How to use National Student Clearinghouse data to align your strategic enrollment plan

Jim Hundrieser

March 3, 2011

Using data provided by the National Student Clearinghouse can provide institutions with a more-clear understanding of students those chose both to enroll and not to enroll at their institution, as well as those that have left. This data can often be leveraged in ways that exceed the capability of a standard exit interview.At a recent AACROA SEM meeting, I sat through two excellent sessions presented by Dr. Don Hossler related to the use of National Clearinghouse data.  His figures and statistics proved to be an invaluable strategic enrollment management resource.  With the use of the Clearinghouse data, campuses can:

  • Explore transfer patterns
  • Identify where students are transferring to
  • Estimate average student stop-out period length
  • Compare degree completion rates across entire cohorts

As campuses consider strategic planning, this type of data is essential to confirm or deny perceptions about why campuses are losing students—for instance, how many are dropping out for financial reasons or how many really are transferring to other similar institutions. Some of Don’s data demonstrated the large number of students who took no time off  beyond the summer and enrolled at their new institutions in the same major area.

When formulating enrollment-related strategies, consider analyzing the following:

  • After your census date:
    • Compare your prospective student list with those who did not enroll to measure your true cross-applicants list.
    • Compare your accepted student list with those who did not enroll to measure where your accepted students are attending.
  • For students who did not re-enroll, determine if they enrolled elsewhere and where they enrolled.
  • A year later, determine if the students that did not immediately re-enroll have returned to higher education and at which institutions.
  • For confirmed students who did not return, follow their progression and see if your students completed their degrees elsewhere.
  • For two-year institutions, follow your students through the completion of their associates and bachelor degrees.

Understanding each of these pieces of data can be invaluable in determining your campus’ relative strengths and weaknesses. In turn, it will give you a clearer picture of where you’re positioned in the marketplace to prospective, current, and former students.

Most importantly, these data serve as a more accurate alternative to any traditional “Exit Survey” data that can be collected internally on a single campus. Leveraging outside data provides an objective picture of what steps students are taking and how they are progressing over the course of their higher education careers. For strategic enrollment management, understanding where students ended up and tracing their path back are fundamental to understanding what is working well on your campus and what factors are hurting your campus enrollment numbers.

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