PESC - HOME - Postsecondary Electronic Standards Council | Data Standards, Digital Data and Records Exchange, XML, JSON, JSON-LD, Electronic Data Interchange EDI, Voluntary Consensus Standards, Education's Standards-Setting Body, PK20W Education Standards Council | Comprehensive Learner Record (CLR) Program | Interoperable Learning Records (ILR) Program

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PESC - HOME - Postsecondary Electronic Standards Council | Data Standards, Digital Data Exchange, XML, JSON, Electronic Data Interchange, Voluntary Consensus Standards, Education's Standards-Setting Body
Postsecondary Electronic Standards Council
PESC | Maximizing the Value & Integrity of Your Technology
Postsecondary Electronic Standards Council
Postsecondary Electronic Standards Council


In the early 1990's the Standardization of Postsecondary Electronic Education Data Exchange (SPEEDE) Committee of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO), the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) of the U.S. Department of Education worked together to develop the first electronic standards in higher education for processing transcripts, which was developed in an existing technology called Electronic Data Interchange (EDI).

With the successful launch and implementation of an EDI transcript standard, other data exchange processes were developed in EDI as well, including admissions and test score reporting.  Note;  While use of EDI grew and continues to be implemented in the registrar and admissions communities, for a number of reasons including programming complexities, the financial aid community did not adopt and implement EDI but works now in XML.

The EDI standards were originally developed under the requirements of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the most current version of the EDI suite of transactions is version 4, published in April 1998 and based on X12 Version Release 4010.  These standards, however, are no longer maintained under ANSI as the community has agreed to work under PESC as education's standards-setting body, thereby  making ANSI's role obsolete.  PESC's Education Record User Group, established in 2008 to govern the development and support of all admissions and registrars standards, now also governs all EDI standards and all EDI standards are now considered PESC Approved Standards.

Around 2000, admissions, financial aid, and registrar communities also began developing standards in a new technology called eXtensible Markup Language (XML) under PESC.  The launch and use of XML does not mean that use of EDI is obsolete.  In choosing which technology to use EDI or XML, organizations must determine the capabilities of the organization with which they exchange data and perform a number of analyses including cost benefit and strategic.

Note:  The Statistical Networking Applications Project (SNAP) has published a comprehensive implemetation guide for data exchange between and among PK-12 schools/districts and colleges and universities.  These two editions are fully compatible.


Postsecondary Electronic Standards Council


Data standards are traditionally set through three main methods:

1. through product or service or vendor

domination in a specific market,

sector or network

2.  by mandate through a governmental

or authoritative body, agency,

statute, regulation or law

3.  through a voluntary, consensus-based

approach with an open, transparent

and collaborative process

A voluntary consensus-based approach to data standards is the most successful method.  A groundbreaking report from the Delphi Group in 2003, from which PESC based most of its strategy and operations, highlights the value of standards and key factors on community views and perceptions of standards bodies.

Electronic Transcript Exchange:  Benefits and Experiences of Early Postsecondary Adopters

Eduventures, October 2012

Value of Standards

Delphi Group, 2003

Value of Standards in Indiana

Indiana Commission for Higher Education


Andrew Updegrove

A Business Case for the Electronic Exchange of Student Records

SPEEDE/ExPRESS, April 1997

What is a voluntary consensus standard?

​For some, voluntary consensus standard (also called Non-Government Standard) is a statutory or regulatory obligation.  For others, the term ‘voluntary’ creates a perception of a wide-open, unstandardized market in which closed, proprietary applications and services reign; and access and control of data, serve as the value propositions to attract customers and clients.

The most important concepts to understand about voluntary consensus standards:

  1. - Voluntary consensus standards refer to data to be exchanged, shared, reported, sold and/or licensed between at least two separate and independent parties.

  2. - While the value of voluntary consensus standards lies in the open, transparent, neutral and balanced process in place in the user community to participate (equally), develop, produce and maintain a standard, the value proposition is based in costs-savings, return on investment, improved data quality and efficiencies gained in overall data management and service delivery.

  3. - Federal rules and regulations clearly articulate the roles and responsibilities for all Federal agencies with regard to voluntary consensus standards and Government-Unique Standards, including annual reporting to the Department of Commerce.

  4. - Voluntary consensus standards are governed by standards-setting bodies that operate on a voluntary consensus-based model.

  5. - A voluntary consensus standard can be mandated or required by an authoritative entity and emerges as a best practice model.

  6. - A Government-Unique or proprietary standard can become a voluntary consensus standard.

The U.S. General Accounting Office describes voluntary consensus standard in a summary of the National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act (NTTAA)

“Government standards are developed by individual federal agencies for their own use. Although unique government standards sometimes are appropriate, such as standards for certain specialized military equipment, in other cases, a voluntary standard would suffice. This creates duplication for industry, which may have to provide two lines of production to meet both government and private needs and can put U.S. companies at a disadvantage in international trade.”

The major challenge for standards-development bodies and standards-setting bodes, like PESC, is maintaining a trusted, open, transparent, neutral, balanced and free voluntary consensus standard that in essence “levels the playing field,” while simultaneously promoting innovation in a market that may perceive the voluntary consensus standard as merely anti-competitive or optional compared to other technical standards.

From a Federal Agency perspective, there may be a lack of confidence in the utility, timeliness and sustainability of a voluntary standard and inconsistence guidance in existing statute, rules and regulations.


Postsecondary Electronic Standards Council


as an open standards-development and 

open standards-setting body operating on a voluntary consensus model producing



with similar standards-setting bodies

and organizations to ensure a lifelong learning perspective making


usable across PK12, higher education, labor, workforce and government.


set a high bar and correspondingly

rigorous process for data standardization,

quality control and overall data management

and PESC provides support and links

to illustrate and exemplify the

power of collaboration.

PESC | Maximizing the Value & Integrity of Your Technology
Postsecondary Electronic Standards Council
PESC | Maximizing the Value & Integrity of Your Technology


"PESC…a strong and influential voice for

promoting national and international standards

to facilitate postsecondary data exchange."

Ken Sauer, Ph.D. -

Senior Associate Commissioner &

Chief Academic Officer

Indiana Commission for Higher Education


​“Lumina Foundation believes that data standards are

an essential aspect for improving data quality, transparency, and interoperability on competencies

and credentials for students, employers, and institutions. We are proud to join the data standards community & support efforts that allow systems to connect data together to ensure the ability of students

to pursue further education and employment.”

- Amber Garrison Duncan -

Strategy Director
Lumina Foundation

​​​"The alliance between HR Open Standards and PESC allows us to coordinate standards development efforts, advance interoperability, exchange knowledge, and educate the community regarding standards, all of which benefit our members and the industry."

Kim Bartkus -

Executive Director

HR Open Standards Consortium




Created in 1998, eXtensible Markup Language or XML, a specification used in software to define the content of an electronic document, has become widely used in business-to-business transactions. Whether sending data over the web or between applications, XML can be used to transmit both text and the meaning of that text. 

XML quickly became popular as by this time programming was no longer bound by file size restrictions.  With XML being more easily programmable and more verbose (human readable), PESC launched a study group to analyze and recommend to the PESC Board of Directors what steps PESC should take with regard to XML.

In response, the Board Response to the XML White Paper recommended the establishment of a permanent group to address XML development.  On August 4, 2002, PESC launched the Standards Forum for the Education Community.


“The Chamber Foundation is excited to join PESC

and to contribute toward the ongoing development

of data standards for education."

- Jason A. Tyszko -

Vice President

U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation

Center Education and Workforce