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It’s Not a Sin to Change Course: APLU Statement on U.S. Department of Education’s New College Scorecard

Washington, DC — Association of Public and Land-grant Universities President Peter McPherson today released the following statement regarding the U.S. Department of Education’s updated College Scorecard.

“With implied criticism, some are commenting about the administration dropping its initial college ratings proposal and switching to a consumer information tool. But it is not a sin for public officials and agencies to change course in response to feedback from impacted parties and further review of data and evidence. After all, what is the alternative?

“The Department should be commended for its efforts to improve the College Scorecard and provide key information to students and families. The Scorecard utilizes new data elements and we need to study those metrics further before commenting extensively on their value. But in concept, we support the disclosure of repayment rates as well as employment and income information for former students several years after they leave school.

“We think that earnings information should be broken down by program because there is a considerable range of expected incomes by area of study. The range of expected earnings means that the institutions with larger proportions of students enrolled in high-income majors such as engineering and computer science will automatically report higher median earnings than institutions with large numbers of students enrolled in programs such as teacher education and social work. It is our hope that the administration will provide that breakdown in future iterations of the Scorecard.

“The Scorecard’s employment and earnings data, as well as student transfer rates, are calculated only for former Title IV students since that’s the only data currently available to the Department under federal law. We strongly advocate that such information be made available for all students of an institution, which is why we support a change of law to allow the Department of Education to calculate these important outcomes for all students. We urge Congress through the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act to support a student level data system for persistence, transfer, graduation and employment/income information to provide more complete data for all institutions. But for now, we support the Department’s effort to use what data are available, while appropriately acknowledging the limitations.

“We appreciate the administration’s commitment to allow, as soon as practicable, a link from the graduation data on the Scorecard to the Student Achievement Measure (SAM) data for those schools participating in the initiative. SAM provides much more complete progress and graduation information than the federal data.

“The administration is to be applauded for its effort to provide key information to students. We also appreciate the agency’s effort to provide the underlying data to institutions so they can use the information to support campus efforts to improve student success. Given the new data sources and elements contained within the Scorecard, we no doubt will have questions and concerns after a more careful analysis. We look forward to working with the administration on those matters.”

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