Monday, November 27, 2006

Hooray for the National Technical Institute for the Deaf

By Richard Vedder

I received an exciting email this morning from Alan Hurwitz, who runs the National Technical Institute for the Deaf within the Rochester Institute of Technology. Dr. Hurwitz writes that while the Spellings Commission talks about the need to know more about the labor market outcomes of our students, the NTID is doing something about it.

The NTID has arranged for the Social Security Administration (SSA) to provide earnings history on 12,000 students attending the NTID over the last 40 years (a 100 percent sample). NTID provided the SSA with Social Security numbers, and SSA reported back the earnings of graduates --not, of course, by individual names. The NTID is able to construct a neat graph showing the years from graduation and earnings for the NTID students relative to a broad cohort of the American population (the NTID students do quite well).

This type of information should be provided for every institution. Every school, in turn, should be required to report the data widely (if it receives federal funds) in a way that inter-institutional comparison of labor market outcomes is possible. If people truly look at college mainly as a human capital investment decision, the public is entitled to know how students going to the college fare --even those who drop out, I might add.

In concocting alternative measures to the US News & World Report rankings, nothing would be better than including some vocational success data, along with measures of value added during college in terms of demonstrating knowledge or critical learning skills.

The critics of detailed "unit record reporting" claim privacy is violated. The argument is bunk, as NTID has shown. This is an important tool that can be used to provide consumer information on colleges. Thanks, Dr. Hurwitz and the NTID.

No comments: