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New Bill Seeks to Create Transparency in Higher Education

In today’s divisive political climate, it’s rare to see officials reach a consensus across party lines. That makes the recent bipartisan efforts to increase transparency of data pertaining to college outcomes all the more significant.

As New America reports, the College Transparency Act of 2017 would open the door to better data analysis about student outcomes. The problem with our current system is that we only have access to degree completion data for “first time, full time” students – in other words, adults who attend part-time – or who have attended more than one institution – are completely out of the picture when it comes to our current understanding of graduation rates. Due to work, family and other responsibilities, adult and other nontraditional learners often cannot attend college full-time.

The proposed legislation would allow the U.S. Department of Education to establish a more robust postsecondary data system that will tell us more about student enrollment, retention, completion, and post-collegiate outcomes at different colleges and universities. This can make it easier for the adult students that we care about to know more about the colleges that they are considering for their educational pursuits. They’ll know which institutions have good track records for graduating part-time students and which have success in terms of employment post-graduation.

When students lack insight into the feasibility of achieving their educational goals at a given institution in a timely fashion, they’re more likely to take longer to graduate. As their goals are delayed, they amass debt and may fail to complete their education.

As a New America survey notes, nine out of 10 students go to college or university in an effort to improve their employment prospects. Given the scant availability of post-graduation data applicable to nontraditional students, it’s difficult for them to make informed choices as they consider career options as well.

CAEL is very excited about this development. One of CAEL’s key policy priorities has been the creation of a new graduation metric for part-time students.

The outlook for the bill is encouraging—yesterday, a day after it was introduced to the Senate, the bill was introduced to the House. Given the bipartisan support the bill has received, in addition to the growing nationwide recognition of the importance of increasing educational access to all, advocates for transparency in higher education have reason to be optimistic that changes are coming.

To read the New America’s complete analysis of the College Transparency Act of 2017 and how it could help nontraditional students, click here.

Click below to read more about CAEL’s public policy priorities.

CAEL's Public Policy

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