Guest presenter:

  • Bill DeBaun, Director of Data and Evaluation, National College Attainment Network

FCAN host:  Kathy McDonald, Assistant Director for Network Partnerships

On January 27, FCAN hosted a webinar highlighting some of the tools and resources available to schools, districts, and community organizations for measuring where their students go after high school.

The webinar also outlined some of the ways these data can be leveraged to better understand students’ postsecondary choices, which could lead to updated college and career advising strategies and better outcomes

In a poll of webinar attendees, 43% said their biggest hurdle for tracking postsecondary outcomes is not knowing where to find the data they need.

“There’s a lot of confusion about what is available out there in terms of understanding students’ postsecondary pathways,” said Bill DeBaun, director of data and evaluation for National College Attainment Network.

Four Pathways to Measuring Postsecondary Outcomes

Regardless of the method they use, DeBaun said schools and districts should be proactive in gathering postsecondary data about their students. One suggestion is to administer a “postsecondary intentions” survey to high schoolers at the start of every year beginning in 9th grade to better examine the trajectory of students’ aspirations after high school.

DeBaun shared information about four ways — including surveys — to measure outcomes for students after high school, along with pros and cons for each:

Student Surveys

  • Pros: Inexpensive; easily adapted to local context/school needs; and relatively easy to build out and analyze
  • Cons: Time intensive (staff time, time to administer, time to analyze); less scientific/reliable; and prone to sampling bias

Direct Relationships with Institutions

  • Pros: Low cost; helps build relationships with institutions; and once MOU/DSA (Memorandum of Understanding with the Designated State Agency) is established, it should be easy to get data.
  • Cons: Doesn’t scale well; incomplete picture of graduating class; and lots of legalese

State Data Portals

  • Pros: Usually free; staff often available for research requests; aligned with state accountability models
  • Cons: Vary widely in functionality from state to state; sometimes only school-level data is available; data lags; and often omits enrollments to private institutions

National Student Clearinghouse (NSC) StudentTracker

  • Pros: Most comprehensive college enrollment data available; comes with a packet of pre-constructed reports; timely, flexible, and longitudinal
  • Cons: More expensive than other three options ($595 per year/per high school); steep learning curve; not really “plug and play”

Get to Know: NSC StudentTracker

The National Student Clearinghouse is a nonprofit serving more than 3,600 colleges and universities which enroll over 98% of all students in public and private U.S. institutions.

The NSC collects enrollment and completion data from all these schools, and its StudentTracker service allows high schools and education outreach organizations to obtain data about postsecondary outcomes.

DeBaun also spotlighted tools like GuidEd Insight, which helps users interpret the information from StudentTraker since most districts are not staffed with large data departments.

He suggests schools and districts examine fall enrollment for their most recent graduating class, previous classes’ persistence patterns, Top 25 institutions attended, and outcomes by student demographics.

“Most districts have a good sense of where their students are going but being able to quantify those matriculation patterns can be extremely valuable,” DeBaun said.

Leveraging Postsecondary Outcome Data

DeBaun reiterated that schools and districts should focus on the postsecondary outcome data they can collect and build from there — as opposed to the questions they can’t get answers to.

He also noted that the NSC StudentTraker provides data for up to eight high school graduating classes. That allows schools and districts to know where their students are going, how successful they are once they get there, and how those outcomes vary by student demographics.

“We don’t want to say, ‘Well the Class of 2021 is gone, there’s not a lot we can do to help them now,’” DeBaun said. “In fact, you can use data from ’21, ’20, ‘19 all the way down to inform advising for future classes, imagining they are substantially similar in a lot of ways.”

Show Notes

To learn more about tracking postsecondary outcomes for students — or to view the recording and download the presentation — take advantage of these resources:


Be sure to visit our Past Webinars page for access to recordings and downloadable material from FCAN’s previous presentations.

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