Far too many students in the U.S. are taking out financial aid to earn a degree to only end up dropping out, leaving them with a serious debt balance, or having no job prospects. The reasons for these poor outcomes, which the government pegs at two in five students, are varied, but without collecting and sharing transparent data, there aren’t real ways to turn things around.
This is where the U.S. Department of Education’s new plan comes in. Aiming to arm researchers with more data, the government agency announced on its official blog steps it is taking to increase the amount of data researchers have access to, betting it will narrow the gap between college dropouts and degree holders.
Take student aid data for starters. According to the Department of Education, researchers with access to student aid data can answer important questions more effectively such as which repayment plan to consider. To reach that end, the Department of Education is teaming up with the Federal Reserve Board via a data pilot project to study student loan repayment programs that borrowers choose as well as the effectiveness of income driven repayment programs. The agency is also partnering with researchers to gauge how to create a “public-use microdata file from the National Student Loan Data System” that is secure and can act as a springboard for subsequent studies. The Department of Education is aiming to announce the outcome of talks with researchers in October.
Another step the White house is taking to bring more transparency to financial aid data is setting up rules as to what colleges and universities can do with it. According to the government, researchers and the schools themselves often aren’t aware of how they can use the data that provides real insight into borrowing trends. To aid in eliminating any confusion, the Privacy Technical Assistance Center released guidelines covering how schools can use Federal student financial aid data they collect.
Finally the Department of Education said it will work to increase the collection and sharing of data that could help students get out from under mounting debt and graduate from college. It pointed to efforts made so far such as the FSA Data center, its College Scorecard, and the Financial Aid Shopping Sheet; all of which arm students and parents with information to make more sound choices on school selection and loan amounts. Expect more of that to come this year, all of which bodes well for college bound students and those getting ready to earn a college degree.
Author: Dave Rathmanner
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