- There is an increased call for support of bipartisan legislation authorizing the federal government to release information regarding employment outcomes for students graduating from higher educational institutions, with supporters saying the data could help students and parents in the college selection process, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education.
- The “College Transportation Act” would reduce regulations on colleges and universities, enabling them to more easily submit information — and while its passage as seen as unlikely without a reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, supporters say it is a matter of time before this bill or a similar one passes.
- Critics of the bill are concerned with privacy matters, arguing that the legislation would constitute a violation of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, with an association representing private colleges saying it releases data without students’ permission — though supporters of the bill say the legislation mandates strict data protocols.
Selective universities may be concerned about the potential impact of the data because it can be harder to indicate the benefits of a liberal arts education, particularly if such a degree is not immediately financially beneficial. Certification programs or tech majors will often yield immediate financial dividends (and are often designed for that purpose by enabling individuals already in the workplace to burnish new or refined skills), but institutions specializing in liberal arts may feel that the data, devoid of context, will not deliver an accurate picture of the benefits they offer students.
The data could have difficulty tracking students who are satisfied with a career that is not high-paying, and it could be skewed against careers where financial payoffs come later down the line. However, such data can be beneficial for students, who will rightfully want to know if their major and chosen university will deliver enough of a return on investment to justify a student loan. It can also help institutions determine not only what programs are not working, but how better to popularize the programs that are working but do not garner enough interest.
Colleges are turning to programs like the Open Academic Analytics Initiative to try and determine students’ potential and progress within given subject areas, and it would be only sensible to utilize data on student outcomes post-graduation to better students’ campus experiences. Colleges and universities should already be mining, analyzing and utilizing this data to their advantage. The legislation will mean this data will be public for all to see.