Yes, A Federal Postsecondary Student-Level Data Network is Possible. Here’s How.

Published Oct 18, 2017

by: Karen Bussey

High-quality postsecondary data is essential for understanding student outcomes and identifying inequities within our higher education system. Accurate and complete data can empower college choices, promote student success, and inform federal, state, and institutional policies. Yet our existing postsecondary data are disconnected, duplicative, and incomplete. A federal postsecondary student-level data network (SLDN) can change that.

Mid-2016, IHEP began exploring pathways for strengthening our postsecondary data infrastructure. An expert advisory committee helped us tackle critical questions about the design, development, and maintenance of postsecondary data systems.

The new policy brief released today, A Blueprint for Better Information: Recommendations for a Federal Postsecondary Student-Level Data Network, outlines the necessary considerations for creating a network that secures data, protects student privacy, and provides students, institutions, and policymakers, with the knowledge they need to make informed decisions. Creating a federal SLDN would streamline the way institutions report data to the federal government, while increasing the quality and usability of the resulting information for all stakeholders.

The policy brief details the technical, governance, and capacity requirements for an SLDN within three key categories: Operations & Capacity, Data Governance, and Privacy & Security. It also answers basic questions about what a federal SLDN would look like, where it would operate, who would submit data, who would have access to the data, and who would govern the overall system.

Federal policymakers are increasingly recognizing that improving our national postsecondary data infrastructure is necessary to effectively steward taxpayer-funded investments in higher education and drive evidence-based policymaking. A Blueprint for Better Information urges policymakers to enact legislation authorizing the creation of an SLDN because, ultimately, equity will remain elusive until useful information is in the hands of decision-makers.

View the PDF to read the full report.