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The Institute for Higher Education Policy on Wednesday issued a set of recommendations on the nuts and bolts of creating a federal postsecondary student level data system.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers earlier this year introduced the College Transparency Act of 2017 -- legislation that would overturn an existing ban on a federal student level data system. IHEP's policy brief describes how such a data system could be put into effect by connecting various metrics already collected by the federal government, establishing a data governance team to include key interest groups, and protecting the privacy of student information. 

Currently, higher ed institutions report aggregate data on student metrics to various federal entities that often don't connect. Those data systems also for the most part track outcomes for only a limited number of college students -- full-time students enrolling for the first time. Creating a single data system would allow for a more complete picture of postsecondary students and lower reporting burdens for colleges and universities, advocates say. 

“This disjointed infrastructure yields piecemeal and incomplete information,” said Mamie Voight, IHEP's vice president of policy research and a co-author of the policy brief, said in a statement. “By creating a more robust postsecondary data infrastructure, a student-level data network can begin to paint a more complete picture of student outcomes in our postsecondary system.”