Members of Congress Demand Better Outcomes Data on Postsecondary Education

Christina Pena
November 2, 2017

During a special session in the House of Representatives last night, Members of Congress explained why they support the College Transparency Act (CTA), and called on other members to join them.

Both the Senate and House introduced the bipartisan bill in May 2017. The CTA would create a student level data system at the U.S. Department of Education to provide students, postsecondary institutions, businesses, policy leaders, and the public with better information about what programs are helping students to earn credentials and get good jobs.

Rep. Paul Mitchell (R-MI), a lead co-sponsor of the bill, was joined by Rep. Steve Stivers (R-OH), Rep. Lloyd Smucker (R-PA), and Rep. Tom Garrett (R-VA). During their floor statements, they expressed their strong support for the CTA because it would:

  • Show earnings by program level. Rep. Mitchell talked about the importance of providing earnings information to students so in the future they can know how quickly they can pay off their student personal loans. The CTA would provide students with better information on how much students earn after completing programs of study at institutions around the nation.
     
  • Empower more students. Rep. Stivers and Rep. Smucker noted that the system would count more students than existing systems and provide a better indication of what postsecondary experiences are like for non-traditional students since the information could be broken down by demographic categories and would include all students at institutions eligible for federal student aid under Title IV of the Higher Education Act.
     
  • Promote efficiencies. Rep. Mitchell lamented that the government already collects reams of data, but without a better system, we can’t gather data in a manner that’s useful to students.  The CTA would overturn the ban on a student level data system, take data the government already collects, and match those data to provide better information for government agencies, researchers, and students, while reducing the time needed for surveys.
     
  • Close skills gaps.  Rep. Mitchell also lauded the CTA for its potential to close skills gaps. WDQC has long advocated for better information about post-college employment and earnings that would help schools, policymakers, and businesses work together to align education with labor market demand.
     
  • Protect individual privacy and keep data secure. Floor speakers touted the privacy and security protections of the system proposed under the CTA. Rep. Garrett pointed out that the system wouldn’t disclose information on individuals, and Rep. Mitchell cited the agency that would lead CTA efforts, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), for its excellent track record. The bill would require the data system to use up-to-date security standards, prohibit the sale of data, induce penalties for illegally obtaining information, and prohibit the collection of health data and other sensitive information.

During his floor speech, Rep. Mitchell held up a board showing the long list of diverse organizations, including WDQC, which have stated their support for the CTA. That count is now over 130. Moreover, the House side bill now has 28 co-sponsors from both sides of the aisle. Please reach out to WDQC if your organization would like to join other organizations in expressing support.

WDQC applauds these efforts and will continue to work with organizations and policymakers to advocate for better data on postsecondary student outcomes.