Working With Our Data

The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center strives to comprehensively document the nature and scope of Clearinghouse education data, while identifying processes that can enhance the ability of researchers, educators, and policymakers to leverage the data for informed decision-making. The documents and tables that appear on this site represent the findings of these efforts. We hope they address many of the questions that researchers have regarding Clearinghouse data.

If you would like to suggest additional analyses, or have suggestions for other content that would be helpful for the research community, please submit your ideas via our contact form.

Much of the documentation on this site was originally made possible by a grant from the Lumina Foundation. Lumina Foundation, an Indianapolis-based private foundation, is committed to enrolling and graduating more students from college — especially 21st century students: low-income students, students of color, first-generation students, and adult learners. Lumina’s goal is to increase the percentage of Americans who hold high-quality degrees and credentials to 60 percent by 2025. Lumina pursues this goal in three ways: by identifying and supporting effective practice, through public policy advocacy, and by using our communications and convening power to build public will for change. For more information, log on to www.luminafoundation.org.

The National Student Clearinghouse as an Integral Part of the National Postsecondary Data Infrastructure

In this paper we describe in detail the existing content, value, uses and costs of the National Student Clearinghouse system as a component of the national postsecondary data infrastructure. We also describe some limitations to its use related to the data’s ownership and the agreements that govern its use. In this paper, we recommend an incremental approach rather than a new data collection system or a change in policy, regulation, or legislation. The data and the infrastructure we recommend already exist. We also suggest four paths to making better use of this comprehensive national resource to meet the needs of policy, accountability, research, and consumer information audiences.

PDF  NSC as an Integral Part of the National Postsecondary Data Infrastructure

NOTE: “The National Student Clearinghouse as an Integral Part of the National Postsecondary Data Infrastructure” paper was released on May 18, 2016, as part of the “Envisioning the National Postsecondary Data Infrastructure in the 21st Century” series.

Using StudentTracker® for High Schools Reports: Considerations for Measuring the College Enrollment Rates of High School Graduates

Thousands of high schools currently use StudentTracker® reports from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center to measure how many of their graduates go on to college, where, and how many persist to graduation. The reports were designed to help schools to measure their success in preparing students for college, and to evaluate the effectiveness of college access programs and curricula. Increasingly, the results are also being used to inform accountability metrics for schools, districts and states concerned about the performance of secondary schools. In many cases, these metrics are published without fully explaining the source and nature of the data and its limitations.

As the most comprehensive source of national student-level college enrollment data, the Clearinghouse is committed to providing transparency regarding the quality, reliability and accuracy of its data, and of the reports that can be derived from it. Our belief is that the more our data users understand about the data, the better equipped they will be to use it wisely. This document is intended to inform high schools and districts about what to expect from National Student Clearinghouse data accessed through StudentTracker reports.

PDF Considerations in Using StudentTracker for High Schools Reports

Coverage

The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center has analyzed the Clearinghouse’s coverage of enrollments at all postsecondary, Title IV, degree-granting institutions. The resulting workbook contains detailed coverage calculations by state, sector and level of institution, resulting in 5,670 data points. It is based on historical IPEDS institutional characteristics, and therefore captures any changes in institutional sectors and levels that occurred during the years included (2003-04 to present). The data are being provided in an Excel format for the convenience of researchers who would like to make coverage-based adjustments in studies that use longitudinal Clearinghouse data.

XLS Enrollment Coverage Workbook

Data Elements

Since the 2008-09 academic year, the Clearinghouse has provided its participating institutions with the option to include thirteen additional data elements in their enrollment submissions. These additional data elements help make Clearinghouse data more comprehensive and enable StudentTracker participants to utilize a more robust data set. Since it is optional for institutions to report these elements, institutions and researchers may find it helpful to know how frequently these elements have been reported. This document provides this information for the last five academic years, disaggregated by institutional sector.

PDF Reporting of NSC Additional Data Elements

Student gender is currently an optional data element in Clearinghouse Enrollment Reporting, but it is important for a variety of research projects. In order to make use of gender for research projects, the Research Center has developed the gender imputation process described in the following PDF. Using this process, the Research Center is able to obtain gender for over 91 percent of enrollment records.

PDF Gender Imputation

FERPA Implications for Researchers

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a federal law that protects the privacy of student education records. As a result of FERPA, parents and eligible students may request that an institution not disclose directory information about them. It is important for users of the StudentTracker detail report to understand how frequently directory information is blocked, and whether it is blocked consistently across geographical regions, institutional sectors, and student demographics. The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center found that the national directory information block rate was 4.29 percent (average for three selected years), with a great deal of variation among states and across institutional sectors. The report below includes a high-level overview followed by an appendix containing detailed state-level results tables.

PDF Impact of Directory Information Blocks on StudentTracker Results

Notes from the Field

Researchers Talk About Using Clearinghouse Data

Our goal is to provide a venue to encourage the sharing of lessons learned about using our data in research, and also to offer greater transparency about the strengths and weaknesses of the data. We hope this helps researchers to become better informed when using our data for policy analysis and academic research.

We are particularly grateful to the researchers below for their valuable contributions, which help us to better understand how our data are being used in the field and help other researchers to use it more effectively. We are always open to feedback and will continue to post reports by others discussing Clearinghouse data.

2013 The Missing Manual – Using National Student Clearinghouse Data to Track Postsecondary Outcomes: Paper by Dynarski, Hemelt, and Hyman discussing potential impact of coverage and FERPA blocks on results Reports | Notes
2010 Letter to Colleagues: Observations on the Use of Clearinghouse Data for Research Purposes by Sara Goldrick-Rab and Douglas N. Harris, University of Wisconsin-Madison Reports | Notes
2010 College Graduation Rates: Behind the Numbers by ACE Reports | Notes
2008 Creating State-Level Degree Completion Rates from a National Database: Results of an Exploratory Analysis by NCHEMS Reports | Notes

CIP Code Lookup Table

This lookup table allows StudentTracker users to easily assign a standardized Classification of Instructional Program code to the free-text course of study descriptions reported to the Clearinghouse through its DegreeVerify service. This mapping of free-text course of study descriptions to CIP codes is based on the same logic used by the NSC Research Center in its own research projects. In the lookup table, each unique course of study description is associated with the single CIP code under which it most frequently appears in postsecondary institutions’ data submissions to the Clearinghouse. The lookup table is available in both Excel and tab-delimited text formats.

icon_csv CIP Code Lookup Table

icon_xls CIP Code Lookup Table

Credential Level Lookup Table

This lookup table allows StudentTracker users to easily assign a standardized credential level (certificate, associate, bachelor’s, etc.) to the free-text degree titles reported to the Clearinghouse through its DegreeVerify service. This mapping of free-text degree titles to standardized credential levels is based on the degree levels reported by institutions when available, and invokes text-parsing logic used by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center in its own research projects for cases where institutions did not explicitly report a degree level. The lookup table is available in both Excel and tab-delimited text formats.

icon_csv Credential Level Lookup Table
icon_xls Credential Level Lookup Table

Clearinghouse School Code to IPEDS Unit-ID Crosswalk Table

This table provides a crosswalk from the College codes used in the StudentTracker detail file to IPEDS unit ID’s. Every college and branch code combination ever used in the National Student Clearinghouse system are contained once (and only once) in this table. Each of the college and branch code combinations are mapped to IPEDS unit ID’s where possible. Multiple Clearinghouse college codes may map to the same IPEDS unit-ID. Also, some Clearinghouse college codes do not map to any IPEDS unit-ID.

icon_xls Clearinghouse School Code to IPEDS Unit-ID Crosswalk Table