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Mission & History


Established in 1997 at the National Center for Higher Education and headquartered in Washington, D.C., the Postsecondary Electronic Standards Council (dba PESC - P20W Education Standards Council) is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit, community-based, umbrella association of data, software and education technology service providers; local, state and federal government agencies; schools, colleges and universities; college, university and state systems; professional, commercial and non-profit organizations; and, national and international non-profit associations and foundations.

Through open and transparent community participation, PESC enables cost-effective connectivity between data systems to accelerate performance and service, to simplify data access and research, and to improve data quality along the education lifecycle. Additional benefits of the PESC mission include:

  • Use of PESC drives data systems alignment
  • Use of PESC enables portability of education data
  • Use of PESC maximizes the value and integrity of education technology
  • Use of PESC connects high school kids to college and career


PESC envisions national and international interoperability within the Education Domain, supported by a trustworthy, inter-connected network called EdUnify built by and between communities of interest in which data flows seamlessly from one community or system to another and throughout the entire eco-system when and where needed without compatibility barriers but in a safe, secure, reliable, and efficient manner.

While PESC promotes the implementation and usage of data exchange standards, PESC does not set (create or establish) policies related to privacy and security. Organizations and entities using PESC standards and services should ensure they comply with FERPA and all local, state, federal and international rules on privacy and security as applicable.

Federal Agency Participation Requirements are Satisfied with Membership & Participation in PESC and PESC is the only standards-setting body in education in which these requirements are satisfied.

Federal Agency Participation Requirements are Satisfied with PESC

Goals of Mission and Vision

To achieve the mission and the vision, PESC organizes activities to:

PESC develops and identifies tools for operational efficiencies and performance improvement in student data exchange from postsecondary preparedness and initial access of the student from high school into the college environment through successful completion of the education experience.

PESC promotes cost effectiveness of data alignment across disparate systems and across sectors that help mitigate costs for state and local governments and institutions struggling to keep up with the demands of technology and real-time data exchange while maintaining competitive tuition rates and/or cost savings.

PESC leads the establishment and facilitates the adoption and implementation of data exchange standards through direct community participation. Workgroups are continuously formed and follow specific policies and procedures, governed by the Steering Committee of the Standards Forum.

PESC serves as a standards-setting & maintenance body with open, balanced policies & procedures. The Change Control Board (CCB) is the standing committee that reviews and approves standards.

PESC highlights and supports successful business models for data standardization, access, and exchange. A competition is held each year and awards are provided each spring.

PESC maintains collaborative relationships with public, private, governmental, and international stakeholders in a balanced, neutral, and trusting environment.

PESC continuously improves its expertise and core competency in XML architecture and data modeling. The Technical Advisory Board (TAB) is the standing committee that provides technical expertise.


On August 18, 1997, 29 representatives of 16 higher education associations, administrative software vendors, the U.S. Department of Education, institutions, student financial aid lenders, secondary markets, guaranty agencies and servicers gathered at the National Center for Higher Education at One Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C. to explore the creation of a partnership to promote and facilitate the use of standards for data sharing. At that time, several major factors relating to standardization were emerging and the higher education community had reached the point where centralized organization was needed.

One of the primary drivers was that EDI for student transactions in the admissions and registrar functions (transcript, test score, admissions application, etc.) were in the process of being developed and deployed. Benefits of standardization were being realized and other sectors of higher education were interested in realizing these benefits as well. Another primary driver was the launch of the U.S. Department of Education's "modernization" effort entitled Project EASI (Easy Access for Students and Institutions) which looked to reengineer their convoluted and disparate 13 stovepipe systems. Maintenance and development costs for those systems were increasing exponentially; yet at the same time, accessing those systems was difficult and obtaining accurate and reliable data took weeks and sometimes months.

Another major driver related to FSA was the launch of the Federal Direct Student Loan Program (FDSLP) in 1993 by the U.S. Department of Education as statutorily mandated by the U.S. Congress through Reauthorization of the Higher Education Act of 1965. Up until that time, federal loans were being made by hundreds of banks and other organizations in various proprietary formats, numbering in the hundreds. FDSLP, which circumvented all bank and other private involvement in the loan process, introduced a single standard and those banks and organizations found themselves needing to respond with standards as well.

The final driver involved the National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act of 1995 which required all Federal agencies to collaborate and participate in standards-setting bodies. The intent of this statute was to reduce the complexity, duplication and cost for the Federal government in developing standards; that the costs should be shared in a public/private environment or precluded if a standard already existed. Lastly, this act established the Executive Office of Management and Budget (OMB) as the oversight body for Federal agency compliance with the act with support from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

The conclusion of that meeting resulted in the agreement to form the Postsecondary Electronic Standards Council (PESC). PESC established a Board of Directors, a membership base, and a number of short term goals, workgroups, and received certification as an independent 501c(3) non-profit organization in 1999. PESC continues to govern all EDI transaction sets already developed, is converting those transactions sets to XML, and is developing a number of other transactions in XML as well. In addition, PESC hosts a number of national meetings and conferences each year and is tracking, educating, and training the higher education community on other important

Factors Influencing the Founding of PESC

Factors Influencing the Founding of PESC

On November 13, 1998 after months of collecting seed funding and organization membership, Bylaws for PESC were approved by the then governing board and Articles of Incorporation were filed on June 15, 1999. Preliminary tax-exempt status was awarded on August 27, 1999 and was made permanent on November 13, 2003.

On August 4, 2000, the PESC Board of Directors founded the Standards Forum for Education. XML development and applications were emerging in all industries, but PESC had identified an absence of any single organization responsible for developing XML business standards for the postsecondary community. The community embraced the Standards Forum for Education and together worked to develop and produce the first PESC approved standard, the XML Postsecondary Transcript, in July of 2004. Numerous development efforts have since taken place within the Standards Forum for Education and more and more are being proposed from within the community.

PESC and its members have worked diligently over the years and have successfully created the environment envisioned in 1997. Now with its largest membership in its history, with its Approved Standards being implemented across North America and with permanent User Groups now monitoring initiatives and maintenance, PESC continues to serve the needs of the education community especially as the focus moves toward teaching and learning across the entire student lifecycle P20W (from early learning through education and into the workforce). The benefits of standards, once realized, spark the need for more standards, education and training, and other supporting mechanisms and PESC members working in transparent collaboration continue to drive the value of PESC.

Organizations at the foundational meeting of PESC included:

  • AACRAO - American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers
  • ACT
  • Brigham Young University
  • Educause
  • Citibank
  • COHEAO - Coalition of Higher Education Assistance Organizations
  • Datatel (now Ellucian)
  • EFC - Education Finance Council
  • ETS
  • Harbinger-Supply Tech
  • KPMG
  • Law School Admission Council
  • NACUBO - National Association of College and University Business Officers
  • NASFAA - National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators
  • NCHERP - National Council of Higher Education Resources
  • New York University
  • Pearson
  • Sallie Mae
  • Sungard SCT (now Ellucian)
  • SLSA - Student Loan Servicing Alliance
  • University of Oklahoma
  • University of Texas at Austin
  • U.S. Department of Education