Getting government out of the way, a tired and costly ridiculous cliché, is keeping Americans from seeking out an educational path that they can affordable, while still targeting their specific career goals.
Opposition to student data collection over privacy concerns went off the rails back in 2008 and in the debate over Common Core. Attempts to integrate privacy safe guards were tossed out as an option, leaving parents and students to throw caution to the wind deciding subject matter, career selection, and which college would get the biggest bang for their buck. Bet you didn’t know…
A 2008 amendment attached to the Higher Education Act reauthorization barred the federal government from explicitly and systemically integrating and connecting the dots between employment and enrollment, major program, financial aid receipt, and graduation outcomes on an individual student basis. There are of course concerns here about protecting the privacy of students, but these are outweighed by the huge benefits that would come from more robust data collection.
This was brought to you by the same conservatives who want to kill off the constitutionally required Census because it’s so intrusive, even if it helps spend taxpayer money wisely on schools, roads, hospitals, or even helps businesses target locations that would provide the best qualified workforce. The same can be said for collecting fire arm data...but I digress.
Oddly, for this Congress anyway, there's a bill gaining steam now that will help students make better more informed choices...
The College Transparency Act of 2017, just introduced as a bipartisan bill in Congress, would end this ban, and allow for federal data systems that track employment and graduation outcomes on a student-unit record basis. Specifically … to coordinate with other federal agencies. As a result, policymakers researchers and consumers would have access to data with more granular detail on student enrollment, retention, completion, and subsequent labor market outcomes from specific institutions. Importantly, the bill explicitly prohibits the construction of federal college ranking or rating schemes. It also incorporates robust protection of student information, with the expunging of all information that could be used to identify individual, and strict rules against the commercial use of the data.
Assessing colleges is a tricky business. As Beth Akers, Kim Dancy, and Jason Deslisle show in “The Affordability Conundrum,” a proper evaluation of the costs and benefits of a college requires information not simply on upfront net costs to students, but how long it will take to complete, the ability to absorb incidental unanticipated costs, the major pursued, and what post-graduation labor market outcomes one may be able to expect.
Whatever the arguments for and against the specific legislation in Congress, it is clear that student-unit record data would provide valuable additional information to a debate fraught with myths and misunderstandings.