Will the College Transparency Act help determine the ROI of a College Degree? Part II

Recently, I attended a panel session about the College Transparency Act (CTA). I came away from that session with more questions than answers. For information about the act, please see Part I of this blog series.

Will the CTA reduce student privacy protections?

  • Although the data collected through CTA would be de-identified at the individual student level, audience members questioned the strength of the protections for that stored student data. Are the security provisions and the continued investment in security sufficient to prevent data breaches? Are the CTA’s penalties for misuse of data and safeguarding personally identifiable information (PII) a strong enough deterrent to make a meaningful impact on security?
  • Furthermore, when one drills down into an institution’s data and explores, for example, outcomes for Hawaiian/Pacific Islander women STEM majors, there may be so few at a campus that their identity could be readily discovered. How can the CTA provide transparency for outcomes without revealing the individuals?

Will the CTA increase reporting requirements for all higher education institutions?

  • The act claims to streamline federal reporting requirements for existing data submitters, which is good news. But because the CTA wants to expand the type of institutions who must report data and the students they serve, the reporting requirements overall would expand. A number of audience members expressed concern for the small “mom and pop” beauty academies, trucking and vocational-technical schools who don’t currently report federal level data but under the CTA would be required to report student outcome data.

How will geography impact reporting outcomes and their analyses?

  • The CTA will require institutions to report on their students’ post-education job and salary information. Assuming the institution will be able to collect the information from their former students, cost of living varies greatly depending on geography. How will users of this data be able make meaningful apples-to-apples comparisons of institutions and their programs when there will be significant salary disparities for their graduates in the same type of job in different parts of the country?

Will the CTA improve visibility into the needs of today’s invisible higher education students?

  • A key goal of the act is to identify inequity in student success. The CTA will expand data collection to include students without federal financial aid and transfer students. However, it isn’t clear that the CTA will expand and refine the race and ethnicity classifications in meaningful ways so that real action can be taken to identify and address inequities for minority and underprivileged students.  

I’m going to continue to explore these questions to learn more. As I do, I'll share what I learn here on this blog.

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