NAICU Washington Update

Updated College Scorecard Now Includes Program-Level Data

May 28, 2019

In an anticipated move, the Department of Education released preliminary data on student loan debt, by field of study, on the College Scorecard site. The preliminary data are based on school submissions to the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS).
Available by download, the file includes debt data for students awarded a credential or degree at institutions that participate in federal student aid programs. Data are limited to Direct, FFEL, and Graduate PLUS program borrowers, and fields of study are classified by 4-digit CIP code. Students are grouped into two-year cohorts (i.e., completers from consecutive years), likely in an attempt to minimize data suppression. 
According to the documentation accompanying the preliminary file, certain results were suppressed to reduce individual student identification. Although the rules were not made available to the public, a preliminary review of the file suggests programs with fewer than 10 awarded students had data suppressed. For the private, nonprofit sector, that translates to roughly three-out-of-four bachelor programs and four-out-of-five graduate programs with median debt data not shown.
In July, the Department will begin the process of recalculating student debt by field of study.  At the same time, it will also begin calculating earnings by field of study for the first time.  The earnings information will be made public on the Scorecard no later than January 2020, in line with the President’s recent executive order. In both cases, the Department will use data reported and/or updated by institutions as of July 10, 2019. Institutions are strongly encouraged to confirm the accuracy of any program-level data that was reported to NSLDS on or after July 1, 2014. The Department will offer a webinar on updating previously reported data on June 11, 2019 and also made additional resources available to help guide institutions through the correction process.   
Technical Review Panel Sought Ways to Calculate Metrics
The release of the data occurred about a month after a meeting of a Technical Review Panel (TRP) tasked with discussing methods for calculating program-level metrics to be presented on the College Scorecard. A meeting summary was released on the same day as the preliminary student loan debt data. Assuming a release of post-enrollment earnings and student loan debt data by field of study starting in the fall of 2019, TRP attendees discussed several topics such as appropriate CIP codes, the exclusion of certain students from calculations, adding context to metrics and the web site, and different repayment indicators. Some panel suggestions appeared in the preliminary data release, including the use of 4-digit CIP codes and the exclusion of students without debt.
Department Seeks Comments
RTI International, a consultant working with the Department, will accept comments about the College Scorecard via email until June 20, 2019, when recommendations will be reviewed for potential changes.  According to the Department, the College Scorecard will provide a final version appropriate for a wider audience (i.e. prospective students) after institutions have had a chance to revise the underlying data from which these metrics are derived.

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