News & Events / The Continued Need for a Nationwide SLDN: Brief Outlines How Using Existing Tools Can Inform a Modernized Approach to Higher Ed Data

The Continued Need for a Nationwide SLDN: Brief Outlines How Using Existing Tools Can Inform a Modernized Approach to Higher Ed Data

Published Jun 15, 2022

Posted on June 15, 2022

Experts from AEM and IHEP look ahead to an improved postsecondary data system with insights on how the Common Education Data Standards (CEDS) can serve as a framework – including 90% of the elements needed for an SLDN – for better data on college and workforce outcomes

WASHINGTON, DC (June 15, 2022) – As the summer semester gets underway for students across the country and millions more prepare to begin or continue their postsecondary journey this fall, data experts are working to ensure students – and their families and policymakers at all levels – can make informed decisions to promote valuable postsecondary outcomes and a stronger workforce. As support continues to grow across the country and across the political spectrum for the federal student-level data network (SLDN) proposed in the College Transparency Act (CTA), experts at AEM Education Services (AEM) and the Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP), with input from RTI International (RTI), are building out a roadmap to support its implementation. An impressive number of co-sponsors – 36 Senators and 74 Representatives – agree that students, families, and policymakers at all levels need and deserve to have the high-quality information to make fully informed decisions about one of the most important investments of time and money individuals and families can ever make, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) will be tasked with building the SLDN.

A brief released today examines how the vocabulary, data models, and more than 550 postsecondary-specific elements already in the Common Education Data Standards (CEDS) can streamline implementation of an SLDN, which would bridge the current gaps in data that currently exclude countless students and their outcomes from higher education decision-making. Frameworks for a Federal Student-Level Data Network: Considerations for Using the Common Education Data Standards (CEDS) builds on other research to facilitate the implementation of an SLDN that would finally deliver accurate, complete, and timely data on enrollment, completion, and post-college outcomes while staunchly protecting student privacy.

“We have seen the advances possible in K-12 data systems because of widespread adoption of CEDS. It has led to states working together and sharing resources to improve data management and data use in ways that aren’t possible on their own,” said Nancy Copa, CEDS Project Director. “As the basis for the SLDN, there’s undoubtedly an opportunity for CEDS to enable the same benefits for postsecondary institutions.”

“Better data and efficient data systems are critical to building a more inclusive, responsive, effective, and equitable postsecondary education system,” said Amanda Janice Roberson, director of research and policy at IHEP which leads the Postsecondary Data Collaborative. “There are 48 reasons to use CEDS as a model to make such improvements, namely the 48 elements that are already defined in CEDS of the 53 elements needed for an SLDN. Using these to inform NCES once the College Transparency Act is enacted would ensure efficient implementation and, in turn, yield better data for everyone from students and families to institutions and other policymakers.”

In April 2021, the bipartisan, bicameral College Transparency Act (CTA) was reintroduced in the House and Senate. The bill has retained impressive support, with a diverse array of more than 160 organizations across the country urging Congress to pass it. Under this proposed legislation, implementation of an SLDN would fall to ED’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Today’s brief provides an overview of CEDS, shares how CEDS resources meet data system, research, and policy analysis needs, and underscores how CEDS and its associated tools can help to facilitate the implementation of a system that will close the existing gaps in our postsecondary data system.

The findings in this brief align with a series of convenings that RTI and IHEP have hosted over the past two years with experts across the field of higher education to support the modernization of the nation’s postsecondary data system. To date, recommendations from those convenings have addressed measures and underlying data elements addressed in proposed legislation, institutional views on data submission, and financial aid.


About the Institute for Higher Education Policy

The Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit research, policy, and advocacy organization committed to promoting postsecondary access and success for all students, regardless of race, background, or circumstance. Established in 1993, IHEP provides timely, evidence-based, and student-centered research to inform policy decisions and address our nation’s most pressing education challenges. Visit to learn more about IHEP’s research, leadership, and experts.

About AEM Education Services

AEM Education Services has advanced data and interoperability standards for the past ten years. Our staff support data systems and use across the early childhood to postsecondary ecosystem, working with partners at the federal, state, and district level, as well as a coalition of universities, nonprofits, and national standards bodies. Learn more at