Articles & Updates

NWCCU awarded Postsecondary Data Partnership grant

Sep. 17, 2020 ⋅ Categories: Data, Gates Foundation

We are pleased to announce that NWCCU, in partnership with SACSCOC, has been awarded a $1.7 million, 36-month grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation entitled “Supporting Accrediting Bodies: Postsecondary Data Partnership (PDP) Accelerator”. The PDP Accelerator grant is independent from the Intermediaries for Scale grant from the Gates Foundation, but similarly supports NWCCU’s overarching goal to facilitate institutional transformation to close equity gaps and improve outcomes.

The primary goal of the PDP Accelerator grant is to facilitate the onboarding of NWCCU and SACSCOC member institutions that want to join the Postsecondary Data Partnership. We anticipate that at least 274 institutions across 18 states, representing more than 2 million students, will join the PDP over the next 36 months with the majority aspiring to make their first data submission before January 1, 2021.

NWCCU will also launch an innovative Data Equity Academy and affiliated Data Equity Fellowship to facilitate deeper understanding of higher education data and build institutional capacity to embed equity and ethics (e.g. fairness, accountability, transparency) into projects to improve outcomes for all students. The Data Equity Fellowship will establish a national peer mentorship network and provide high-quality exemplars for the meaningful use of data to improve equitable outcomes.

We will also lead a team of experts to generate a comprehensive report on “the state of AI” (artificial intelligence) in higher education and convene a consortium of experts in ethical AI and data science systems, experts in higher education policy, and key leaders of AI initiatives at institutions within the NWCCU and SACSCOC membership to: publish an ethical framework for responsible AI and data systems in higher education, build awareness of state-of-the-art methods for secure and private data/AI, and guidance for evaluating algorithms used for policies and decision-making. This work will be the first of its kind in the higher education ecosystem.

If you have questions, ideas, or want to get involved with the exciting opportunities within the PDP Accelerator, contact Dr. Jess Stahl (, Vice President for Data Science & Analytics.