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Classification of Instructional Program (CIP) Code

Information on the federal Classification of Instruction Program (CIP) code, and how to propose changing the CIP code for a program.

The federal Classification of Instructional Program (CIP) code taxonomy supports the tracking and reporting of program-level enrollments and program completion activity at U.S. colleges and universities. Each academic program at U.S. colleges and universities is assigned a CIP code that describes the program curriculum and, in some cases, its associated degree. This taxonomy enables a more “apples to apples” comparison of programs across institutions than would be evident from relying on the institutional name of the program alone.

CIP Code Structure

A CIP code is a six-digit code, made up of three groupings of two digits. The first two digits define the most general grouping of related programs (call the CIP area). For example, all CIP codes that start with 26 are in the broad area called “Biological and Biomedical Sciences”. The second two digits represent sub-areas within the two-digit sequence. For example, under the CIP code 26 are 26.01 (Biology), 26.02 (Biochemistry), and 26.03 (Botany). The full six-digit code represents a specific academic program. For example, 26.0205 is the CIP code for Molecular Biochemistry.

Initial Assignment of CIP Codes

The appropriate CIP code is assigned to an academic program when it is created, based on the curriculum as approved by UW-Madison governance (degree/majors and certificates) and the Board of Regents (degree/majors only).  For new academic programs, the appropriate CIP code is determined by the vice provost for Academic Affairs in consultation with the academic program faculty. The CIP code is recorded as an attribute of an academic program (degree/major or certificate) in the student information system and in UW System records. Sub-plans (named options) are not assigned CIP codes; they are included under the CIP code of the parent program.

Changes to CIP codes must be approved through UW-Madison governance and by UW System Administration.  Although CIP codes are mostly invisible to students and faculty, they are important administratively for federal financial aid, considerations related to visas for international students, and for federal reporting.

Proposals for Changes to CIP Code Assignments

CIP code changes are only made effective starting in a fall term to ensure that there is no disruption to student financial aid disbursement, international student visa considerations, and associated federal reporting requirements

To change a CIP code, a Lumen Structures proposal must be filled out. In the Lumen Knowledgebase for Lumen Structures, there is a form that will require the following information:

  1. The current CIP code and its official description,
  2. The proposed CIP code and its official description,
  3. The rationale/justification for how the proposed CIP code is a better description for the degree/major than the current assignment, (The most common reason is because the curriculum and/or the learning outcomes have changed from the time of the original approval and it is an essential consideration in any CIP code assignment. Despite any external motivations or benefits for a change in CIP code the CIP code must accurately represent the program learning outcomes and curriculum, and stand up to any scrutiny by internal or external audiences)
  4. Information demonstrating that the CIP code change will not have adverse impacts on students, and
  5. Memos of support or concurrence from closely related programs, if relevant.

The proposal should be approved by the program faculty and the school/college dean’s office and/or APC.

Dean’s offices should submit the proposal to Allison La Tarte (, Interim Vice Provost for Academic Affairs, who will arrange for UAPC and UW System consideration for approval. If curricular changes are necessary before the change in CIP code can be considered, proceed with the curricular changes first, and then submit a proposal for a CIP code change.

Resource Documents

CIP Code Assignments at UW-Madison (Tableau Visualization)

The Federal Classification of Instructional Programs (CIP) Taxonomy and APIR’s Principles of CIP Code Assignment to Academic Programs.

Keywords:CIP, federal, description, code   Doc ID:110521
Owner:Karen M.Group:Academic Planning
Created:2021-04-26 13:54 CDTUpdated:2022-02-03 15:30 CDT
Sites:Academic Planning
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