data to prospective students and their parents over the college recruitment year.

  • How does the system work? Where will the data be stored? Participating institutions enter their profile information into a database housed on the U-CAN server (which is part of NAICU's web server but is maintained separately). This information is then used to automatically generate the institutional profiles that are viewed by the public. The profiles can be viewed on-line, or downloaded and printed by students and families as PDF files.

  • Is there an option to save and edit U-CAN information after it has gone live? Yes. The designated contact individuals will always have access to the U-CAN system, even after the institution's U-CAN profile is live. This feature allows institutions to modify data, and add or update narrative or web links. 

  • Will NAICU edit or verify the data? No, participating institutions are responsible for the accuracy of their own information, just as they are for Common Data Set and Department of Education submittals.

Questions on U-CAN Elements

  • How is the U-CAN data standardized across institutions? Detailed instructions for data elements, including standards for which subset of students and year each element describes, are available on line. Instructions are built into each element of the on-line data entry form to guide colleges in providing information consistent with all other participants for the data elements.

  • Our institution has updated figures for the upcoming year. Can we use these figures instead of the ones asked for in the instructions? Since it is important to have comparability across U-CAN profiles, participating institutions are asked to follow the guidelines regarding the specific year for data. When consumers compare U-CAN templates for various institutions, it is critical that they be able to view data from the same year.

  • Do we need to provide a link for every button on the U-CAN template? Institutions are not required to provide a link for each section of the template, but should note that all buttons will appear even if no information is given. Institutions may wish to provide a link that gives a brief description of why the selected information does not apply or to take users to a temporary page if more information will be available soon.

  • Our institution has a comprehensive fee. We do not break down the price of attendance in the way the "Price of Attendance" chart is broken down. What are our options? You have the option of instead providing brief text that gives the comprehensive fee number and an explanation. This text will appear in place of the "Price of Attendance" graph. In this case, text will also appear below the "Tuition and Fees History" graph reading, "This is a comprehensive fee. See ‘Price of Attendance' for more information."

  • Our institution has more detailed information available on price, net tuition and financial aid than is displayed on the U-CAN template. What are our options? You are encouraged to insert a link to the page on your Web site where this information is available. The "For additional information from our institution, click here" button on the second page of the profile is the appropriate link for this information.

  • Is there an option to display ACT rather than SAT scores? You have the option to report either your SAT or ACT scores, but not both.  You also may add a brief description in this section, and some institutions have used that text for infomation on the test scores not displayed.

Visual Design of the U-CAN Template

  • Can our institution's colors be displayed on the U-CAN template? Though we recognize that an institution's colors are often considered hallmarks of the institution, the U-CAN system is not configured to display custom color palettes.

  • Can our institution distinguish itself by inserting our own graphs or adding additional information to be made visible on the template?  U-CAN is unabashedly oriented toward the interests of prospective college students and their families. Toward this end, the common format of the profiles is integral to U-CAN, allowing consumers to compare different institutions side-by-side.

    In this sense, U-CAN is not so much a tool for marketing the individual college as for providing basic information about institutions. However, the richness and diversity of private colleges and universities has been built into the U-CAN design, and a college can still establish its distinctive nature through the narrative information, and links to the institution's own Web site, that are a key part of its U-CAN profile.