By Congressman Duncan Hunter
As we congratulate our graduating high school seniors and celebrate their accomplishments, the natural tendency for graduates and families is to look to the future. As they do, they are faced with important decisions about their education and future job prospects.
A recent report, compiled using newly available census data, has highlighted recent graduates' employment rates by area of study. The data reveals that students face a growing challenge in the form of student loan debt.
Americans today shoulder over one trillion dollars in outstanding student loan debt. This is forcing young people to delay starting families and buying homes, while many have even moved back into their parents' homes. Coinciding with high debt, the average employment rate for recent graduates in a certain degree field remains a strong indicator of progress toward paying down debt.
Student loan rates are only part of the problem. An equal, if not bigger, challenge is accessing the information that students and their families need to know in order to make smart decisions on education. Much of this information exists already. Things like graduation rates, employment figures, and debt obligations are tracked by states and institutions. The challenge is getting that information into an accessible and easily comparable format for students and their families.
To that end, I co-authored bipartisan legislation that would ensure students and families have access to the information they need before making important choices about higher education. The Student Right to Know Before You Go Act Our provides much needed clarity on the costs associated with college, as well as the prospects for employment at graduation, before thousands of dollars in student loans are assumed.
Currently, the U.S. Department of Education requires institutions of higher learning to collect and report various data sets under the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). That information is too diverse and variable to create usable comparative data for students and their families.
The Student Right to Know Before You Go Act would standardize the information reported, creating a data system with enormous potential for public policy analysis, research and, of course, comparison evaluations of different institutions of higher learning. Best of all, the information would be available for all to see.
Statistics are no guarantee of future success, but they are an important predictive factor in any fully informed decision. By shining a light into the complicated world that is the college decision-making process, students and their families will be empowered to make the best educational and economic decisions.
We all compare different cars before a purchase with easily comparable figures and ratings systems to help us make a wise purchase. Why shouldn't our young people, who are making a much bigger and more important investment than a car, have the tools and data to similarly compare? The prerequisite for a fully informed decision is knowledge and it's important that high school graduates can truly "know before they go."