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United States

Informed Decisions About Higher Education. (US0057)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: United States Action Plan 2015-2017

Action Plan Cycle: 2015

Status: Inactive

Institutions

Lead Institution: The Department of Education

Support Institution(s): NA

Policy Areas

Access to Information, Open Data

IRM Review

IRM Report: United States End-of-Term IRM Report 2015-2017, United States Mid-Term Report 2015-2017

Starred: No

Early Results: Marginal

Design i

Verifiable: Yes

Relevant to OGP Values: Access to Information , Technology

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion:

Description

Completing higher education can provide huge benefits to students that last throughout their lives. Compared to those with a high school diploma, college graduates earn $1 million more over their lifetimes and have an easier time finding a job. Research shows that when students have better information they make better choices about their education. To arm prospective students and their families with better information on college costs and quality, the Administration launched the new College Scorecard, providing comprehensive data on costs and student outcomes at nearly all U.S. post-secondary institutions that is also available through an application programming interface (API) to increase the ways that the public can get access to and interact with the information. The Department of Education will continue testing the Scorecard with students and counselors to optimize features and capabilities, release annual updates to the data, form technical review panels to explore how to strengthen data collection and use, and create new capabilities with the open API to better serve all users, from those choosing colleges to those working to improve college quality.

IRM Midterm Status Summary

IRM End of Term Status Summary

Commitment 5. Optimize the College Scorecard

Commitment Text:

Help Students Make Informed Decisions About Higher Education.

Completing higher education can provide huge benefits to students that last throughout their lives. Compared to those with a high school diploma, college graduates earn $1 million more over their lifetimes and have an easier time finding a job. Research shows that when students have better information they make better choices about their education. To arm prospective students and their families with better information on college costs and quality, the Administration launched the new College Scorecard, providing comprehensive data on costs and student outcomes at nearly all U.S. post-secondary institutions that is also available through an application programming interface (API) to increase the ways that the public can get access to and interact with the information. The Department of Education will continue testing the Scorecard with students and counselors to optimize features and capabilities, release annual updates to the data, form technical review panels to explore how to strengthen data collection and use, and create new capabilities with the open API to better serve all users, from those choosing colleges to those working to improve college quality.

Responsible Institutions: Department of Education, Department of Treasury, Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Management and Budget

Supporting Institutions: Higher education institutions, educational organizations, and students and parents

 Start Date: Not Specified ....... End Date: Not Specified

Commitment Aim

This commitment aimed to enhance the College Scorecard, first established in September 2015. [77] An online platform, the College Scorecard serves as a repository for data on costs of and student outcomes at US post-secondary institutions. The commitment called for optimizing the scorecard’s capabilities and features, releasing annual data updates, forming technical review panels to improve data collection and use, and adding new functionalities to the Application Programming Interface (API).

Status

Midterm: Substantial

The government had made substantial progress on this commitment at the midterm. In December 2015, the Department of Education (through work with a contractor, RTI International) held a technical review panel comprised of external experts to identify means of improving the scorecard. [78] In early 2016, the panel published a report summarizing its findings. [79]

In February 2016, the Department of Education updated the scorecard with interim data. It added roughly 700 additional institutions, [80] removed some that had closed, and updated caution flags that indicate financial and/or compliance issues. [81] Major updates to the site, including the annual September update, occurred after the close of the midterm report’s evaluation period. The scorecard’s GitHub page documents updates to features and capabilities, [82] including those of the site’s API. Various technical updates were implemented by the midterm.

