Failure To Disclose

Three years after the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, which included new disclosure requirements for institutions, the majority of colleges are failing to provide public information on graduation rates for low-income students, and many do not adequately disclose other required information, according to a study published today by Education Sector and the American Enterprise Institute.

The study, "The Truth Behind Higher Education Disclosure Laws," examined the rates at which 300 four-year colleges and universities comply with five new disclosure requirements created when the Higher Education Act was renewed in 2008. As well as graduation rates for students receiving Pell Grants, which the majority of colleges failed to provide even when asked, the disclosure requirements examined included credit transfer policies, employment and graduate school placement rates, textbook prices, and disclosures related to private student loans.

In some cases, including credit transfer policies, the information is required to be posted online. In others, it must simply be provided when asked. But many colleges failed on both counts: only 25 percent of all respondents could provide Pell Grant recipients’ graduation rates. A majority posted or could provide placement data: 67 percent for employment placement and 60 percent for graduate school placement. Eighty-six percent of institutions were making the appropriate disclosures about private student loans, including information about federal student loan options.

Of the institutions surveyed, 97 percent disclosed textbook prices, and 99 percent made public their credit transfer requirements.

Still, the information was often hard to find — buried deep on college websites or requiring multiple phone calls or e-mails to verify. “The law itself allows so much variation in compliance as to render much of the information all but useless for students and parents choosing colleges,” the researchers, Kevin Carey of Education Sector and Andrew Kelly of the American Enterprise Institute, wrote. “As our analysis demonstrates, many colleges are providing less information than meets the eye.”

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Inside Higher Ed

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