Last month, Representative Virginia Foxx (R-NC) introduced a bill to reauthorize the Higher Education Act of 1965. The Promoting Real Opportunity, Success, and Prosperity through Education Reform (PROSPER) Act (H.R.4508) includes a few key provisions related to postsecondary data, most notably the creation of a College Dashboard website. Rep. Foxx, who chairs the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, envisions the College Dashboard website as a tool that will empower students and families to make informed decisions. It would include key enrollment, completion, cost, and financial aid information about each Title IV-participating college and university. This concept is not entirely new – previous iterations of the College Dashboard featured in legislation introduced by Foxx in the 113th Congress (H.R. 4983) and again in 114th Congress (H.R. 3178). The key difference in this latest Dashboard proposal is the addition of program-level data on the following:
- Percentage of graduates who borrowed federal student loans
- Average debt of borrowers at graduation
- Median earnings of students who received federal financial aid both five and ten years after graduation
IHEP released an analysis comparing the data elements to be included in the proposed Dashboard with those currently available through College Navigator and the College Scorecard. Under PROSPER, the College Dashboard replaces the former, while the bill does not directly address the latter.
The PROSPER Act also proposes a few important data changes within the Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA). The bill expands data access by calling for FSA to regularly calculate and release program-level data on debt and post-college earnings for federal loan borrowers, as well as making de-identified data on the federal student loan portfolio available to researchers. PROSPER eliminates calculation of institutional Cohort Default Rates (CDRs), replacing the CDR with program-level Loan Repayment Rates (LRRs). Finally, the bill signals a commitment to maintaining and strengthening IPEDS data collection, though it does not provide specific details. Twenty-three members of the Postsecondary Data Collaborative (PostsecData) sent a letter to Rep. Foxx and colleagues responding to many of these data-related provisions in the PROSPER Act.
Before adjourning for the holidays, the House Ed & Workforce Committee completed markup on the PROSPER Act. While this process left the aforementioned provisions intact, Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-KY) proposed an amendment in the nature of a substitute that requires an audit of all current federal postsecondary data collections, along with a feasibility study of improved data collection. The bill – including this amendment – passed committee by a 23-17 vote down party lines, and is expected to make its way to the House floor in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, earlier in January 2018, Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) announced that they have also begun HEA reauthorization discussions, with a goal of having a draft bill ready for committee markup in spring of 2018.
The Higher Education Act was last reauthorized 10 years ago, in 2008. While both the House and Senate are making substantial progress, the current HEA reauthorization is expected to extend well into 2018, leaving many experts doubtful that a final bill will be signed into law this year. The IHEP team will continue to monitor this process closely looks forward to serving as a resource to AIR and its membership.