Published on 2012/10/26

States Are the Key to a More Informative Higher Education System

Increasing accountability is a theme of a great number of critiques facing today’s higher education industry. From making the costs of a degree clear up front to ensuring students have the relevant data to make an informed decision, the United States has made a number of advances in this area. However, attempts to make the success of graduates in the job market clear have fallen by the wayside lately.

While the Department of Education has been collecting gainful employment statistics as an element of their regulatory authority, they have failed to make this information available to the public in an understandable and actionable way. What data has been made available is only functional in regulation-specific terms, and is difficult for the layperson to understand.

For example, the Department of Education has made available data related to the earnings of college and university graduates from programs that are designed to move students into the job market, but that data has been released as a series of ratios, as opposed to being reported in dollars and cents.

According to his article in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Mark Schneider, the vice president at the American Institutes for Research, believes state governments could fill this informational void left by the federal government. While the Department of Education only collects these job success statistics for specific programs designed to move students into gainful employment, Schneider suggests that state governments could collect this information for a wide range of programs. In fact, Schneider says a number of states already have the mechanisms in place to track students’ major fields of study to unemployment-insurance records that track post-college earnings and field of employment.

Schneider goes on to explain how this data could be made even more useful by allowing prospective students to compare job success data by degree program and institution.

Ultimately, the federal government has a lot on its plate and if state governments could step up to provide students with this type of data, it could lead to a greater degree of accountability across the higher education space and provide prospective students the information they need to make the enrollment decision that is best for them.

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