About

This toolkit serves as a public resource for higher education professionals interested in or already involved in the Postsecondary Data Partnership (PDP). The goal  is to support institutions and systems in the adoption of the PDP by providing technical assistance documents that both complement and expand on the information that is already available on the National Student Clearinghouse’s PDP webpage. This site includes technical briefs on specific PDP topics, data use examples for utilizing the PDP Tableau dashboards and Analysis-Ready File, documents from PDP presentations at national conferences, research utilizing the PDP, and a blog which serves to share and communicate PDP information to the higher education community. The toolkit will be updated on a regular basis with new resources.

Postsecondary Data Partnership

The Postsecondary Data Partnership is a nationwide effort to help colleges and universities gain a fuller picture of student progress and outcomes, meet various reporting requirements, and identify where to focus their resources. The partnership is dedicated to the idea that easier access to better data helps you, the higher education professional, develop actionable insights and make informed decisions to support student success. One of the most significant barriers to improved data gathering and utilization by colleges and universities is the cumbersome process of collecting key data and metrics, then reporting them for multiple voluntary and mandatory data collections. The PDP empowers the nation’s colleges and universities with better data and access to analytics to help institutions realize better outcomes.

Upcoming Live PDP Webinars and Conference Presentations

National Student Clearinghouse – Clearinghouse Academy: Postsecondary Data Partnership: Making the Most of Your Institution’s Data. Join us for a presentation on how your institution’s participation in the Postsecondary Data Partnership can be used to make transformative data-driven decisions around improving outcomes, increasing student success, and closing equity gaps.

        • July 8, 2-3 PM EDT
        • July 14, 1-1:45 PM EDT
        • July 22, 1-1:45 PM EDT
        • July 27, 1-1:45 PM EDT

SHEEO’s Role

As the national association of the chief executives of statewide governing, policy, and coordinating boards of postsecondary education, SHEEO is well positioned to collaborate with the National Student Clearinghouse and higher education organizations in the development and dissemination of PDP support resources. A major goal of this webpage is to increase communication among national initiatives utilizing the PDP to develop common support documents and share best practices. SHEEO staff also participate in PDP informational sessions, including webinars, national conferences, and SHEEO-sponsored convenings. This work is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Contact

Project Contact: Eric Godin, associate vice president

Why the PDP?

Reduced Reporting Burden

One of the greatest benefits of joining the PDP is reduced reporting burden for institutions and systems that participate in multiple national (and regional) initiatives that require data reporting. For example, Achieving the Dream (ATD), Jobs for the Future (JFF), and Complete College America (CCA) are just a few organizations that are working to support their institutional members in adopting the PDP. When institutions join the PDP, the Clearinghouse will then provide the required data to the appropriate initiative (with institutional approval). Therefore, an institution participating in multiple projects now has only one data submission, rather than multiple submissions in various formats.

Easily Access Tableau Dashboards and Data

Currently, the National Student Clearinghouse provides data back to submitting institutions and systems in two formats. The first, Tableau dashboards are available online and do not require an institution to purchase Tableau software. The dashboards highlight an institution’s data based on the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) identified by the Clearinghouse (enrollment, credit accumulation, credit completion, gateway/remedial course completion, persistence/retention, outcome completion, credentials conferred, time to credential, and transfer). An Executive Summary dashboard is also available, which pulls together important data from various KPI dashboards. A Tableau administrator for each institution has the ability to add Tableau users, so that these important data can be shared across the entire campus and different functional offices.

The second format institutions receive data in is through the Analysis-Ready File (ARF), an excel file report (wide file format) where each student’s data is included on a single row, allowing users to easily create descriptive statistics, pivot tables, or utilize the data for more extensive analysis. The ARF is a great next step after reviewing your institution’s Tableau dashboards and identifying areas for further analysis. For example, because the ARF includes student identification information, institutions could identify their cohorts based on localized intervention measures and compare those students to other groups based on the PDP KPI metrics.

Benchmarking

The Clearinghouse is also developing the ability to benchmark within the Tableau dashboards, which will be released in Spring 2020. Benchmarking will be available based on sector by state (2-year public, 4-year public/private), Carnegie Classification, Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU), and Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSI). More information is available on the Clearinghouse website.

Quick Data Turnaround

The Clearinghouse seeks to provide meaningful information back to institutions in a timely manner. This means that institutions will have useable data products (Tableau dashboards and ARF) within a few months of complete data submission. This allows the data to be more actionable, especially for first-year momentum metrics and targeting interventions for students.

Common Data Definitions and Data Language

The PDP data definitions are based on the Institute for Higher Education Policy’s (IHEP) Postsecondary Metrics Framework. IHEP staff reviewed a decade’s worth of data elements and their definitions collected by national, state, and voluntary data collections in an attempt to bring consensus to the field regarding common data elements. The Framework is part of a larger effort for a more inclusive national data infrastructure that enables researchers and policymakers to understand equity and student success better.

Getting Started

The PDP adoption process can be broken down into five key steps, which are highlighted in Figure 1 below. Although the steps can be thought of in terms of a sequential order, a few steps can be done concurrently to speed up the adoption process. For example, while your institution is reviewing the PDP contract, your institutional research staff can start reviewing the data submission guidelines and formatting the submission files so data upload can be performed as soon as all parties have signed the contract. In addition, senior campus staff can begin reviewing the data available through the Tableau dashboards and analysis-ready-file to determine how they want to utilize these tools and how best to integrate this information into campus conversations and decision-making. The end of this page has documents designed to assist an insitutiton with adopting the PDP.

Figure 1: PDP Adoption Process


Learning About the PDP

There are a number of resources available to learn about the PDP. The best place to start is National Student Clearinghouse’s PDP website. The website contains guides for data submission, templates for the cohort and course files, a data dictionary for the analysis-ready file, a glossary of terms, dashboards, video tours, and more. The Clearinghouse Academy has a PDP course and information on upcoming webinar events. If your institution or system is looking for a more personal introduction to the PDP, webinars can be arranged with staff from the Clearinghouse. If your institution is part of a national initiative (e.g., Achieving the Dream, JFF, Complete College America), staff from that initiative can also be included in the webinar to assist with questions.

Signing PDP Contract

Institutions and systems that are able to identify key stakeholders and “PDP champions” are the most successful in streamlining the contract phase of adopting the PDP. During the contract phase, institutions agree to participate in the PDP and also have the ability to approve the release of their data to higher education initiatives, such as Complete College America and Achieving the Dream. Institutions can allow the release of all their data or specific data elements and this agreement can be modified at any time.

Submitting PDP Data

The Clearinghouse has developed very helpful guides and checklists for data submission. PDP submissions include a cohort file, a course file, and an optional financial aid file. The Clearinghouse Academy’s PDP course and the PDP Data Submission Guide are the best places to begin to understand the technical aspects of PDP data submission. In addition, you can reach out to Clearinghouse staff for support at PDPService@studentclearinghouse.org. SHEEO has also developed a number of technical documents, which can viewed in the Submit Data section of this webpage.

Accessing and Using PDP Data

Currently, the Clearinghouse provides data back to submitting institutions and systems in two formats. The first format is with Tableau dashboards, which are available online and do not require an institution to purchase Tableau software. The dashboards highlight an institution’s data based on Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) identified by the Clearinghouse. An Executive Summary dashboard is also available, which pulls together important data from various KPI dashboards. Tutorials of the Tableau dashboards are available online. A Tableau administrator for each institution has the ability to add Tableau users so that these important data can be shared across the entire campus and different functional offices. The Clearinghouse is also developing the ability to benchmark within the Tableau dashboards.

The second format institutions receive data in is through an analysis-ready file (ARF), an Excel file report (wide file format) where each student’s data is included on a single row, allowing users to easily create descriptive statistics, pivot tables, or utilize the data for more extensive analysis. A data dictionary for the file is available online. The ARF is a great next step after reviewing your institution’s Tableau dashboards and identifying areas for further analysis. For example, because the ARF includes student identification information, institutions could identify their cohorts based on localized intervention measures and compare those students to other groups based on the PDP KPI metrics.

Integrating PDP Into Campus Decision-Making Processes

The final, but most meaningful, step in the PDP adoption process is the integration of PDP data into campus conversations and decision-making. Institutions and systems are most successful when decisions about how data is utilized are driven by a chancellor, president, or other key senior leader. A recent report from the American Council of Education, Tools in a Toolbox: Leading Change in Community Colleges, notes that “data provide an entry point, even an excuse, to bring individuals together to cognitively engage in a learning process to identify new institutional practices for improvement” (Lester, 2020 p. iii).[1] In order for data use to be successful, campus administrators must believe that leadership values the data, understands the data, accepts the validity of the data, and is able to act on the data.

[1] Lester, Jaime. (2020). Tools in a toolbox: Leading change in community colleges. American Council on Education.

Helpful Resources for Planning Out an Institution's PDP Adoption

Institutional Self-Assesment for Postsecondary Data Partnership (PDP) Adoption While the amount of time required to submit PDP data varies by institution, on average, it can take up to 40 hours for the first submission. However, much of this time is often spent organizing institutional staff to define specific variables, such as gateway courses or academic preparedness. This Institutional Self-Assessment for Postsecondary Data Partnership (PDP) Adoption was designed to assist institutions during the planning phase of PDP adoption to quickly identify areas that need further attention. It includes questions on the institution’s data systems, reporting and data submissions, and ability to submit data based on PDP defined variables.

Levels of Postsecondary Data Partnership (PDP) Technical Assistance As institutions begin the PDP adoption process, it is important to recognize the level of support they might require, because this will impact staff, technology, and financial resources. One way to think about support is to determine how hands-on it will be. For example, this document highlights five levels of PDP support that begin with the most basic (e.g., reading information) and end with the most dynamic and hands-on assistance (e.g., onsite expert support). In addition, different staff may require various levels of support, depending on their involvement with the PDP. As institutions begin the PDP adoption process, think about your campus needs and the resources you will assign to them.

Data Submission

The documents below were developed to assist institutions in submitting data to the PDP.

PDP Guidance for Senior Level Administrators

Defining Gateway Courses for Data Submission This document was developed to assist institutions and state systems in the Postsecondary Data Partnership (PDP) adoption process by providing an overview of how gateway courses are defined by the higher education community. In an attempt to bring consensus, most data definitions for the PDP are based on the Institute for Higher Education Policy’s (IHEP) Postsecondary Metrics Framework . However, the gateway course variable is one of the few defined individually by institutions and systems. Agreement around the definition of gateway courses is an important step in the PDP adoption process and one that may be the most time-consuming task because it can involve convening senior administrators and committees to reach a consensus.

PDP Technical Briefs Highlighting SAS Code for Data Submitters

Using SAS Software to Prepare PDP File Uploads The objective of this technical brief is to discuss an approach to preparing PDP data collections that consists of formatting both term cohort files and course files using SAS macros. The process used SAS software and macro variables to identify the reporting institution, create additional required identifying fields, and export the files for uploading to the Clearinghouse, using the appropriate file naming conventions. The data preparation approach was employed by a Central Piedmont Community College’s Center for Applied Research (CFAR) analyst during the initial PDP data collection.

Applying Race and Ethnicity Coding to PDP Cohort Files The objective of this technical brief is to discuss an approach to prepare PDP data collections that consists of formatting the race and ethnicity fields in the cohort file. The data preparation approach highlighted in this document was employed by a Central Piedmont Community College’s Center for Applied Research (CFAR) analyst during the PDP data collection and yielded successful participation in the PDP. The process utilized SAS software to: (1) Evaluate race and ethnicity fields in the example institution’s student information system, (2) Recode the race and ethnicity fields to meet PDP requirements, and (3) Add the race and ethnicity fields to the PDP cohort files.

Leveraging Cohort and Course Data to Facilitate Developmental Course Completion Coding The objective of this technical brief is to discuss an approach to preparing developmental course completions data for PDP data submission. The data preparation approach was employed by a Central Piedmont Community College’s Center for Applied Research (CFAR) analyst during the initial PDP data collection. The analyst used the National Student Clearinghouse’s file documentation and sample cohort and course file templates to process files for the cohort and course file extracts.

Using Crosswalks to Facilitate Data Submissions for Gateway Course Requirements and Course Classification of Instructional Program (CIP) Codes The objective of this technical brief is to explain an approach to prepare PDP data collections that includes the development of term cohort files and course files utilizing crosswalks for 1) gateway course requirements, and 2) course Classification of Instructional Program (CIP) codes. The process was developed by a Central Piedmont Community College’s Center for Applied Research (CFAR) analyst to capture information from four PDP participating institutions in North Carolina. The institutions share a common course library (Combined Course Library) and Colleague student information system through the North Carolina Community College System (NCCCS). Crosswalks were developed to bridge the local information found in the Colleague system to the NCCCS information.

Data Use

The documents below were developed to assist institutions in utilizing PDP data, specifically the Tableau dashboards and the Analysis-Ready File (ARF). The Tableau dashboard quick guides were developed by the American Institutes for Research (AIR).

Dashboard Quick Guides - Overview, Executive Summary, Enrollment

Dashboard Tool Overview This quick guide contains general information on using the PDP Tableau dashboard tool. It begins with the general purpose of the dashboards along with a menu of the available suite of dashboards. Next, it provides definitions for KPIs and other important PDP concepts. It then presents information on the student-level filters and dimensions available to refine and disaggregate the dashboards and introduces subgroup gap analysis. Finally, it highlights important considerations to keep in mind when using the dashboards.

Executive Summary Dashboard This quick guide focuses on the executive summary dashboard, which provides a comprehensive summary of KPI metrics and enrollment data.

Enrollment Dashboard This quick guide focuses on the enrollment dashboard which provides 12-month enrollment counts and key characteristics for students enrolling for the first time at an institution by cohort year.

Dashboard Quick Guides - Early Momentum Metrics

Credit Accumulation Rate Dashboard This quick guide focuses on the credit accumulation rate dashboard which provides the proportion of students meeting select credit accumulation thresholds during their first 4 years of enrollment by cohort year.

Credit Completion Ratio Dashboard This quick guide focuses on the credit completion ratio dashboard which provides the proportion of credits that students earned of the credits they attempted during their first year of enrollment by cohort year.

Gateway Course Completion Dashboard This quick guide focuses on the gateway course completion dashboard which provides the proportion of students who completed their required math or English gateway courses in their first year of enrollment by cohort year. It is limited to students who were required to complete math or English gateway courses.

Dashboard Quick Guides - Outcomes Over Time

Outcomes Dashboard This quick guide focuses on the outcomes dashboard which provides completion rates and other outcomes for students by cohort year.

Retention/Persistence Dashboard This quick guide focuses on the retention/persistence dashboard which provides first-to-second-year retention and persistence rates by cohort year.

Retention/Persistence Term-to-Term Dashboard This quick guide focuses on the retention/persistence term-to-term dashboard which provides term-to-term retention and persistence rates by cohort year for the first 2 years of enrollment.

Transfer Dashboard This quick guide focuses on the transfer dashboard which provides student rates of transfer from the cohort institution and other related outcomes, such as credentials earned pre- or post-transfer by cohort year.

Time to Credential/Credentials Conferred Dashboard This quick guide focuses on the time to credential/credentials conferred dashboard which provides the count of credentials awarded along with the average time to completion for credentials awarded by the institution by academic year.

PDP Conference Presentations - Examples of Data Use

Leveraging Analysis Ready File PDP Data for Understanding and Action This presentation by the American Institutes for Research (AIR) highlights how to utilize the PDP’s Analysis-Ready File (ARF) and visualize additional PDP data beyond the Tableau dashboards. In particular, it highlights data for student progression through developmental education and gateway courses, as well as understanding equity gaps.

PDP Blog

Breaking Down Barriers to Data Use with the Postsecondary Data Partnership (PDP)

A recent report from the American Council of Education, Tools in a Toolbox: Leading Change in Community Colleges, notes that “data provide an entry point, even an excuse, to bring individuals together to cognitively engage in a learning process to identify new institutional practices for improvement” (Lester, 2020 p. iii)[1] Of course, this is easier said than done. Each step in the process of transforming data into meaningful, actionable information has potential roadblocks. For example, campus administrators may question the validity of the data, or the way data are analyzed. Faculty may have additional concerns that the data are being used for critical evaluations of their teaching methods and abilities. For transformative data use to be successful, college staff must believe that leadership values the data, understand and accept the validity of the data, and be able to and want to act on the data.

The Postsecondary Data Partnership[2] (PDP) is a response to a call to action for the higher education community to improve the use of data to increase student success and helps address many of the concerns listed above that hinder data use on college campuses. The PDP, managed by the National Student Clearinghouse (Clearinghouse), is a nationwide effort to help individual institutions and state systems gain a fuller picture of student progress and outcomes, meet various reporting requirements, and identify where to focus their resources. The partnership is dedicated to the idea that easier access to better data helps higher education professionals develop actionable insights and make informed decisions to support student success. The PDP helps institutions and states be transformative in their data use in four key areas: (1) It empowers the use of data at the campus and state-level; (2) It helps create a uniform language and understanding of higher education data; (3) It includes data on all students; and (4) It gives senior leaders the information needed to more accurately tackle significant state-level issues, such as educational attainment and equity gaps. These four areas are explained in more detailed below.

