State Longitudinal Data Systems

Most states have developed unit record systems, some having done so as early as the 1970s. Since 2005, the federal government has awarded funding to 47 states, Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia, American Samoa and the Virgin Islands through the Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems Grant Program (SLDS) to assist with developing data systems covering education in the state, a portion of which has been used for P-20W (pre-K through workforce data) systems.  These data systems collect key information in a way that the federal government is legally barred from doing.


Some states have worked together to develop shared student unit record systems. In this case, students who started college in one state and transferred to an institution in another state within the shared data system could be tracked from enrollment to graduation. If the student were to transfer to an institution outside the data consortium, partial data would appear in multiple data systems and would not be pieced together to follow the student’s path through higher education.


Additionally, individual colleges currently use student unit record systems to track various measures of student progress and support resources within their institution. Schools may collect information on students’ demographics, their price of attendance, financial aid eligibility, major, and outcomes. This information can track subpopulations of students within each individual institution, but the outcomes of those who transfer to other institutions and those who do not complete degree programs are not collected by the first institution.