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Strong Foundations 2016 (John Armstrong and Christina Whitfield, authors) addresses two key questions about postsecondary student unit record data systems (PSURSs): What data are collected by various parties, and how do these entities use the data to inform policy decisions? This 2016 report is both a follow-up and a redesign of two previous Strong Foundations reports by SHEEO (2010 and 2012) with added emphasis on data utilization and student success.
The report finds that PSURSs have expanded since 2010 both in terms of the number of data elements collected and in terms of the number of linkages to other data systems. In particular, connections between postsecondary and workforce data systems have expanded dramatically, from 23 agencies of higher education in 2010 to 47 in this latest survey. This reflects growing interest in the post-college outcomes of postsecondary students. Many states accomplish these linkages through a data warehouse; 26 states responded that a P-20W warehouse (a repository for K-12, postsecondary and workforce data) is used in their state, up from eight in 2010. However, despite these advances, many states struggle to collect information on students attending independent and proprietary institutions for research and analysis.
Beyond describing the content of PSURSs, this report emphasizes effective use of postsecondary data and the increasing prevalence and importance of linkages between postsecondary, K-12, and workforce data. Strong Foundations 2016 addresses themes of particular importance in the current postsecondary education environment: performance funding, employment outcomes, remediation, and completions. The report highlights use cases in which PSURSs are used to promote student success. The report also explores necessary conditions for effective use of PSURSs: ensuring data privacy and security, addressing perceived barriers, and promoting sustainability of these systems. The Strong Foundations 2016 conclusion offers recommendations for further promotion of effective use.