College Decision Day and PIRS

It is May Day and many thousands of high school students are committing to colleges today. My friends Robert Kelchen and KC Deane have each blogged about it today. I am not going to bother trying to say what they have said, please read both pieces yourself – they are worth it.

Also worth reading is George Cornelius over at

So, what happens next?

  • As Robert points out, there will be some melt and not all students will live up to their commitment.
  • In Virginia, sometime in the coming weeks before students enroll for classes, their names and other information will be sent to Virginia State Police to run against various criminal databases to ensure sex offenders are not enrolling, or if they are, they are properly reporting such (and any change of address).
  • Target and other stores will be flooded by students and parents to buy dorm supplies and furnishings. (Much of this will be trashed early in the semester or left in dumpsters at the end of the year).
  • Thrifty students will order new and used textbooks from Amazon and elsewhere as soon as they know what they need.
  • The rest will gripe much more loudly about the cost of text books….for multiple years.
  • According to the National Student Clearinghouse data for the 2007 cohort:
    • Of the students starting at public four-year institutions, only 51% will graduate from the same institution, about 13% will graduate from another institution, and 15% will still be enrolled. (Fyi, the numbers are much better in Virginia.)
    • For the students starting at private four-year institutions, only 59% will graduate from the same institution, about 14% will graduate from another institution, and 10% will still be enrolled. (Fyi, the completion numbers are a bit worse in Virginia.)
    • Only about 26% of students starting at a two-year public college will complete at that institution, with about 17% of all students (including those who completed a two-year degree) finishing a four-year degree and 19% still enrolled.
  • Of course, students who enroll exclusively full-time have much higher graduation rates across the board.
  • According to the Project on Student Debt, 71% of the 2012 graduates (four-year degrees) had an average of $29,400 debt, representing a 6% increase per year for the last five years.
  • If that 6% is accurate and continues forward, then at least three-quarters of those students graduating within four years will owe on average around $41k, and $44k for those in five years, and $47k in six years.  (I would really try to graduate within four years).
  • Even if debt only grows annually by 3%, we range between $35k and $37k.
  • Many of those graduates will likely start out making less money than they, their families, and policymakers have typically expected. This may have more to do with unrealistic expectations than anything else as the more I look at the earnings data, the more it seems to make sense when we look at the stories behind it.
  • These students, and ultimately graduates (many, but not all), will advise future students on how to choose a college and what college to choose. How many will suggest using a federal rating system?

“Dude, don’t pick a college that Uncle Sam hasn’t rated at least a three!”

Right after saying, “Don’t go borrowing private loans!”

Yeah, right.

The first article I read a few minutes after six a.m. today was about Secretary Duncan’s statement that the Postsecondary Institution Ratings System will go forward – even without the requested 10 million dollars.

Apart from the fact that I still don’t understand how the Department can legitimately spend $10M on ratings, other than on a significantly enhanced and expanded data collection. They might get more support from the community if he was open about such.

Further, according to the Chronicle:

On Tuesday, Mr. Duncan testified before the House education committee about the department’s budget and policy priorities for the coming fiscal year. During that hearing, Rep. Virginia Foxx, a Republican from North Carolina, said the department collects “mounds and mounds of data, but from that we get very little information.”

“We like transparency, and we don’t think we’re getting a lot of transparency from the department,” Ms. Foxx said. As an alternative to the college-rating system, she asked why the department did not just “put out useful information and let the public make decisions.”

What Representative Foxx fails to understand is that the Department has already published everything useful it has…plus a lot of other stuff that is less useful. Anything really useful will require new collections..and money. Perhaps at least $10 million. For another $10 million, I am pretty sure the Department could implement IPEDS Unit Record (if it wasn’t outlawed).

So, here’s the compromise. In exchange for no ratings, give the Department unit record collection via the Student Right-to-Know Before You Go Act.