A group of four House Democrats on Monday wrote to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, questioning the reasoning behind a recent decision to remove a metric from the Department of Education’s (ED) College Scorecard, which allowed users to compare institutional academic and financial outcomes to the national average.
The change came shortly after ED announced it would eliminate the federal gainful employment regulations and make changes to improve the College Scorecard. The lawmakers who wrote to DeVos—Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), ranking member of the House education committee, Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), Rep. Timothy Walz (D-MN), and Rep. Mark Takano (D-CA)—argued that providing the national comparison “contextualized the information on the webpage and allowed students to easily understand how an institution is serving its students relative to other institutions.”
The lawmakers went on to say that while ED claimed the data points were “misleading because most students choose schools in their community, not nationally,” if the agency was genuinely concerned about the comparison, it could have taken another approach or used regionally-based data in addition, rather than completely eliminating the information.
The removal of the national comparison data could also negatively impact other federal agencies, the lawmakers wrote, including the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). They asked that by November 12 ED provide answers to a number of questions, including the rationale for removing the data, any evidence used to support the decision, whether alternatives were considered, how ED will coordinate with the VA and CFPB on future changes, and more.
“Comparative, contextualized information is extremely important for students,” the letter said. “While consumer decisions are difficult to sway through disclosures, the Department should provide heuristics that simplify the amount of information students must consider in order to render it most useful to students and families.”
Publication Date: 10/31/2018