College Data Systems Cannot Answer Crucial Questions

Statement By Gates Foundation

In an era of escalating costs and uncertain outcomes, it is imperative that prospective students, policymakers, and the public have answers to commonsense questions about whether and which colleges and programs offer a quality education at an affordable price. At present, we still lack answers to critical questions, including: ·

How many “post-traditional” students—the low-income, first-generation, adult, transfer, and part-time students who make up the new majority on today’s campuses—attend college? Do they reach graduation and how long does it take them? · Are students making sufficient progress toward timely completion, particularly students who enter with less academic preparation or fewer financial resources? · Do the students who don’t graduate transfer to other colleges and earn credentials, or do they drop out completely? · How much debt are students accumulating from the college(s) they attend—and can they repay their loans? · Are students gaining employment in their chosen field after attending college, and how much do they earn? · How much are students learning from their college experience, and how are they using their knowledge and skills to contribute to their communities? 1

The metrics published today often only include “traditional” students and ignore the new normal in higher education: “post-traditional” students attending college—or colleges—in new ways en route to their credentials. Colleges and universities, and the data systems that support them, must adjust to and reflect the experiences and outcomes of all students, not just the outdated “traditional” student profile. It’s time for a system reboot. And we need only look to leading institutions and states for the operating manual.