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Making Higher Education Pay

With tuition rising and some institutions of higher education underperforming, there is a need for new models of education delivery. In the US, “progressive” federalism – whereby the federal government sets performance goals, demands accountability by providers, and spurs innovation – could be key.

BERKELEY – Higher education is a great investment, with each additional year of post-secondary education yielding a 10-15% return, on average. For university graduates, that means hundreds of thousands of dollars over a lifetime. Unfortunately, students aspiring to a higher education, especially those from low-income families and underperforming secondary schools, lack the information they need to make wise choices about where to go and what to study to maximize the return on their investment.

In the United States, President Barack Obama’s administration is trying to close that information gap with the College ScoreCard, a free, easily searchable database that offers unbiased information about the performance and costs of US public and private institutions providing post-secondary education. Instead of proposing an overall ranking of institutions based on some composite measure of key indicators, the database offers detailed data covering five broad categories: costs, student debt and repayment, degree completion rates, post-enrollment earnings, and access for disadvantaged students.

Making federal data readily available to the private sector and encouraging open innovation platforms to address social challenges are hallmarks of Obama’s government. Journalists are already crunching the numbers in the College ScoreCard to propose rankings and recommendations. Ideas for new business opportunities are sure to follow.

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