The U.S. Department of Education has funded the SHEEO/NCES Network since 1976. The functions and activities of
the Network illustrate the interdependent roles of the federal government and the states in the production of higher education data.
At the federal level, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) exercises primary responsibility for collecting, analyzing, and disseminating data on postsecondary education for the nation. Our current knowledge and understanding of education issues are due in large part to NCES activities such as the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), national longitudinal student surveys, other data collection efforts, and cooperative systems like the National Postsecondary Education Cooperative (NPEC). The consistency, quality, and timeliness of data collection and dissemination by NCES are of central importance to our nation at a time when major policy issues in education are being decided and significant improvements are being initiated.
At the state level, the SHEEO agencies play a variety of key roles in financial planning, budgeting and fiscal management; academic planning and program review; research and analysis; and other areas of postsecondary education policy and management. To meet their responsibilities, they need accurate and timely data.
Recognizing the need for state agencies to work in close cooperation with NCES in the collection and dissemination of national higher education data, the Department of Education has supported the activities of the SHEEO/NCES Network as part of its commitment to a cooperative federal-state education statistical system. The Network operates through contractual arrangements with SHEEO.
Specific purposes of the SHEEO/NCES Network project include:
- Providing support for a partnership between state higher education agencies, the federal government, and postsecondary institutions and organizations in the implementation of the mission and activities of NCES.
- Promoting cooperation and coordination and to provide mechanisms for two-way communication between state higher education agencies, NCES, and other postsecondary entities in the areas of national postsecondary survey design, data collection, dissemination, and related activities.
- Working with both NCES and the SHEEO agencies to make national and state data collections valuable and relevant to policymakers.
- Assisting NCES in disseminating information directly and quickly to the states.
- Providing state higher education officials the opportunity to convey important current and emerging education policy issues to NCES.
- Providing input and feedback to NCES on survey plans, data collection methodologies, data quality, and analytic methods and interpretation, based on the states' experiences in these areas.
- Serving as a liaison through which states and postsecondary institutions can exchange information and technical experience among themselves on data collection efforts, thereby improving the quality and usefulness of data provided at the state and federal levels