States need not be deterred by costs of SLDS

By Jenna Leventoff, August 24, 2018

States need not be deterred from building a state longitudinal data system (SLDS). According to a new paper, “Costs of State Longitudinal Data Systems“, by the Workforce Data Quality Campaign, the costs of building and maintaining SLDS can vary dramatically and can be adjusted to fit a state’s needs.

SLDS are used to match data about individuals from different sources over time. They are an important resource for state policymakers, researchers, and the public. These systems can be used to provide information about how a state’s education and workforce system is preforming, or to help students select the best program for them.

Although most states now have an SLDS, a few remaining states may be dissuaded from building an SLDS because of implementation and maintenance costs. However, according to the paper, these costs can vary based upon a number of factors and need not be excessive. Some states have built new SLDS for as little as $2.5 million dollars. Factors influencing costs can include the capabilities of the system, the number of state agencies contributing data to the system, who builds the system, and when the system was built (many technology costs decrease over time). Factors that can influence maintenance costs include the amount and quality of data analysis conducted, the number of data requests received and filled, and the level of technological sophistication.

This paper provides case studies of five states. Each case study details that state’s SLDS implementation and maintenance costs and what factors influenced that cost.