Potential Breakthrough on Federal Student Data System

Inside Higher Ed

Katherine Knott
February 12, 2024
After long opposing bipartisan efforts to track student outcomes, Republican Virginia Foxx has proposed a version of one. But some data advocates say her bill comes up short.
As conversations swirl about how to improve higher education’s return on investment for students and taxpayers, those discussions often return to an issue that has vexed advocates and policymakers—data, or rather, the lack thereof.
The federal government has been barred by law since 2008 from creating a new database of student-level information. But advocates for a new system, including both Republican and Democratic members of Congress, say there’s a need for comprehensive information on student outcomes in higher education, citing important gaps in the data that are currently available.
“The current system is very incomplete, and piecemeal, and in some places duplicative and kind of convoluted,” said Mamie Voight, president and CEO of the Institute for Higher Education Policy, a nonpartisan research organization that has advocated for better data.