One part of the president’s new higher education plan that particularly worries me is the requirement to collect data on graduates’ job prospects. This is because I teach at a very small school that has the rare distinction of arguably having insufficient administrative support. The existing burdens of data collection and reporting already strain our staff to the limit, and the idea of adding a totally new type of data collection effort — which will be burdensome to design and require constant maintenance — would be frankly intimidating for an institution of our size.
Then it struck me: there’s already an organization that, in principle, has a huge amount of information about the job prospects of college graduates — namely, the federal government. It knows where students go to school because of its administration of federal student aid. While this doesn’t cover literally every student, the ones receiving aid are the real concern of the policy in any case — the rich kids can presumably fend for themselves. It obviously knows a great deal about student loan defaults, etc. It also collects annual information on income from literally every U.S. citizen and resident. Given the appropriate software tools, I assume that government agencies could collectively draw up a pretty comprehensive report on these matters going back for years — and unlike individual schools, they have the ability to legally compel people to provide further information if the existing data is inadequate.
What possible advantage, then, would there be in forcing individual institutions to gather and report the data themselves? If anything, it leaves open more room for misleading and even outright fraudulent reporting. Hence I propose that if this kind of data must be gathered, Big Brother should contribute to cutting college administrative costs by gathering the data for us.