Higher ed lobby creates info ‘blackout’

Without tracking college students’ success — or failure — it’s impossible to evaluate how colleges are performing, argues a New America Foundation report, College Blackout: How the Higher Education Lobby Fought to Keep Students in the Dark.

Ever-rising college costs, more than $1 trillion in outstanding federal student loan debt, and graduates doubtful that they’ll be able to earn enough to repay their loans have driven college value to become a major concern for most prospective students. Yet students, families, and policymakers are finding their questions can’t be answered—because the higher education lobby has fought to keep it that way.

The private nonprofit colleges, which “rely heavily on federal financial aid, drove efforts to preempt the creation of a federal student unit record system,” charges the report.

Education Secretary Margaret Spellings’s higher education commission proposed a federal database in 2005. Congress banned it in 2008.

Such a database would be able to track students as they move into higher education and through college — or, increasingly, multiple colleges — and into the work force, notes Inside Higher Ed. “It would produce more robust information about student outcomes, such as graduation rates and salary information.”

Despite privacy concerns, support is growing for a federal database.

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  1. Roger Sweeny says:

    How can that be? All colleges are non-profit corporations, and non-profits don’t care about money. They only care about the public interest. That’s why they don’t have to pay the taxes that for-profit corporations have to pay.


    • My DH has been saying for decades that no employee of a non-profit institution/group (whether university, hospital or anything else) should be permitted to be paid more than the POTUS – and that would include FB and BB coaches! (total compensation including “outside” gigs, like radio shows, because of the coaching job). Also, remove tax-exempt status from all donations to college athletic programs, facilities etc. Only donations specifically limited to academics (not general funds etc) would be tax exempt.

  2. Deirdre Mundy says:

    Would this kind of data also reveal if college had more of a sorting function than an ‘added value’ function? In my own life, I often run into employers saying, “Wow, you went to X. You must be really smart. I’m sure you can do this job.” They don’t care about my major or grades. The very fact that I attended classes at the school provides all the information they need to know…

    So, could some students cut out the middle man and just list the colleges they got acceptance letters from w/o actually paying to attend any of them?