Congressional Hearing on Student Data

May 25, 2017

The Committee on Education and the Workforce of the U.S. House of Representatives held a hearing Wednesday about data on student outcomes and the performance of colleges and academic programs. The hearing was related to recently introduced bipartisan bills that would eliminate a federal ban on student-level data collection.

Members from both sides of the aisle made supportive comments about dropping the ban during the well-attended event. For example, Representative Jared Polis, a Colorado Democrat and co-sponsor of the House bill, said better data would help student decision making while also preserving taxpayer investment in higher education. He cited broad support for the student-level data from associations that represent community colleges and land-grant universities as well as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and veterans' groups.

"Why isn't this happening?" Polis said.

However, the committee's chairwoman, Virginia Foxx, a North Carolina Republican, did not appear to waver in her support for the ban on student-level data. She cited privacy concerns and the need to balance risks with rewards in data collection, while also arguing that expanded state databases might be a better solution.

The federal government has a "pretty lousy record" keeping data private, said Foxx. "When does a person's right to be left alone get waived for the need for better information," she said, adding that the committee would continue to debate the issue.

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