Legislation to Allow Access to More Student Success Data Likely to Advance

Education Dive

by James Paterson

Dive Brief:

  • Legislation that would make more data about student outcomes available to students, institutions and higher education policymakers has gained the support of a key Republican senator, which should mean it will pass soon, according to Inside Higher Education.
  • The College Data Transparency Act, which would overturn a ban that has limited collection of student data, has been endorsed by powerful Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, and advocates say its broad bipartisan support probably means it will be approved.
  • A Republican member of Congress who sponsored the initial legislation to protect student privacy has blocked its repeal, Inside Higher Education reports, despite support from both the business community and higher education officials for the change. They note that more transparency will help students choose colleges and push colleges to better align their offerings with what employers need.

Dive Insight:

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who sponsored the bill with Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and two others, says it will provide “actionable and customizable” information for students as they choose colleges.

The privacy-protected data would be reported to the National Center for Education Statistics, which would then develop post-college outcome reports and present summaries on a user-friendly website, according to a fact sheet about the proposed legislation. Critics, however, are still concerned that publication of the data would infringe upon student privacy, particularly for undocumented students.

GOP legislators have become more interested in collecting such information as they have increasingly sought more college accountability and better information about the “value” of various degrees. In addition, the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities last month indicated it would support legislation that would increase the data reported to the government, a shift from its previous position.

The U.S. Department of Education has tried to provide better information through its College Scorecard, and the Brookings Institution has developed its own rankings using that information. States such as Texas also have attempted to work around the lack of data to provide prospective students better information.