Sep 19 2012
Rubio & Wyden: "The government should make sure that students and families have all the data they need to make that the most well-informed investment possible."
By Senators Marco Rubio & Ron Wyden
September 19, 2012
A college education is the biggest and most important financial investment a young person can make in their own future. As the costs of college continue to skyrocket, students are increasingly turning to larger and larger loans to finance their education. For many, a college education can run into the tens of thousands of dollars with some of the more expensive institutions reaching into six figure from matriculation to graduation. But students and families are choosing to take on these increasingly-expensive investments because the data are clear that not getting a degree is ultimately more expensive than getting a degree. Those with degrees earn far more, on average, than those without. College graduates are also far less likely to be unemployed than non-graduates.
While it is clear that a college degree is a great value in general, what is not at all clear is the value of particular degrees from particular colleges. Prospective students are making critical career and life path decisions when they choose a college and a program. But students are making these decisions with shockingly little information about how likely it is they’ll graduate from a particular school, how much debt they’ll have when they graduate, what their future earnings are likely to be and what the likelihood is that they’ll make enough money to pay down their debts after they graduate.
How can it be that we lack the data when we are flooded with college rankings and reports? Too often, these reports, like the widely-regarded analysis by U.S. News & World Report, overlook inputs like debt burdens and post-graduation success in finding good-paying, meaningful jobs. Furthermore, these rankings only account for first-time, full-time students which make up a diminishing share of all students. The archetypal college student — an 18 year old full time student attending college for the first time — makes up an ever-decreasing share of the student population, yet you wouldn’t know that from the rankings.
This is a little bit shocking considering we live in a data driven world. Companies collect it and use to as a way to decide who to advertise their products to. The government collects census data to better allocate resources and fairly provide representation. Twitter users have access to analytics to see how many times their tweets have been re-tweeted and what the reach is on their messages. Yet students don’t have access to data that could help them make real-world decisions about their futures and policymakers are given an incomplete picture when making decisions about how to best allocate tax dollars.
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