PostsecData Collaborative Responds to HELP Request on Consumer Information

Published Apr 24, 2015

by: Amanda Janice Roberson

On April 24, 2015, 27 participants in the Postsecondary Data Collaborative (PostsecData), a coalition of organizations committed to high-quality postsecondary data, offered feedback on the Federal Postsecondary Data Transparency and Consumer Information white paper released by the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP). The letter’s signatories agreed on the following recommendations, discussed in greater detail in the letter:

  1. Overturn the ban and create a student unit record system at the federal level, including protocols for ensuring the privacy and security of student data.

The letter encourages the Committee to overturn the ban on a federal student unit record system and directs the Department of Education to engage the higher education community for input on design and implementation, as well as leverage and improve existing data collecting strategies. The signers recognize the necessity of student privacy and recommend that data should be de-identified wherever possible and procedures should be enacted to protect data and penalize those who violate security protocols.

  1. Leverage existing federal data and publicly report aggregate results.

The letter urges the Committee to leverage existing federal data, especially aggregated data on student aid, so they can be used by consumers, policymakers, and researchers.

  1. In addition to consumer information and federal policymaking, recognize state policymaking, institutional policy and practice, and research as core purposes for federal postsecondary data.

Postsecondary data have multiple valid uses, and the letter encourages the Committee to recognize the importance of federal data for state and institutional policymaking, as well as for research, in addition to the consumer information and federal policymaking purposes named in the white paper.

  1. Maintain focus on consumer use and awareness, and ensure the inclusion of critical data elements used by students and other stakeholders.

The letter supports the Committee’s focus on data use and management of reporting burden on institutions. However, it recommends that they prioritize other critical data elements in addition to student financing, success, and safety, as additional metrics on topics like access and expenditures help to inform federal, state, and institutional policymaking, consumer tools, and relevant policy research.

  1. Improve specifications of IPEDS Outcome Measures now as an interim step toward better information on student completions in federal data.

The letter encourages the Committee to implement revisions to the new IPEDS Outcome Measures immediately to address the limitations highlighted by the HELP Committee and outlined in joint comments submitted previously by fourteen members of the PostsecData Collaborative.

  1. Continue to require mandatory participation in federal data collections, but allow third-party, voluntary collections to continue.

Mandatory federal data collections play an essential role in understanding the higher education landscape. In addition, voluntary initiatives are able to explore new data and measure outcomes related to specific populations that help to inform policy and practice. Both types of collections should be preserved and maintained.

  1. Maintain the Department of Education as a steward of federal data with the flexibility to develop metrics to inform decisions, while promoting transparency and public access to data.

The 27 PostsecData signers believe that the Department of Education (ED) plays a key role in postsecondary data collection and reporting. ED should have the flexibility to develop data measures—in consultation with stakeholders—and report them as needed, without a cumbersome statutory process.

The letter was signed by the following organizations:

  • Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE)
  • Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT)
  • Association for Institutional Research (AIR)
  • California Competes
  • The Campaign for College Opportunity
  • Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP)
  • Complete College America
  • Consumer Action
  • Council for Opportunity in Education (COE)
  • The Education Trust
  • Equal Justice Works
  • Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce
  • Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP)
  • National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC)
  • National Association of State Directors of Career Technical Education Consortium (NASDCTEc)
  • National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA)
  • National Center for Higher Education Management Systems (NCHEMS)
  • National Council of La Raza (NCLR)
  • New America
  • Scholarship America
  • Southern Education Foundation (SEF)
  • State Higher Education Executive Officers Association (SHEEO)
  • The Institute for College Access and Success (TICAS)
  • U.S. Chamber of Commerce
  • Veterans Education Success
  • Workforce Data Quality Campaign (WDQC)
  • Young Invincibles

View the PDF to read the full letter.