Thursday, July 12, 2007

The States to the Rescue

By Richard Vedder

Among the most frustrating things as a member of the Spellings Commission on the Future of Higher Education was the absolute fanatical opposition of the colleges to any federal unit record system that would allow us to trace student performance from kindergarten through college. Failure to do this now deprives us of needed insights as to why students dropout and fail, as well as why students succeed.

The Bad Guys have won, and Secretary Spellings has thrown in the towel on a national unit record systems (which many conservatives opposed because of concerns of excessive federal power, a concern I often share; colleges, however, have prostituted themselves to the Feds already, and if Washington is going to drop money out of airplanes over campuses, the Feds certainly at least ought to know better what is happening to the persons supposedly benefiting from the funds).

We learn now that at the state level, major efforts are going forward to develop not only state unit record systems, but to make them compatible with one another and to trade information, dealing with the serious issue of interstate mobility of students over time. I think this is a constructive development worthy of our praise.

1 comment:

Sherman Dorn said...

Wait a second... didn't you express concern a few entries ago about intrusive questions on exiting college? Since privacy is a legitimate concern about a huge federal database (how many privacy leaks have been documented), and since there are now several proposals for a workaround on the awful IPEDS graduation measure, I'm puzzled why you're still mad about the unit records database.

In any case, the best research I know on *young* adults in college is Cliff Adelman's Toolbox Revisited, which was based on the NELS longitudinal sample... something that is far more trustworthy than any attempt at complete records. We can and should continue to start and follow longitudinal samples, and such data collection efforts will be more valuable and cost-effective than a giant federal database.