There is growing interest in providing students and others with information about the performance of postsecondary education and training programs. Consumer reports, which display important information about postsecondary programs and their outcomes – such as the percentage of students who complete their programs and find jobs, and average earnings of graduates – can help students, policymakers, and others make more informed decisions. One key addition to improving these consumer reports would be ensuring that the College Scorecard consumer pages include a measure of earnings shortly after graduation.
The President recently issued an executive order directing the Department of Education to include information at the program-level on the Department’s College Scorecard. Further, Congress is considering the College Transparency Act which would authorize such reports based on data from all students at institutions eligible for federal financial aid. As these initiatives continue and evolve, it is important to align postsecondary consumer reports with the characteristics and goals of today’s students and programs. A large and growing share of postsecondary students are working adults who attend certificate and associate degree programs that can quickly advance their level of employment and earnings. To fit the needs of these students and the programs they consider, consumer reports should show their labor market outcomes shortly after graduation.
Already, Congress has enacted statutory requirements for institutions receiving funding under the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act (commonly referred to as Perkins V) and Individual Training Account funds under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. Such institutions must post online consumer reports including short-term labor market outcomes. To ensure that students and policymakers have comparable information about programs’ outcomes, the College Scorecard consumer pages should also include a measure of earnings shortly after graduation. Currently, the College Scorecard’s consumer pages report only earnings ten years after enrollment.
National Skills Coalition’s new policy brief, Consumer Reports for Today’s Postsecondary Students, discusses the current landscape of postsecondary consumer reports and explains why adding a measure of earnings shortly after graduation to the College Scorecard’s consumer pages is important to meet the needs of today’s students and to level the playing field for postsecondary consumer reports.