Office of Finance and Research
STUDENT UNIT RECORD (SURE) SYSTEM
The Student Unit Record (SURE)
system is designed to strengthen the capacity of New Jersey Higher
discharge its research, planning, and coordinating responsibilities,
and to assist institutions in a variety of ways, e.g., by tracking
their transfers, reducing their need to fill out forms, etc. It
is a comprehensive collection, storage, and retrieval system for
computer-readable data on each student enrolled and on each graduate.
All 31 of New Jersey's public colleges and universities—and
nine independent institutions — currently participate in
SURE. The enrollment components of SURE are fall and spring semester "snapshots" and
a 12-month enrollment file; the degrees conferred component captures
data for an entire academic/(state fiscal) year; and a non-credit
file provides data on registrations for training that does not
lead to college credits. Institutions submit their SURE files by
e-mail to the Commission’s Office of Finance & Research,
which processes and analyzes the data. Each student record bears
a unique identifier—a social security number (SSN)—as
well as various student-specific demographic, academic, and education
process data. There are 29 such variables to be reported for each
enrollment snapshot, 11 variables on the 12-month enrollment files,
20 for each graduate, and 13 for the non-credit registrations.
The unit record format provides
an enriched data base, permitting much more sophisticated analyses
than are possible
data. The use of a standard, unique identifier permits the tracking
of students, as well as the merging of SURE data with other Commission,
NJ Department of Labor and Workforce Development, and Higher Education
Student Assistance Authority (HESAA) data bases (e.g., TAG/EOF).
Both features greatly enhance our ability to
report—and to assist institutions in reporting—the
outcomes of higher education, increasingly needed to respond to
pressures on the higher education system for greater accountability.
NJ higher Educationalso aggregates each institutional member’s
data into IPEDS (Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System)
formats, thus doing away with the need to fill out any forms on
enrolled students or degrees conferred.
SURE data is housed at the Higher Education Student
Assistance Authority (HESAA) under industry standard security
disciplines and methods. Data transmissions are protected
by the use of several encryption/authentication/protection methods.
The HESAA network is protected by the use of a network hardware-based
access control list, an industry-leading firewall, and an intrusion
prevention system. Protocols regarding controlled access
to data are in place, and the HESAA facility is physically secured.
Certain principles have guided the development
of the SURE system; major considerations included maintaining
the confidentiality of
individual-level data, as well as facilitating research and planning
at both the statewide and institutional levels. In order to minimize
any possibility of the release of sensitive personal data, SURE
has never collected students’ names, street addresses or
birthdays (birth years are collected to determine student age).
SURE's file structure design and organization, the use of statistical/data
management software, and a dual mainframe/PC computing environment
address the goal of facilitating research. In addition, the Commission
makes the SAS computer programs it develops accessible to participants.
Another major objective has been the standardization and comparability
of data. SURE data is considered the reporting institution’s
data; therefore, all changes to original files are made only with
the knowledge and consent of institutional SURE coordinators.
The SURE system produces aggregate
statistics on each institution that are used to fulfill certain
and state reporting requirements.
Staff has been designated by the National Center for
Education Statistics (NCES) as New Jersey’s coordinator for
their national data system, IPEDS. In this capacity we compile
SURE data to meet their standards and upload it to the federal
IPEDS website relieving the institutions from the reporting burdens
of annual Completions and Enrollment surveys. SURE system data
are also used by the Commission to perform various analyses. For
example, serially constructed data sets are produced for systemwide
longitudinal studies of retention, attrition, and other issues
where temporal relationships are important.
In addition to supporting systemwide
outcomes research and reducing institutional reporting burdens,
SURE offers participating
conduct their own customized research. They can obtain the longitudinal files
on their entering first-time cohorts. Also available upon request are Participant
Use Files, one for each semester's enrollment and one for each year's degrees,
which together contain a complete (systemwide) set of data, modified by removal
of the SSNs (to prevent disclosure of confidential information). Finally,
our research staff performs special analyses
for individual institutions and other entities upon request.
In the first year (1985), the state colleges/universities initiated
system development with their pilot fall enrollment submissions.
They were joined in 1986, also on a test basis, by 18 of the 19
community colleges. Rutgers submitted its SURE pilot in fall 1987;
NJIT followed suit the next year, and UMDNJ, the next (1989). The
one remaining community college joined the system in 1990. The
degrees component phase-in followed a slightly different schedule,
starting in 1986-87; the last degrees conferred pilot was produced
in 1990-91. In 1995 three independent institutions joined SURE;
six others have joined since then. In 2007, a 12-month enrollment
file was submitted by public colleges for the first time and community
colleges provided the Commission with non-credit data.
1/15/2008, updated 10/10/2008