Title IV eligibility should be leveraged to protect students and taxpayers from committing money to institutions that don’t do right by their students. In order to fairly compare all institutions on a level playing field, APLU calls for the creation of a student readiness adjustment, which would account for varying factors of an institution’s student body. In addition, three metrics should be used to increase accountability:
- Student progress and completion rates: The rates used to judge the educational success of an institution’s students should be comprehensive and include the outcomes of transfer students, part-time students, full-time students, and students who enroll in multiple institutions, such as their SAM outcomes.
- Post-collegiate outcomes: Employment rates, enrollment in an advanced level of education, and military service are indicators of the quality of the education provided by an institution.
- Loan repayment rates: The new income-driven payment options make repayment rates a key component of a robust accountability system. In addition to examining whether or not a student is making timely payments, there should be further exploration of methods that analyze the amount of federal loan debt to determine if institutions are burdening students with too much debt that is unlikely to be fully paid off. The appropriate consideration of student debt and repayment for both undergraduate and graduate students will be necessary.
Given the diversity of students enrolled in postsecondary education, institutional outcomes cannot be evaluated without taking into consideration the level of preparation and entering characteristics of an institution’s student body. In other words, an institution’s expected performance on outcomes must be adjusted based on their students’ readiness to achieve.
If after going through the student readiness adjustment an institution’s actual performance was far below the expected performance, the institution would be subjected to closer scrutiny and the possibility of sanctions. The sanctions could result in partial or full withdrawal of future Title IV funds. (Note that the current “all or nothing” eligibility determination process appears to be part of the reason that very few institutions are currently penalized.) The same method could be used to identify institutions performing much better than expected for recognition or reward such as additional dollars to support underrepresented or disadvantaged students.