25 Years and Counting: National Student Clearinghouse Advances Lifelong Learning

eAIR spoke to Douglas Shapiro, Executive Research Director, National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, about the 25th anniversary for the National Student Clearinghouse and how the organization has contributed to lifelong learning and student success since 1993.

Shapiro-brochure-pic.jpgeAIR: Congratulations on 25 years of service to the K-20 education community! Are there big plans to celebrate this milestone?

Thank you! The National Student Clearinghouse is celebrating 25 years of nonprofit service to education this year and we want to show our appreciation to the higher education community for making it possible. Your participation enables us to provide unique insights regarding students’ educational pathways, transfer outcomes, and academic progress, while simultaneously reducing administrative burdens on postsecondary institutions nationwide. This year, the Clearinghouse has a full schedule of new events – more than 150 -- to share with the education community. More events will be added throughout the year, so make sure you bookmark our events calendar and check back often. Through December 2018, we are also celebrating by giving away monthly prizes in our 25th anniversary sweepstakes, with a grand prize awarded at the end of the year.

eAIR: What was the first service that the National Student Clearinghouse offered, and is it still utilized today?

We started with the free Enrollment Reporting service, which provides an easy way for institutions to offload the burden of reporting enrollment status information on student financial aid recipients to the education finance industry and the Department of Education’s National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS). The service was created by postsecondary institutions and the education finance industry as an alternative to the old paper-based process that, as many will remember, was time-consuming and error-prone. When the new service concluded its original pilot in 1994, it comprised 34 schools, 5 student loan guarantors, and 14 lenders and servicers. Today, it is used by more than 3,600 institutions, representing 97 percent of all the enrollments in Title-IV eligible degree-granting institutions.

eAIR: How have the National Student Clearinghouse offerings evolved over the years?

Building on the success of the Enrollment Reporting service, the Clearinghouse launched what would eventually be called StudentTracker in 1998. Over the years, many other Clearinghouse services evolved to meet new institutional reporting needs, and StudentTracker evolved along with them. For example, the launch of the DegreeVerify service in 2000 and the addition of new data elements to Enrollment Reporting in 2007 both led to expansions of the StudentTracker detail file, giving institutional researchers access to more, and more useful, information. In 2010, the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center was launched and it soon began to develop and publish innovative educational outcome metrics in its annual Signature and Snapshot Reports. These metrics gave the field new ways to look at student progress, and helped lay the foundation for the benchmarking reports that we currently provide to institutions participating in the StudentTracker Premium service, launched in 2017.

eAIR: In what key ways do you believe that the National Student Clearinghouse impacts student success?

The Clearinghouse impacts student success both directly and indirectly. An example of a direct impact is the Reverse Transfer NSC-seal-200.pngplatform, which we made available in 2015. Through Reverse Transfer, four- or two-year institutions can securely send course and grade information to any two-year institution from which a student has transferred. If eligible, the student is then awarded an associate degree. The service is free and directly benefits students by helping them receive the credentials they’ve earned.

Examples of more indirect benefits to students are the insights provided by the publications of our Research Center, as well as by the data and reports available through StudentTracker. Institutional leaders use the Research Center’s published outcome metrics to craft transfer and admission policies that better account for the enrollment patterns of today’s highly mobile, post-traditional college students, even when they stop out, change sectors and transfer across state lines. Enrollment managers use StudentTracker to better understand the interests of prospective students, by learning where former applicants actually enrolled and what they ultimately chose to study. Institutional researchers use StudentTracker to better understand how well their institution is preparing students for further study, whether through transfer outcomes or subsequent enrollment and degrees in graduate programs. These insights mean that institutions can more clearly recognize student needs, and better see how to craft programs and policies that promote greater student success.

eAIR: How do you see the National Student Clearinghouse expanding and transforming over the next five to ten years?

Our roadmap for the next five to ten years will be guided by our mission and vision. The mission of the National Student Clearinghouse is to serve the education and workforce communities and all learners with access to trusted data, related services, and insights. And our vision is to be a premier resource in serving and supporting the opportunities created by lifelong learning. Pillars for future Clearinghouse research services include:

  • The Postsecondary Data Partnership – A nationwide initiative to help colleges and universities more efficiently gain a fuller picture of student progress and outcomes, meet various reporting requirements, and focus more of their resources on using data to help students.

  • Industry Credentials –We recognize that learners’ pathways are vastly different than they were 25 years ago. Industry Credentials is a grant-funded initiative to collect and report Industry Certifications and alternative education attainment, like non-credit courses. Our solution will enable the collection of industry-based credentials in a way that respects the privacy requirements of all parties while helping students, credential providers, and institutions understand the student pathways that lead to success.

  • StudentTracker Premium – As higher education evolves, StudentTracker will evolve with it, in response to the needs of the institutional research community. Interactive data visualizations, new outcome metrics, and more customized benchmarks are likely enhancements for this service. Industry Credentials is also one of the value-added components of this service.

Now in the fall season of our 25th anniversary year, we are more committed than ever to providing high value services that meet the needs of institutions and learners, while also reflecting our ongoing commitment to student privacy.




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