A recent report from the American Enterprise Institute indicates that providing American high school students and their families with more information might dramatically change college applications in the United States.

According to the paper, by Andrew Kelly and Mark Schneider:

When faced with the choice between two colleges with different records of success, students and their families had comparable measures of college performance at their fingertips, they would choose the one with the better outcomes.

Overall, we found that providing graduation-rate information increased the probability that parents would choose the institution with the higher graduation rate by about 15 percentage points.

In theory, providing all families would this kind of information would also push low-performing colleges to do a better job educating, and graduating, their students. What’s more,

Parents with less education, lower incomes, and less knowledge of the college application process experienced large and significant information effects, while more advantaged and better-informed parents did not significantly change their preferences. These findings suggest that providing additional information about college quality could lead less-informed and lower income parents to make decisions that are similar to those made by the savviest consumers in the market.

Now, how to get there….

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Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer