SHEEO and National Student Clearinghouse Research Center to Quantify Impact of College Closure on Student Persistence and Completion

The State Higher Education Executive Officers Association (SHEEO) and the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, with generous funding provided by Arnold Ventures, are undertaking a new multiyear research endeavor to quantify the impacts of college closure on student persistence and completion.

According to a recent analysis by the Chronicle of Higher Education, even before the pandemic, over the previous five years, an average of 20 campuses closed each month, leaving around 500,000 students (mostly working adults, low-income students, and students of color) affected.1 Yet, little is known about what happens to students after a campus closes.

Over the next two years, leveraging a newly constructed student-level longitudinal dataset that the Clearinghouse holds on behalf of colleges, SHEEO and the Research Center will use descriptive analyses, advanced data visualization techniques, and quasi-experimental research designs to examine what happens to students post-closure. Rigorously and thoroughly quantifying the impacts of college closure on subsequent postsecondary outcomes will inform what has been a contentious policy debate around appropriate regulatory action meant to prevent, prepare for, and respond to college closures in a pandemic where more closures are expected to occur.

This work will result in a number of publicly available deliverables, including three published reports that examine the impacts of college closures on student outcomes in detail and a website devoted to the project that will house interactive data visualizations and aggregated data to download. All the research generated by this work will be widely shared with our various members, partners, and higher education stakeholders.

“Many higher education institutions find themselves at a crossroads in the wake of the financial calamities caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Though we’ve hoped all will make it through unscathed, a handful of campuses have already shut their doors,” said SHEEO President Rob Anderson. “If more closures are, in fact, coming, it’s important for researchers, higher education leaders, and policymakers to understand the ramifications of these closures on students. Knowing precisely what occurs post-closure and what state and federal policies might do to mitigate the effects on students is imperative.”

“While SHEEO has undertaken and facilitated a number of original research projects in recent months, I’m happy to announce that the college closures work is the first official project housed within our Center for State Higher Education Policy Research,” said David Tandberg, SHEEO vice president for policy research and strategic initiatives. “It is our hope that the center will provide our members and the larger higher education community with actionable and evidence-based policy recommendations that can equitably increase student success. As we undertake this work, we could not ask for a better partner than the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. Their expertise, commitment to data-informed decision-making, and passion for higher education policies and programs are aligned with our own. I look forward to seeing this collaboration and project bear fruit in the coming months.”

“The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center and SHEEO will examine many questions,” said Doug Shapiro, executive director of the Research Center. “Do students disengage from higher education entirely? Do they stop out only to return later? Do they enroll at a different institution and, if so, what type of institution? Do they earn a credential and, if so, what happens to their time to degree?

“How do the answers to these questions vary by the student demographics available in the NSC data? We’re not only going to have descriptive answers, but also we’re going to have causal estimates of their impact that will help policymakers and researchers.”


The State Higher Education Executive Officers Association (SHEEO) 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. For more information, visit

About the National Student Clearinghouse® Research Center™

The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center is the research arm of the National Student Clearinghouse. The Research Center collaborates with higher education institutions, states, school districts, high schools, and educational organizations as part of a national effort to better inform education leaders and policymakers. Through accurate longitudinal data outcomes reporting, the Research Center enables better educational policy decisions leading to improved student outcomes.

The Research Center analyzes the data from 3,600 postsecondary institutions, which represent 97% of the nation’s postsecondary enrollments in Title IV degree-granting institutions in the U.S., as of 2018. Clearinghouse data track enrollments nationally and are not limited by institutional and state boundaries. To learn more, visit

1Vasquez, M., & Bauman, D. (2019). How America’s college-closure crisis leaves families devasted. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from