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Transforming National Student Clearinghouse Data to Measure and Improve College Outcomes

Published: May 1, 2021 

Transforming National Student Clearinghouse Data to Measure and Improve College Outcomes 

When preparing high schoolers for their college journeys, counselors, administrators, and faculty face a daunting task that is complex for each student. From college preparation programs to student needs, interests, and goals, each student’s journey to and throughout college is unique. 

With rising awareness of systemic inequalities and systems of oppression across America, it’s important to have the right tools to measure overall student outcomes, identify equity gaps, understand which college preparation and support programs are most effective, and guide each student to their individualized path for success. Thankfully, we have National Student Clearinghouse StudentTracker Data to help follow each student’s higher education journey. 

Counselors and school districts want to enrich every student’s college decision process, but limited time and resources make finding the right fit for students difficult. Additionally, schools and community-based organizations struggle to understand what the data means and lack the time and expertise to contextualize the information and find actionable insights for improving student success and academic standing. 

Outdated data analyses within schools and districts creates a challenge for everyone, including educators who don’t have the right information to construct a clear idea about what happens to their students after high school graduation. 

How you can improve college outcomes with educational big data 

Simply put, “Big Data” describes a large volume of data — structured and unstructured — that floods databases and organizations on a daily basis. From user behavior on websites to text messages on your phone, every single point of activity on technology creates this big data. Because this volume of data is so large, fast, or complex, it’s difficult (or impossible) to process using traditional analytical methods. And while the process of storing and accessing large amounts of data for analytics has been around for a long time, big data really gained momentum in the early 2000s. 

Big data isn’t exclusive to one industry or niche. Students and educational systems have been creating big data systems and dashboards to arm educators with the tools to improve and succeed. By analyzing educational data for insights and trends counselors, high schools, and districts can make more strategic decisions with a bigger impact in the right direction. This big data can allow high school advisors to track student progress throughout college journeys, build awareness of when to intervene, and identify long-term trends over time. From assessing the impact of your own college preparation programs to evaluating the support systems at different universities for low-income, first-generation, or other marginalized groups, you can gain significant insights that can be used to improve future student experiences. 

For colleges and educational institutions leveraging the power of predictive analysis and machine learning to support college outcomes, advisors have identified new risk factors that come with remote learning to drive proactive support actions. Having streamlined data transformation and artificial intelligence can give you and your student-facing teams more time to focus on high-impact activities, while still getting the data and insights needed to guide students toward their best post-secondary outcome. Every student’s college journey and experience will look different, and it’s our goal to support each individual student. 

But with hundreds, sometimes thousands, of students graduating from your school each year, how can you best understand each student’s circumstances, needs, and goals? 

Many high school institutions across the U.S. use data visualization tools to centralize all student information. That means you can easily find student-level data, or zoom out and analyze overarching, long-term trends. Technology can speed up and simplify this data analysis, leaving advisors time to focus their efforts on what they do best – building relationships with students and facilitating successful college outcomes. 

What is the National Student Clearinghouse? 

A non-profit founded in the 1990s by members of the higher education community, the National Student Clearinghouse (NSC) manages student data reporting and exchange to strengthen educational systems and empower students across the country, regardless of academic goals. 

National Student Clearinghouse StudentTracker 

National Student Clearinghouse’s StudentTracker is a nationwide source of college enrollment and degree data for 3,600 technical, two-year and four-year colleges and universities, which captures over 99% of all students in public and private U.S. institutions. NSC’s StudentTracker data is updated multiple times each term with data points across thousands of college students, ensuring the most current and accurate student information. Educational organizations can use NSC reports and data to study higher education patterns of their students as they attend institutions across the nation. This allows research beyond the limitations of local and state data resources. 

Using GuidEd Insight to improve postsecondary outcomes 

Understanding college enrollment, persistence, and completion outcomes by program, school, district, and student demographics is paramount for improving postsecondary outcomes for all your students. GuidEd Insight makes the complex StudentTracker dataset from the National Student Clearinghouse easy to understand with standardized metrics and customized reporting that takes seconds to generate instead of days. It helps you pay attention to what matters to help ensure equitable access to opportunity for each and every student, and to get actionable data into the hands of high school and community-based advisors and administrators who support students. 

When analyzing and visualizing college enrollment, persistence and completion for your own students compared to national benchmarks, you can leverage this insight for many purposes, like the ability to: 

Proactively support at-risk students 

Improve college enrollment rates by identifying which groups of your students have enrolled in college at lower rates or have been historically at-risk for Summer Melt. Reach out to at-risk students to proactively offer support (e.g., navigating financial aid verification processes and other administrative hurdles over the summer). In addition, teams can plan ahead and develop strategies for improved student outcomes. 

Follow persistence and completion outcomes 

Use student enrollment data to track college journeys beyond the summer and fall after high school graduation. Advisors can periodically check in on student enrollment and degree status and get real-time insight into when students need an extra nudge or haven’t enrolled in their next term. With granular insight into student journeys, advisors and educators can compare college enrollment, persistence, and completion outcomes using research-based, standardized metrics. In addition, you can view datasets based on your desired metrics, student demographics, program participation, and college characteristics. This means you can measure successful student outcomes by school, program or enrolled college, or aggregate and track big picture trends that determine the likelihood of specific outcomes for different students. 

Gain insight into your college preparation program impact 

With program-related data (e.g., AP/IB, AVID, Gear Up, FAFSA completion, etc.) integrated with long-term reports of student performance, counselors and high school districts can see which programs and student activities are linked with higher college enrollment, persistence and completion rates, and assess what programs need improvement. From there, you can work toward improving equity in impactful programs, directing students toward the more effective programs and preparation activities, while strengthening or improving your lower-performing programs. You can benchmark your current program impact, and work toward hitting Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) around your objectives and goals. 

Next Steps to improve your student outcomes 

You can actively play a role in improving your students’ college outcomes every single day, and now’s the time to engage. The systems and processes to support high school seniors to college degrees have been built and proven to be successful. 

By integrating National Student Clearinghouse data reports with student demographic and program participation data you already have in your student information system, you can support each student where they need it most and take an active role in improving your college outcomes. 

Not only can you empower your students to thrive in post-secondary education, but you can also see into each student’s progress and persistence with strategic analysis and insights from educational data. Access beautifully visualized data and reporting capabilities to develop actionable insights based on research-based metrics. This is the best way to ensure that your long-term efforts and student progress are measurable and accompanied by concrete action plans. 

The GuidEd Insight team has over 30 years of combined experience working with “big data,” StudentTracker data, and student information systems. To find out how GuidEd Insight can help you utilize NSC StudentTracker data and your own student data to visualize student outcomes and best support your students, reach out to us today. 

Jake Fournier, M.S.MWRITTEN BY

Jake Fournier, M.S.M.


With a passion for bringing customer-focused software solutions from inception to success, Jake leads the GuidEd Insight software product…

Learn more about Jake