Have you heard of The College Transparency Act of 2017?
Written By CEO & Co-Founder
Dr. John R. Hall Ed.D
Have you heard of The College Transparency Act of 2017? This could be the thing that changes everything relative to TRUE transparency for students, enabling them to make data-driven decisions, as it relates to schools/programs to enroll at. Equally, it has the potential of making our institutions stronger! We could not be more excited about this.
Right now, if I am a prospective student, I can find out what a school’s 6 year graduation rate, loan default rate, and demographic breakdown. Is that information valuable to me? Perhaps but it doesn’t tell you much! Consider these scenarios:
· If I am a student of color who is thinking about majoring in Business, I may want to know what a school’s graduation rate was specifically for students of color who were business majors?
· If I am a first-generation learner who is going to have to take $ 60,000 of student loan debt over the next several years, I may want to know what other first-generation graduates completed a certain program and average earnings?
· If I am a returning solider from tours in the Mideast looking at using my GI benefits to get a degree in Homeland Security, it might be valuable to know the percentage of students who are veterans were successful and how much money were they making?
· If I am a student considering one of our many fantastic 2 year community colleges, I may be turned off by “low” and otherwise arguably inaccurate graduation rates I gather from the general data now available. What if I could get the training I needed, not go into debt, and under a certain program have an opportunity to make a greater income on average then if I selected a 4 year program in some other field of study? I would love to know that! More data connections allow for us to show that this is probably more prevalent in certain programs at certain schools that generalized research now indicates.
We saw bipartisan momentum this week in Congress to overturn the Student Unit Record Ban that was a part of the 2008 Higher Education Opportunity Act. This current ban prevents the Federal Government from connecting the dots using data the Department of Education and other federal agencies that already is collected. This is similar to a ban the federal government had prior to 9/11 as it related to the FBI and CIA being able to share relevant information to connect the dots.
Proponents of overturning this ban argue through the connection of certain data points, DOE would be able to provide much deeper student success/outcomes data that might be practically useful. If this is possible, proponents argue we could start gleaning very specific data on how our institutions are performing relative to outcomes on a program-by-program/situational basis. Not only could we be more transparent with prospective students but we could help schools focus in what is successful and what needs improvement.
By way of example, the IRS obviously collects data on an individual’s income history. Separately, DOE has student loan and other student demographic data that shows how much financial aid an individual student took out, their major, what school they graduated from, etc. Other agencies like DOD and the VA collect other data. None of this data can be aggregated to determine clear and specific patterns of student success per the ban. At present, one can just determine institutional level results (e.g. % of students graduated, default rates, etc.). All the data exists. It simply cannot be used even if all personally identifiable information is removed!
While the momentum seems potent, this legislation has hurdles and some powerful opposition from people that feel the overturn of this ban could compromise student privacy. This a valid concern but commercially-available and acceptable safeguards can be employed. Many schools are also opposed but others (including many community colleges) are supportive of overturning the ban.
In our opinion, this is just the beginning of the movement towards full data transparency in higher education. These connections will help champions of student success like Greenwood Hall, provide even more specific and focused proactive support measures and interventions, designed to further enhance where institutions are at their strongest and help accomplish positive changes where opportunities for great improvement exist. These connections will also help us better recruit and prepare new students for their educational programs. Finally, they will allow for schools to powerfully differentiate themselves based on data, not incomplete data, marketing spends, and perceptions.
Whether the College Transparency Act of 2017 is the game changer, this type of transparency will come. Imagine true data-driven resources that help enhance decision-making by constituents of higher education, most importantly our students! Imagine data that helps our schools shine even more!
Stay tuned! It’s going to be an exciting next couple of months for student success as well as the empowerment of students and schools alike to make the World’s best higher education system even more powerful!
To see more information about the College Transparency Act visit:https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/senate-bill/1121