Do district and school personnel really know where their students go after high school graduation? Unfortunately, the answer too often is “no” or “not really.”

Actual data about students’ postsecondary enrollment, persistence, and completion outcomes are available via the National Student Clearinghouse’s StudentTracker service. School districts, high schools, and community-based education organizations are all eligible to sign up for an annual StudentTracker subscription. After submitting lists of students (either high school graduates or service recipients), subscribers can get back information on students’ enrollments, including institutions, credits accumulated, and degrees earned, among other data.

The National Student Clearinghouse is a nonprofit repository of postsecondary data covering 97% of students in public and private institutions. More than 3,600 colleges and universities send data to the NSC, and nearly 14,000 high schools subscribe to the StudentTracker service.

A handful of states provide information about in-state enrollments, but unfortunately the nature of these statewide longitudinal data systems varies widely between states.

To better understand postsecondary outcomes and fold those insights back into postsecondary advising, states, districts, schools, and educational organizations serving students should subscribe to this service or potentially take advantage of in-state options.

How does the strategy create more equitable access and opportunities?

The thoughtful use of data has often shone a light on inequitable conditions and created urgency for change. Consider the upward trend in high school graduation rates that resulted in standardizing the reporting of that metric. Increasing access to student-level data on postsecondary outcomes functions similarly.

Too often, states, districts, schools, and practitioners are functioning on assumptions about what happens to students after they graduate from high school. Students’ trajectories can, and do, change following high school graduation. That is especially true when we consider estimates of “summer melt” wherein 10 to 40% of students who have been accepted to and intend to matriculate to an institution never arrive on campus. Further, low-income, first-generation, and students of color are more likely to be impacted by summer melt.

Accessing student-level postsecondary outcomes data, through the StudentTracker service or otherwise, provides concrete insights that can be folded back into postsecondary advising. Key questions like “Where do my students go?”, “How do they do when they get there?”, “Which college-intending students actually matriculate and which melt?” are all actionable. Identifying the gaps illuminated by the data is the first step to closing them in future classes.

What outcomes or benefits are associated with the strategy?

What are the budget implications for implementing the strategy?

The StudentTracker service is relatively affordable. Subscriptions currently cost $595 per high school per year. Educational organizations can procure a subscription based on the number of records requested annually, and those subscriptions start at $595 for up to 5,000 students and cap at $2,500 for up to 20,000 students.

The subscription returns a large report of charts and graphs based on submitted data. However, some districts may desire additional analysis of the detailed data sent back to them. This may require staff time (e.g., from district-level data and reporting personnel) or the enlistment of an outside contractor (estimated at $1,500 annually).

Districts, schools, and programs operating within states with more advanced longitudinal data systems may be able to manage without a StudentTracker subscription but will likely opt for one in the long run to gain access to data on out-of-state enrollments.

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What are the estimated costs for implementing the strategy?

  • National Student Clearinghouse StudentTracker Subscription: $595 per high school (annually)

How will the strategy limit significant recurring costs while ensuring long-term sustainability?

There are annual costs associated with a National Student Clearinghouse subscription, but the price is both fixed and reasonable, which ensures long-term sustainability for districts and schools.

What is the anticipated timeline for launching the strategy?

High schools can onboard into a StudentTracker subscription within approximately a 30 day period. From there, creating a Graduate File and submitting it will result in data being returned at one of three critical points throughout the year (late November, mid-March, mid-August).

Schools in states with longitudinal data systems should check their credentials for the statewide portal to see about the possibility of accessing student-level data.

What internal and/or external capacity (e.g. personnel, infrastructure, training, etc.) is needed to launch the strategy? To monitor and sustain it?


  • Sign up for the StudentTracker service
  • Procure purchase order to pay for subscription
  • Assign personnel to prepare and submit graduate file for up to eight high school classes (may require output from school/student information system)
  • Complete Clearinghouse Academy module to better understand StudentTracker platform

Monitor and Sustain

  • Assign personnel to update and re-submit graduate file each summer with most recent graduating class
  • Designate time for relevant personnel (counselors, district and school leadership, external partners) to review returned reports (three times annually)
  • Share postsecondary outcomes data with appropriate staff, stakeholders, and external partners, including institution-level matriculation patterns and persistence rates
  • As needed, contract with external organizations and consultants to conduct more in-depth analysis of student-level detail file
Track Student Postsecondary Outcomes - Invest Forward
Postsecondary Outcome Data - Invest Forward

What are the first 3-5 steps to take to implement the strategy?

  1. Register for StudentTracker for High Schools service
  2. Designate personnel to prepare and submit graduate file with up to eight high school graduating classes (including multiple classes is valuable for viewing longitudinal trends)
  3. Develop process for reviewing and sharing returned postsecondary outcomes data and discussing implications for postsecondary advising

What are potential challenges for implementing the strategy?

  1. Challenge: Schools are often surprised when their students’ postsecondary outcomes are returned and there is a mismatch between expectation/perception and reality (actual postsecondary outcomes are often lower than expected).
    • Solution: Understand that with actual data about postsecondary enrollments in hand, school personnel can now commit to using these data to inform postsecondary advising and outcomes.
  2. Challenge: The StudentTracker’s returned student-level detail file can be unwieldy for districts or schools without an analyst to make the fullest or best use of it.
    • Solution: Districts and schools can enlist the assistance of analysts from local postsecondary institutions, community-based organizations, or external consultants to create the analyses they’d most like to see.
  3. Challenge: Connecting student-level postsecondary outcomes data to postsecondary advising can be an unfamiliar use case for counseling departments and personnel.
    • Solution: Consult the Clearinghouse Academy for case studies, guides, and ideas on how to put the StudentTracker’s returned data to best use.

What are models of schools, districts, and/or organizations that are successfully implementing this strategy?

What are some additional resources for districts/states interested in implementing this strategy?