Blog Post | July 21, 2020

The Case for Including Financial Aid Data in the California Statewide Longitudinal Data System

Author: Jingwen Zhang

California is building the Cradle-to-Career Data System, a longitudinal education data system designed with the goal of leveraging educational, workforce, and eventually social service information to address disparities in educational opportunities and improve outcomes for all students. The system will empower students to make better-informed decisions and enable policymakers to analyze the state’s strengths and challenges to help California build a more equitable future by collecting statewide data in a central location, while protecting student privacy.

As discussed in our 2019 report, California is one of only a handful of states that does not have a statewide data system already established. California’s three systems of public higher education – the California Community Colleges (CCC), California State University (CSU), and University of California (UC) – already collect a great deal of education data in their own data systems, including financial aid information. California Student Aid Commission (CSAC), the state agency responsible for managing financial aid programs, also houses additional information, and improved data will be available on student debt and workforce outcomes at for-profit institutions soon. However, the data each system shares publicly is slightly different, and the fragmented data collection makes it difficult for policymakers to craft informed statewide policies to close equity gaps.

The statewide data system will improve this siloed data reporting, and incorporating financial aid data would further expand the value of the system. Financial aid can influence students’ academic decisions, help them pay for college, and improve their academic and workforce outcomes. Having access to financial aid data will help legislators create policies that target aid to the students who most need it, and anticipate the possible consequences of new policies and programs. In the long-term, incorporating financial aid data in the data system will promote college access and success, and allow the state to better address equity gaps in education.

TICAS has a new report on the importance of incorporating financial aid data in the Cradle-to-Career Data System, examining how other states have utilized financial aid data in their longitudinal and higher education data systems, and providing recommendations for how California can build a longitudinal data system that will help address equity gaps within the state.