Baby Steps on 'Unit Records' in House

The massive Higher Education Act bill that the House of Representatives education committee will begin debating today got a slight revision Monday, as the panel's Republican leaders offered a modest nod to greater transparency about student outcomes.

But advocates for a federal student-level data system say the additional language, part of a package of changes to the original bill text known as a manager's amendment, just kicks the can down the road on resolving transparency questions.

The new language would direct the U.S. secretary of education within two years to study the feasibility of having the National Student Clearinghouse, a private nonprofit entity, set up a third-party data system for analysis of institution- and program-level student outcomes. A bipartisan bill introduced this summer would direct the National Center for Education Statistics, the Education Department's research arm, to connect existing data maintained by several agencies for purposes of tracking, on a program-by-program level, issues such as graduates' employment prospects, earnings and typical student debt loads.

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