Create user-friendly public information tools, supported by high-quality student information systems, to enable students and families to find the institutions and programs that will best serve their needs
In addition to setting goals, collecting data and measuring progress, states can create public information tools that allow students and their families to access information about student progress through higher education and the outcomes students achieve. The wealth of data that may be available through state data systems, in an annual accountability report or even on a dashboard may be overwhelming, cumbersome and less relevant to students and their parents. They need consumer-friendly information about college and career planning, cost, financial aid, average time and credits to degree, on-time graduation rates, employment rates and future earnings.
A recent report from the Institute for Higher Education Policy, Mapping the Postsecondary Data Domain: Problems and Possibilities, identifies some of the key questions and information that students and their families, policymakers and institutions need to know and data systems should be answering to allow all groups to make better-informed decisions. The report recommends that students and parents need to know:
- The demographic profile of the student body;
- Students’ chances of timely completion, as well as how to meet key benchmarks of success along the way;
- How much they will pay and borrow to attend an institution; and
- The economic return on their credential to inform borrowing and enrollment decisions.
In 2016, the U.S. Department of Education released its College Scorecard, which provides students and families with postsecondary data about cost and value that can help them make informed decisions about where to attend college. Each college’s scorecard includes five key components: costs, graduation rate, loan default rate, average amount borrowed, and employment. The College Scorecard is an interactive web-based tool that makes key data easy to access and understand. Students and families can filter and sort information by various factors, including location, size, setting, and programs.
Each of the following state examples is a policy solution crafted in response to the unique circumstances of the state in which it was formed. As a private foundation, Lumina does not support or oppose any legislation. Lumina provides educational information, nonpartisan research and analysis to advance Goal 2025.
Colorado worked with College Measures to create an accessible, user-friendly data tool that students and parents can use to make critical decisions about higher education. The online site provides users with access to information about two-year and four-year colleges as well as their economic success metrics, which link data about types of degrees and potential earnings. The Colorado Economic Success Indicators are located on the College Measures website but also are easily accessed from the Colorado Department of Higher Education’s EdPays website. The state site also features a dashboard of key indicators, including enrollment, degrees awarded, graduation rates, remediation rates, tuition and fees, and financial aid. The dashboard provides a statewide overview but also offers links to data by institution.
The Minnesota Office of Higher Education produces a series of annual reports—Minnesota Measures—that provide comprehensive data about higher education in Minnesota. Data include indicators around college preparation and entry as well as outcomes. The reports also include comparisons over time and to national and peer institutions. An infographic provides an illustrated overview of the data for Minnesota higher education in a given year.
Texas has created a variety of online tools for students and parents. Working with College Measures, Texas created a higher education transparency and accountability tool, Compare College Texas, which is an online, mobile-friendly, interactive website for students, their parents and high school counselors. The site allows users to access information about individual institutions, to search for two- or four-year colleges that meet specified criteria related to cost, completion and transfer rates, and to compare institutions. GenTX is another online tool for middle school students, high school students and adult learners that aims to inspire college attendance and provides information about planning, applying to and paying for college. ApplyTexas provides a central location for accessing application information and applying online to most Texas institutions. College for All Texans is a central site for accessing the Compare College Texas, GenTX and ApplyTexas sites and also provides an entry point for traditional students, members of the military and adult learners.
- Mapping the Postsecondary Data Domain: Problems and Possibilities, Institute for Higher Education Policy, 2014
- Mapping Revisited: Next Steps for Mapping the Postsecondary Data Domain, Institute for Higher Education Policy, 2015
- Voluntary System of Accountability and College Portrait
- Voluntary Framework of Accountability
- Written Statement of Travis Reindl, National Governors Association Center for Best Practices, Before the Committee on Education and the Workforce Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training, U.S. House of Representatives, Hearing on “Keeping College Within Reach: Enhancing Transparency for Students, Families and Taxpayers,” April 24, 2013