Skip to main content

Disaggregate: Credential-seeking status


Type of award a student is seeking upon completion of studies

Why it matters

Not everyone who enrolls in postsecondary education intends to earn a credential; for instance, some students audit or take courses to pursue personal interests or fulfill other academic requirements. Disaggregating data by credential-seeking status can help colleges (1) identify and provide support to students seeking different types of credentials, and (2) adjust for non-credential seekers in calculating completion rates to offer a more accurate representation of student outcomes.

What to know about measurement

We recommend postsecondary institutions track whether students seek a postsecondary credential, as well as the type of credential they seek. The National Student Clearinghouse (NSC) collects data on students’ “degree-seeking” status (whether they are seeking a degree or not) as well as their “class/credential level” (whether they are enrolled in or completing an undergraduate certificate program, associate’s degree program, bachelor’s degree program, post-baccalaureate certificate program, master’s degree program, doctoral degree program, post-doctorate degree program, or professional degree program). For students not seeking degrees, it captures whether they are enrolled at the undergraduate or graduate or professional level. However, these fields are not required for all students. Although 88 percent of 2020–2021 enrollment records reported to the NSC included students’ class or credential level, only 37 percent included their degree-seeking status.

Source frameworks

This disaggregate appeared in three source frameworks reviewed for this report: the California Cradle-to-Career Data System, the NSC Postsecondary Data Partnership, and the Institute for Higher Education Policy Postsecondary Metrics framework.


The framework's recommendations are based on syntheses of existing research. Please see the framework report for a list of works cited.

This website was funded in part by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.