Cross-State Data Sharing
Accessing More Complete Data
More than one-fifth of all college students transfer at least once before graduating, and more than five million workers have a job in a different state from where they live. Many states cannot get data on college students who transfer across state lines, or on program completers who take jobs in another state, which can limit assessments of program outcomes. Therefore, the federal government should:
- Encourage states to share data. In its third round of grants for state data systems, the Department of Labor required grantees to be members of the Wage Record Interchange System version 2 (WRIS2). This system allows states to share Unemployment Insurance (UI) wage records to measure the performance of education and workforce programs. As a result of the grants, several states signed up for WRIS2. Federal agencies should look for additional opportunities to promote cross-state data sharing through grants and technical assistance.
- Examine federal data access. The federal government has multiple sources of employment data that could be used to calculate aggregate outcomes (e.g. average earnings) for program completers. The National Directory of New Hires and the Census Bureau contain UI wage records submitted by states, and the Internal Revenue Service and the Social Security Administration (SSA) have individual tax records. These data may only be used for limited purposes prescribed in law, but even under current law, agencies have found new ways to use the data. For example, SSA and the Department of Education signed an agreement to share and match data to calculate average earnings for completers of career-oriented education programs covered by the Gainful Employment regulation. Federal agencies should explore whether additional data uses are appropriate and allowed under current law.