Needed: Info on college costs, outcome

In False Fronts? Behind Higher Education’s Voluntary Accountability Systems, Education Sector’s chad Aldeman and Andrew P. Kelly echo the Spellings Commission’s call for “clear, reliable information about the cost and quality of postsecondary institutions.”

The two data bases with college information are inadequate, they argue.

The site for private colleges and universities, U-CAN, . . . provides almost no new information about costs, student experiences, or learning outcomes to parents and prospective students. In contrast, the VSA, which catalogs public schools, represents a legitimate effort to provide students with important information about how much college costs and the education students receive in return. But the VSA also suffers from numerous shortcomings. Not all institutions participate, particularly those at the top and bottom of the quality scale. The site does not allow for the easy comparison of institutions, despite the fact that the database was created to facilitate consumer choice. And many of the most crucial VSA data elements are incomplete, non-comparable, or selected in a way that often obscures differences between institutions.

We risk ending up with “the appearance of higher education accountability without the reality,” they write.

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