First, the PDP empowers institutions with better data and access to analytics through online Tableau dashboards[3] (see Figure 1) and an easy-to-access downloadable analysis file. The Clearinghouse currently has nearly a dozen Key Performance Indicator dashboards that include visualizations for enrollment, gateway course completion, credit accumulation rate, outcomes, retention/persistence, transfer, and time to credential data. These dashboards can be easily filtered by metrics such as enrollment intensity, academic preparedness, race/ethnicity, gender, first-generation status, Pell grant status, and other important variables. A Tableau administrator for each institution has the ability to add dashboard users so that this important data can be shared across the entire campus and different functional offices. These dashboards are available online and do not require an institution to purchase Tableau software. The Clearinghouse is also developing the ability to benchmark within the dashboards. In addition to the dashboards, institutions also receive data through an Analysis-Ready File, an excel file report where each student’s data are included on a single row, allowing users to create descriptive statistics, pivot tables easily, or utilize the data for more extensive analysis. For example, institutions can use PDP data for predictive analytics or create their own cohorts for tracking students based on local institutional initiatives.

Figure 1: Example Executive Summary PDP Tableau Dashboard

Image Source: National Student Clearinghouse, PDP Executive Summary Dashboard Tutorial Video

Second, PDP data definitions are based on the Institute for Higher Education Policy’s (IHEP) Postsecondary Metrics Framework[4]. IHEP staff reviewed a decade’s worth of data elements and their definitions collected by national, state, and voluntary data collections in an attempt to bring consensus to the field regarding common data elements. The Postsecondary Metrics Framework is part of a larger effort for a more inclusive national data infrastructure that enables researchers and policymakers to understand equity and student success better. This work also helps support the validity of data elements and their importance in helping to understand barriers and improve student success.  

Third, the PDP includes data on all students at your institution. Unlike other data collections that only include first-time, full-time students or students entering in the fall, the PDP collects information on every student at your institution, regardless of when they started in the year, their enrollment intensity (full or part-time), or if they are a first-time student in higher education or a transfer. This allows institutions to get a full picture of student progress and success, rather than only a partial view.

Finally, like many institution-wide initiatives, it takes senior leadership advocating for the project to be successful. With early-momentum metrics measuring first-year progression through gateway course completion and credit accumulation, the PDP allows senior executives to more accurately understand the impact of the first year of college and is invaluable to both institutions and state systems as they look to increase educational rates and close equity gaps. State leaders should find this information incredibly useful as they seek to better understand and find ways to improve the success of their students.

Tools in a Toolbox: Leading Change in Community Colleges provides four key takeaways for leading change at community colleges that is also applicable to four-year institutions and other higher education sectors. First, leaders should have an explicit change theory and plan that is clear and provides goals. Implementing the PDP to support data-informed decision making can be one aspect of this plan. Second, leadership should be developed to assist in engaging the entire community. This leadership team can also serve as advocates to the PDP work, promoting its use around campus. Third, data and information should be communicated with the community, an aspect where the PDP excels because it allows anyone (with access) to view data. Finally, the vision for change should be communicated in everyday decisions. The PDP can be this vehicle for data-informed decision making that impacts all areas of campus culture and student support.

To learn more about the PDP, you can contact the Clearinghouse via email at PDPService@studentclearinghouse.org, or reach out to Eric Godin at SHEEO.


[1] Lester, Jaime. (2020). Tools in a toolbox: Leading change in community colleges. American Council on Education.

[2] Postsecondary Data Partnership webpage, National Student Clearinghouse. Available at https://www.studentclearinghouse.org/colleges/pdp/

[3] Video tutorials for the PDP Tableau dashboard’s are available at https://www.studentclearinghouse.org/colleges/pdp/video-tours/

[4] Postsecondary Metrics Framework. Institute for Higher Education Policy. Available at http://www.ihep.org/postsecdata/resources-reports/metrics-framework-technical-guide

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