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With support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE) has embarked on a project entitled Facilitating Development of a Multistate Longitudinal Data Exchange. Its principal objective is to pilot a data exchange among several states – initially four Western states (Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Hawaii) have been invited to participate – allowing for more comprehensive analyses of the production, stock, and flows of human capital through a regional, multi-state approach. During this four-year, $1.5 million project, WICHE will coordinate efforts to develop the necessary architecture for the exchange of data, effectively govern the exchange, produce standard reports, and ensure the protection of privacy.
Rooted in the idea that ensuring the effective use of expanded data systems is as vitally important as developing them, this project will create meaningful reporting frameworks for tracking human capital development regionally rather than on a much more limited state-by-state basis. In coordinating this effort, WICHE is committed to helping to improve the accuracy and utility of longitudinally linked data so that they may better inform the policymaking process and provide better information for researchers, planners, and practitioners. Lessons learned will be passed along to WICHE’s other member states and beyond and, as the project moves forward, we will look at the possibility of folding additional states into the exchange.
This project complements the many efforts underway, stimulated by the infusion of $400 million in federal grants over the last several years and many more millions in philanthropic support, to develop statewide longitudinal data systems. Specifically, it will focus on answering two principal policy questions with evidence drawn from the participating states:
1. How are former high school students from participating states performing in postsecondary education and/or the workforce in participating states? and
2. How are former postsecondary students from participating states performing in the workforce in participating states? In doing so, the multi-state data exchange will provide rich information about:
- the stock and flow of skills and abilities (represented by education and training) of various populations within a given state;
- gaps in attainment and employment between population groups based on demography and socio-economic status; and
- the mobility of the U.S. population across state borders.
This project builds off of work accomplished through a previous grant from the Gates Foundation, which funded a conference in December 2008 at WICHE’s offices in Boulder, CO. At that meeting, state officials who might be called “data stewards” from their respective states’ K-12 education, postsecondary education, and workforce/labor market information agencies gathered for a fruitful exchange of ideas. (The agenda and presentations from that meeting are available here for that project, which was titled Fostering Collaborative State-Level Education and Workforce Database Development.)
Subsequently, WICHE engaged a select group of (mostly adjacent) states for a meeting in Olympia, WA in June 2009 to gauge their interest in trying to build a multi-state data exchange and to brainstorm about what policy questions such an exchange could uniquely answer, what challenges might face the development of an exchange, and how it might be designed. The discussions from that meeting are summarized in a report titled A Framework for a Multi-State Human Capital Development Data System.
WICHE’s efforts throughout this project will be bolstered by close collaboration with the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems (NCHEMS) and the State Higher Education Executive Officers (SHEEO) organization. More information about the project and relevant resources can be found by following the links to the right.