Higher Ed Data Bill Band-Aids Over Problems

"The House kicked off its incremental Higher Education Act reauthorization plan last week with the release of a few pieces of higher education legislation, including the Strengthening Transparency in Higher Education Act," Ed Central reports

"That bill, authored by Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) and introduced by members of the House Education and Workforce Committee, would re-up a portion of the law to collect and create better consumer information related to colleges and universities. ...

There is one easy way to fix the fatal flaws in Rep. Foxx’s bill: implement a federal student unit record data system. Effectively all of the information that students want and need about colleges is available now, but hidden in the data. …

In fact, this is the central irony of Rep. Foxx’s introducing the House transparency legislation: She was also the author of a provision in the last Higher Education Act reauthorization banning a student unit record system. But to date, the American Association of Community Colleges, Association of Community College Trustees, Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, American Association of State Colleges and Universities, and now the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators are all on the record as supporting a unit record system. That means that all of the associations that represent public colleges–which enroll nearly three out of every four undergraduate students–now support repealing the ban.

With college costs growing and student debt rising, the calls for better data on student outcomes and college value are only growing stronger and more urgent. The Department of Education’s plans to introduce a college rating system this fall has many institutions and their representatives calling for better data to ensure they are fairly represented. With so much public attention moving to the issue, the Band-Aid that Rep. Foxx proposed last week as the inaptly named Strengthening Transparency in Higher Education Act won’t be enough to quell the calls for better data."

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