Key Questions

1.  Does the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) and Illinois Community College Board (ICCB) data obtained through the ILDS provide a viable means to look at CPS high school graduates and their two-year college outcomes for research and reporting purposes?

2.  What are the strengths and limitations of the NSC data as a source for information about CPS graduates’ two-year college enrollment and completion, especially compared to Illinois-specific data available through the ILDS?

3.  To what extent can we use the ICCB data to fill in the missing information on CPS graduates in the NSC data on whether some two-year college completers had attained a certificate or associate degree?


Over the past few decades, data have played a central role in guiding research, policy, and practice efforts to increase students’ likelihood of enrolling in and completing college. The foundation for many college outcome numbers in states, districts, and schools across the nation, including in Chicago, is data from the National Student Clearinghouse (NSC). More recently, the development of longitudinal data systems in many states has provided a new source of information about college enrollment and completion among high school graduates by linking administrative data from various state agencies. In this technical paper, we compare NSC data with two-year college data obtained through the Illinois Longitudinal Data System (ILDS) and summarize key insights for users of these data.

Key Findings

  • The CDDA ID enables the linkage of CPS and NSC data to ISBE and ICCB data through the ILDS, providing valuable additional information on CPS graduates’ two-year college outcomes.
  • NSC appears to be a reliable source of data on CPS graduates’ two-year enrollment and completion of any credential in a two-year college.
  • NSC data cannot be used to calculate completion rates of CPS graduates’ specific credential types from two-year colleges, including associate degrees.
  • Most CPS graduates with blank or uncategorizable completions in the NSC data earned an associate degree according to the ICCB data.
  • Exploring the differences between students’ records in the NSC and ICCB datasets also highlighted several additional limitations of the NSC data as a tool for understanding CPS graduates’ trajectories at two-year colleges.