In an era where the value of a postsecondary degree or credential is often challenged, we need to be armed with better data to answer the question – “Is college worth it?”
Unequivocally, the answer is yes, especially for low-income, first-generation, racial/ethnic minority, and other underserved students. However, the inadequacies of our data systems create some gaps and blind spots making it hard to count all students and all outcomes.
Did you know that many students – due to their enrollment status, attendance patterns, or financial aid status – are not even counted in some of our data systems? Did you know that our current data systems are not equipped to measure outcomes in a way that demonstrates how the value of a degree or credential can vary across institutions or programs?
Our current data systems were designed at a different time and for different purposes, and as a result do not reflect the trends and behaviors of today’s students or answer some of the most basic questions about college access, college outcomes, and college costs.
At IHEP, we are working with leaders across the higher education community on efforts to improve our postsecondary data infrastructure. We also have partnered with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to develop a metrics framework built upon a decade of research and experimentation by the field.
Our new report, Toward Convergence, delves deeper into this framework, and spells out the exact data we should be collecting to make a difference for all students. This is just one step in a long-term effort toward improving the quality, use, and accessibility of data in higher education. This effort will take time; but it will be time well-spent.