Reforms could help improve transparency in higher ed data

Dive Brief:

  • Mark Schneider, a vice president and institute fellow at the American Institutes for Research, is calling on Congress to find ways to make student-level data more accessible to the public.
  • Schenider suggests several improvements for the Integrated Postsecondary Data System, which involves all institutions participating in federal student-aid programs sending data. Schneider suggested simplifying the Human Resources Survey and loosening regulations on small schools' reporting frequency. 
  • Schneider said the presentation of the data in its current state makes identifying tangible information about student outcomes cumbersome — and a lack of nationwide standard on how to report such data makes the process even more difficult.

Dive Insight:

While Schneider touts the consumer value of making such data more publicly accessible, there is a tremendous amount of value for institutions. For one, tracking alumni outcomes in employment and salary data helps institutions to not only make adjustments where necessary, but better project the economic impact an institution has on a state and the nation, which makes the case for increased public funding. 

However, combining information about a student’s graduation date and field of study with their future earnings may not be entirely indicative of a student’s progress towards positive outcomes if a loan burden is causing them to delay certain life choices or miss out on opportunities. For example, some students report that they have delayed buying a home because of the need to pay back student loans. 

For data to be truly valuable, there should be a set of national standards around reporting, which should mandate disaggregation for different subpopulations. This would enable comparative conversations to focus on differences with the same groups, rather than allowing institutions to hide what is really a lack of diversity behind what appear to be good numbers.

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Filed Under: Higher Ed Policy & Regulation
Top image credit: Beacon College