What Colleges Know

Colleges collect lots of information about American high school students. Shouldn’t the students be able to access this data? Currently they really can’t. According to a piece by Julie Margetta Morgan at the Center for American Progress:

Higher learning institutions across our nation collect a tremendous amount of information about students and prospective students for marketing, predicting admissions yield, and increasingly, for compliance with completion goals. Right now, colleges use the information to target their promotions toward particular students, to build their brands, or to change the services they offer to meet demand. But some of that information could also be used to help students understand more about the colleges and more about themselves.

For instance, colleges and universities use independent consultants> to collect data about current and prospective students to understand how to target the students who would be the most successful at their institutions. In stark contrast to the rich data these institutions can collect on their past, present, and prospective students, college-bound students only have access to the data collected through federal sources and a handful of other pieces of information.

It goes like this. The individual student knows his grades and test scores, his extracurricular activities, etc. He has some vague idea, based on research or whatever, which colleges he can’t get into. But he doesn’t know, based on his characteristics, which colleges want people like him and might, say, offer him better financial aid to go there.

Prying data out of colleges about their operations is notoriously difficult; don’t expect this information to become public any time soon. Still, the argument has merit: why keep kids in the dark?

Daniel Luzer

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