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Much of the documentation on this site was originally made possible by a grant from the Lumina Foundation.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 communications and convening power to build public will for change.

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 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.

Data Coverage

The Research Center presents the Clearinghouse’s coverage of enrollments at all Title IV eligible degree-granting institutions. The resulting workbook contains detailed coverage calculations by state, sector, and level of institution. It is based on historical IPEDS institutional characteristics data and the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education and therefore captures any changes in institutional sectors and levels that occurred during the years included (2017 to present). Coverage workbook for prior years (2003-2016) does not include the new information as described below.

New to the coverage table this year is a refined definition of four-year institutions that breaks out Primarily Associate Degree Granting Baccalaureate Institutions (PABs) into a separate category. 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 2003-2016 (March 2022)

XLS  Enrollment Coverage 2017-2022 (April 2023)

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 the most up-to-date data coverage of the additional data elements, disaggregated by institutional sector.

PDF  Reporting of NSC Additional Data Elements (July 2023)

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 (March 2013)

Lookup Tables

Clearinghouse School Code to IPEDS Unit-ID Crosswalk Table

This crosswalk table provides a general guideline for mapping between the 8-digit postsecondary institution codes in the Clearinghouse’s database and the 6-digit IPEDS unit IDs. Every postsecondary institution and branch code combination ever used in the Clearinghouse to provide a variety of NSC data and research services (e.g., enrollment reporting, transcript services) are contained once (and only once) in this table. Each of the colleges’ main and branch campus code combinations are mapped to IPEDS unit IDs wherever possible. Take note that this general guideline does not always produce a one-on-one matching: Multiple Clearinghouse institution codes may map to a single IPEDS unit ID, while some Clearinghouse institution codes do not map to any IPEDS unit ID as those were created for compliance reporting or administrative purposes.

TAB  Clearinghouse Institution Code to IPEDS Unit-ID Crosswalk Table (April 2023)

Institution Lookup Tables

Our publications often include analyses by institutional characteristics such as whether an institution is primarily online and/or multi-state, primarily associate degree granting baccalaureate institution, or serving a minority student population. The following lookup tables provide lists of institutions identified in the Clearinghouse data that meet the definition of each institution category, the original data source where the categories were derived from, and a recent publication that utilizes the institution category, to illustrate how it could be applied to research studies.

XLS  Primarily Online and Multi-State Institutions (April 2023)
XLS  Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) (May 2023)
XLS  Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs) (July 2022)
XLS  Primarily Associate Degree Granting Baccalaureate Institutions (PABs) (March 2023)

CIP Code Lookup Table

This lookup table allows StudentTracker users to easily assign a standardized Classification of Instructional Program (CIP) 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 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.

TAB  CIP Code Lookup Table
XLS  CIP Code Lookup Table (December 2022)

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 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.

TAB  Credential Level Lookup Table
XLS  Credential Level Lookup Table (April 2023)

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

Thousands of high schools currently use StudentTracker® for High Schools reports from the Research Center to measure how many of their graduates go on to college, where they attend, 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 Clearinghouse data accessed through StudentTracker reports.

PDF  Considerations in Using StudentTracker for High Schools Reports (December 2014)

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 how block rates vary by geographical regions, institutional sectors, and student demographics. The brief PDF below includes a high-level overview of national results and is accompanied by a workbook containing more detailed state-level results tables.

PDF  Impact of Directory Information Blocks on StudentTracker Results (November 2017)
XLS  FERPA Block Rate Details (February 2021)

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.

2020 “Tracking Two-Year College Outcomes: Comparing National Student Clearinghouse and Illinois Community College Board as Sources of Two-Year College Data” by Jenny Nagaoka and Shelby Mahaffie, examines two-year college outcomes of Chicago Public School (CPS) graduates entering two-year postsecondary institutions, and evaluates the strengths and limitations of the data obtained through both StudentTracker data from the National Student Clearinghouse, and from the Illinois Longitudinal Data System (ILDS). Report
2018 Tech Tip posted on the Association for Institutional Research site: Pensacola State has developed a process using the SAS Enterprise Guide to guarantee exact formatting from a CSV file of the applicants to the institution that populates new data, daily. By Eugenio Hernandez, Research Analyst, Institutional Research, Pensacola State College & Michael A. Johnston, Director, Institutional Research, Pensacola State College. Tech Tip
2017 “How to Measure Community College Effectiveness in Serving Transfer Students” by John Fink and Davis Jenkins, provides guidance on how community colleges can use degree and enrollment data from the National Student Clearinghouse to monitor and evaluate transfer student bachelor degree outcomes. Report | Notes

The Missing Manual – Using National Student Clearinghouse Data to Track Postsecondary Outcomes by Dynarski, Hemelt, and Hyman discussing potential impact of coverage and FERPA blocks on results

Note: NSC data coverage rates in “The Missing Manual” are from 2011. For current and historical coverage rates (2003-present) by state and sector, see Data Coverage.

Reports | Notes
2013 The Missing Manual – Using National Student Clearinghouse Data to Track Postsecondary Outcomes 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 Notes
2010 College Graduation Rates: Behind the Numbers by ACE Reports | Notes

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