Post by Group Founder, Keith Hampson

Education Sector is routinely one of the more useful sources of opinion on higher education issues. The Washington, DC-based, non-profit, think tank has a track record of asking important questions and offering answers that are direct, informed, and often provocative. Later this week, they will release a report, this one co-published with the American Enterprise Institute, that continues this tradition: The Truth Behind Higher Education Disclosure Laws. I recommend it highly.

In 2008, regulation was passed that required U.S. Colleges and universities to provide students and other stakeholders with a range of information to help them make informed choices about programs, schools, and loans. The deadline for compliance was October 2010.
Co-authors Kevin Carey of Education Sector and Andrew Kelly of AEI (American Enterprise Institute) examined compliance with the regulations in five areas of particular importance:

  1. Pell Grant graduation rates
  2. Credit transfer and articulation agreements
  3. Employment and graduate school placement
  4. Textbook prices
  5. Private student loans

What they found was not encouraging, and should be of great interest to anybody concerned with the issue of access to information in higher education and the broader question of institutional accountability.

“The large majority of colleges are in total noncompliance with some of the most widely cited provisions of HEOA: those meant to focus attention on the struggle of low-income students to graduate from college. And even when colleges are technically in compliance with the law, flaws in the way the statute was written and dubious decisions on the part of colleges have rendered much of the information all but useless for the sole function for which it was created: informing consumer choice.”

As well, government enforcement is nowhere to be seen:

“We are aware of no instances in which colleges have even been publicly identified by the Department of Education as being in non-compliance with the disclosure provisions examined in this report, much less been fined or had their eligibility to receive student aid under Title IV of HEOA revoked.”

Of the 152 schools studied, there were a few that went to considerable lengths to (a) collect the information, (b) ensure that staff are familiar with the information and (c ) present the information in a way that is meaningful and easily understood, but these were the exceptions.

To be fair, colleges don’t have a great deal of experience managing and sharing this kind of information. And current budgets constraints will make it more difficult to hire people to produce what, in many cases, is a new service (and budget item). But the demand for this kind of information by students and regulatory bodies is only going to increase.

For more information:
Education Sector
AEI (American Enterprise Institute)
Kevin Carey’s blog at the Chronicle

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