“The new IPEDS outcomes data is an important step toward counting the progress of all students attending post-secondary institutions. Until now, only the outcomes of first-time, full-time students who don’t transfer were captured. By finally allowing institutions to report some of the progress and success of part-time and incoming transfer students, the Department is helping to paint a clearer picture.
“However, significant problems remain. While the new IPEDS system counts all students on their way into college, how transfer students do at their next institution remains a mystery due to a congressional ban on a student level data network. With more than half of bachelor’s degree recipients transferring before earning their diploma, this is a significant data gap that needs to be filled.
"Additionally, the federal graduation rate – the figure most people look to for information on student outcomes – still reports a grossly misleading single figure that is stuck in an era when the majority of college students attended full-time and never transferred. Further, the federal data ban means there is no uniform method for schools to report on students who move across institutions and into the workforce, and therefore no uniformity in the student progress and outcome metrics being reported.
“APLU and others higher education associations have sought to fill the student progress data gaps through the Student Achievement Measure (SAM), which provides a uniform way for institutions to report the progress and success of all students, including how well transfer students do at their next institution. SAM serves as one example of how a national student level data network would allow for consistent and complete reporting on students outcomes.
“We urge Congress to pass the bipartisan College Transparency Act (CTA), which would lift the ban on a student level data network and allow a much more complete and accurate look at student progress across all institutions. The CTA would also enable the reporting of how well students from individual institutions do in the job market, including earnings levels by academic program. This is some of the most critical information students and families want when making important decisions about where to apply and attend.
“We appreciate the important progress that the Department is making to report better data. This is an important acknowledgement of the value and need for greater transparency. Nevertheless, until Congress lifts the ban on student-level data, the Department will continue to be limited in how much progress it can make.”