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APLU Statement on President Trump’s Executive Order on Higher Education Transparency

March 21, 2019

Washington, DC – Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) President Peter McPherson today released the following statement in response to President Trump signing an executive order aimed at increasing transparency in higher education.

"APLU has long been a strong advocate for greater transparency in higher education. Doing so is in the best interests of students and their families who would benefit from much more comprehensive data on student outcomes. Bolstered transparency would also empower institutions, which need this data to assess their programs and improve. That is why APLU helped pioneer the Student Achievement Measure and strongly advocates for the passage of the College Transparency Act.

“We welcome the administration’s interest in improving higher education transparency, particularly through data the U.S. Department of Education already has. Program-level data can provide very useful information to students and families as well as colleges and policymakers. However, we must ensure it’s done the right way. For example, it’s imperative that federal data report both short- and long-term earnings outcomes. Four-year degrees help prepare students for a lifetime of success, not just a short-term earnings boost. It’s also critical that the data distinguish between graduates and non-graduates. Right now, earnings data doesn’t distinguish between a student who graduated in four years from a student who dropped out in four days thus obscuring the importance of degree completion.

“It’s critical that Congress pass the College Transparency Act, which would lift the student-level data ban. Doing so would enable the reporting of much more comprehensive and useful data, including outcomes for all students, not just those who receive federal aid. Because of the student-level data ban, the 39 percent of college students who don’t receive federal financial aid are excluded from the Department’s earnings data. The data gaps are even more troublesome when broken down at the program-level, where there may be programs with a majority of students not receiving federal aid, thus absent from the Department’s data. All students count and should be counted.”

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