End of Term: Complete

In addition to implementing various technical and data updates through the end of term, [83] on 13 September 2016, the government launched its annual scorecard “data refresh.” The specific features of the data refresh are described on the scorecard’s GitHub page [84] and in the College Scorecard’s Change Log. [85] As part of the refresh, the government updated scorecard data to include data from 2012–2014 (representing the latest data available). It also performed various user interface improvements (such as predictive search functionality and visual updates to the search page) and technical improvements. The API was also updated to reference the newer data. The scorecard’s first quarterly data update of 2017 took place on 13 January. The government made additional updates to the site’s technical features and data documentation through August 2017. [86]

According to an Inside Higher Ed article on 14 June 2017, [87] the Department of Education was planning to take “steps to update the [Scorecard] data” again sometime in late 2017. At the close of the end-of-term reporting period, no updates beyond the January 2017 data update were apparent, per the Change Log. [88]

The updates to the College Scorecard described above complete the aspects of the commitment that remained outstanding at the midterm.

Did It Open Government?

Access to Information: Marginal

The activities carried out under this commitment marginally opened government with respect to access to educational information. The College Scorecard provides large amounts of educational cost and outcome data in a centralized location and standardized format. However, the updates carried out under this commitment represent far more incremental changes. On a technical level, the updates described on the scorecard’s GitHub page and Change Log are largely minor improvements to the scorecard’s user interface. On a substantive level, the September 2016 annual data refresh marginally improved the scorecard data’s timeliness by making more recent data available. Moreover, while data on 700 additional institutions was added, these additions comprise just under 10 percent of all Title IV post-secondary institutions in the United States. [89] The additional also represent a relatively small increase compared to the now 7,000 institutions covered by the scorecard. [90]

Carried Forward?

At the time of writing, the US government had not published its fourth national action plan. Unless the government overhauls the College Scorecard, it is not necessary to carry this commitment forward to the next plan. The government should nevertheless aim to update the scorecard on an ongoing basis to strengthen its data coverage and technical capabilities. In addition, the government should look to raise awareness and usage of the data by linking the scorecard to other important education tools, such as the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

[77] “College Scorecard,” US Department of Education, https://collegescorecard.ed.gov/.

[78] RTI International, Report and Suggestions from College Scorecard Technical Review Panel 1: Consumer Information, https://edsurveys.rti.org/IPEDS_TRP_DOCS/prod/documents/CS1_Summary.pdf, consulted 2 October 2017.

[79] Ibid.

[80] “Change Log,” College Scorecard, US Department of Education, https://collegescorecard.ed.gov/data/changelog/, consulted 2 October 2017.

[81] Ted Mitchell, “Choose a School More Easily with the College Scorecard,” Homeroom, US Department of Education, https://blog.ed.gov/2016/09/choosing-college-easier-college-scorecard/, consulted 2 October 2017.

[82] “College Scorecard,” GitHub, https://github.com/RTICWDT/college-scorecard/releases?after=v1.9.0, consulted 9 September 2017.

[83] Ibid.

[84] “v1.12.0-March 229, 2018,” College Scorecard, GitHub, https://github.com/RTICWDT/college-scorecard/releases, consulted 9 September 2017.

[85] “Change Log,” College Scorecard, https://collegescorecard.ed.gov/data/changelog/, consulted 9 September 2017.

[86] “College Scorecard,” GitHub, https://github.com/RTICWDT/college-scorecard/releases, consulted 9 September 2017.

[87] Andrew Kreighbaum, “Transparency with Staying Power,” Inside Higher Ed, 14 June 2017, https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2017/06/14/education-department-track-update-college-scorecard, consulted 9 September 2017.

[88] “Change Log,” College Scorecard, https://collegescorecard.ed.gov/data/changelog/, consulted 9 September 2017.

[89] “Fast Facts: Educational Institutions,” Institute of Education Sciences’ National Center for Education Statistics, https://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=84, consulted 9 September 2017. The data cited here come from “Chapter 2,” Digest of Education Statistics: 2015, US Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, https://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d15/ch_2.asp, consulted 9 September 2017.

[90] Ted Mitchell, “Choose a School More Easily with the College Scorecard,” Homeroom, US Department of Education, https://blog.ed.gov/2016/09/choosing-college-easier-college-scorecard/, consulted 2 October 2017.


Commitments

Open Government Partnership