WASHINGTON, D.C. - We commend the Department of Education for its recent release of a wealth of never-before-seen data on higher education as part of the redesigned College Scorecard. We also applaud their announcement to simplify the financial aid process through the use of "prior-prior year" (PPY) income data, which will allow students to apply for aid in a more timely manner. The Scorecard data are incorporated into a new consumer facing tool and importantly, are made available for download so non-governmental organizations can convert the data into countless, user-friendly tools.
The Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP), along with members of the Postsecondary Data Collaborative, have called for higher quality data through policy papers, such as Mapping the Postsecondary Data Domain and Weighing the Options for Improving the National Postsecondary Data Infrastructure and letters to Congress and the Department of Education (here and here). Now, the Department has responded to these and other calls from the field by leveraging the data at its disposal to release new measures such as:
- Cumulative federal debt for graduates
- Borrowing rates
- Repayment rates
- Completion and transfer rates for federally aided students
- Earnings for federally aided students
- Flags for institutions under heightened cash monitoring
Some of the metrics remain limited, providing results only for federally aided students, because the Department does not have access to adequate data on other students, and data on educational quality are not yet available. A student-level data collection could fill gaps for unaided students and solve many outstanding data quality challenges to produce even more robust and useful information on college access, costs, and outcomes to help students, policymakers, and institutions make better decisions about higher education. Until such a system is created, the new College Scorecard data offer a much-needed step towards transparency in higher education that can help advance quality outcomes for all students.