New Data from SHEEO Strong Foundations 2020 Survey Shows Growth of State Postsecondary Data Systems Over 10 Years

Washington, D.C. – Since 2010, the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association (SHEEO) has conducted a survey of state postsecondary data systems, called Strong Foundations, to better understand the landscape of state postsecondary data. Today, SHEEO released an updated, redesigned State Postsecondary Data website featuring responses from the Strong Foundations 2020 survey.

This new data comes from the fifth and most recent iteration of the survey, marking over a decade of documentation on the content, structure, and effective use of state postsecondary student unit record systems. The Strong Foundations project, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, represents the most comprehensive record of state postsecondary data systems and how they have changed over time.

These systems exist in an increasingly complex postsecondary data environment, one in which the connections between state, federal, and institutional data collections and policy contexts continue to evolve. Over the past ten years, state postsecondary data systems have been greatly influenced by increased linkages to K-12 and workforce data and a growing availability of disaggregated data, allowing states to examine critical transition points in the education pipeline and identify equity gaps in postsecondary systems. They are vital information resources necessary for states to analyze, understand, and improve their systems of postsecondary education.

“Since it was launched a decade ago, the Strong Foundations project has tracked how state postsecondary data systems have become more comprehensive and complex, and how states have used these important information resources to respond to shifting policy priorities,” said Tanya I. Garcia, Pennsylvania’s deputy secretary and commissioner for postsecondary and higher education, and lead author of SHEEO’s 2010 and 2012 Strong Foundations reports. “As states grapple with the health, social justice, and economic crises, state postsecondary data systems will be vital to understanding what happened to Black, Indigenous, Latino, rural, adult, and low-income learners pursuing postsecondary education in their state. Strong Foundations provides a key resource for state policymakers as they use state postsecondary data systems more effectively at this critical juncture.”

“State postsecondary data systems provide policymakers with information that is essential for them to understand the extent to which higher education systems are serving the needs of all students,” said Christina E. Whitfield, senior vice president and chief of staff at SHEEO, “and provide a foundation for developing policies that promote equitable outcomes.”

The update is the first of several Strong Foundations 2020 projects slated for this year. Through summer 2021, SHEEO will release a series of reports analyzing trends and themes in state postsecondary data system growth, how state data systems can be used to promote equity in education, changes in privacy and security protocols, and how researchers access and use information housed in state postsecondary data systems.

Visit the State Postsecondary Data website at to see the latest results and explore how these systems have changed over the last decade.

About the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association (SHEEO)

The State Higher Education Executive Officers Association serves the chief executives of statewide governing, policy, and coordinating boards of postsecondary education and their staffs. Founded in 1954, SHEEO promotes an environment that values higher education and its role in ensuring the equitable education of all Americans, regardless of race/ethnicity, gender, or socioeconomic factors. Together with its members, SHEEO aims to achieve this vision by equipping state higher education executive officers and their staffs with the tools to effectively advance the value of higher education, promoting public policies and academic practices that enable all Americans to achieve success in the 21st century, and serving as an advocate for state higher education leadership.