The National Committee on Institutional Quality & Integrity (NACIQI), first established by the Higher Education Amendments of 1992 and reconstituted under the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008, advises the Secretary of Education on matters related to postsecondary accreditation. The NACIQI reviews accreditors’ compliance with legal standards, and recommends whether they should be recognized by the Department of Education as responsible gatekeepers to institutional access to federal student aid funds. The committee also makes policy recommendations to the Secretary and Congress, and published a report in 2012 that highlighted the importance of data to guide accreditation decisions and taxpayer investments.
The NACIQI already uses a series of informative accreditor data dashboards that leverage the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), the College Scorecard, and the Federal Student Aid (FSA) Data Center. Unfortunately, substantial gaps exist in these datasets. For example: IPEDS Graduation Rates data are limited to the first-time, full-time students who represent 47 percent of new undergraduates each fall, and the Scorecard’s earnings data exclude approximately 30 percent of graduates because they only count students who receive federal aid.
In response to this pressing data-quality problem, the bipartisan, bicameral College Transparency Act (CTA) proposes a much-needed secure, privacy-protected, federally held student-level data network (SLDN). Because of its access to existing data sources, the federal government is uniquely positioned to compile that information, and to reduce reporting burden for accreditors and institutions at the same time. More than 130 organizations representing students, institutions, employers, and veterans support CTA and the higher-quality aggregate data it would produce. In anticipation of the NACIQI’s upcoming meeting in early February 2018, which will feature a discussion on data quality and SLDNs, the Postsecondary Data Collaborative submitted written comments that request the committee’s public support for this commonsense reform.
Students and taxpayers deserve to know what to expect for their investments in higher education, and accreditors need quality data to safeguard those investments, while institutions need data to assess their programs and improve student success. With high-quality data, policymakers, accreditors, and institutions can implement policies and practices that help students and drive our economy forward.
The NACIQI should add its voice to the call for a student-level data network.