Students, policymakers and institutions all need to have high quality data about how today's students access and pay for higher education - and what contributes to their success. But the data that are available now are woefully inadequate.
We need to improve the national postsecondary data infrastructure
The report thoroughly explores seven options for a national data solution:
- Creating a Federal Student Unit Record Data System (SURDS)
- Expanding, Leveraging, or Linking Government Data Systems
- Improving the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS)
- Linking to Workforce Data Systems
- Linking State Longitudinal Data Systems
- Expanding the National Center for Education Statistics' (NCES') Sample Studies
- Leveraging National Student Clearinghouse Data
Based on feedback from the field, the report also comes to important conclusions, namely that a student-level data system would be the most nimble and comprehensive way to meet various stakeholders' data needs, but the ban on the creation of a federal SURDS provides a current political obstacle. Also, while many identified a unit record solution as the best solution, we must explore alternative solutions that could be executed in its absence - and any viable solution to improving the national postsecondary data infrastructure must carefully address issues of data privacy and security.