Public Agenda
Commentary

Colleges Should Help Would-Be Students Make Responsible Choices

Will Friedman, Ph.D.

Reprinted from The Chronicle of Higher Education - March 17, 2014

A meaningful and fair gainful-employment rule is an important first step in protecting students from unscrupulous higher-education providers (““Gainful Employment: What’s New? What’s Missing? And To Whom Does That Matter?” The Chronicle, March 17). Higher-education leaders and policymakers should also pursue a complementary strategy that gives students themselves more agency as consumers.

As it stands, many students are not discerning when it comes to choosing a college. Just four in 10 students who currently attend either a for-profit or community college considered more than one college before deciding where to enroll. Many prospective students also don’t consider data like graduation or loan-default rates to be essential when selecting a college.

Even the best-designed gainful-employment rule may contain loopholes that leave students vulnerable. Further, regulations will take some time to implement, and colleges will have a couple of years to adjust their programs found not up to par.

Providing students with the best opportunity for a financially and professionally stable future will require both top-down and bottom-up efforts. By engaging students more deeply on college choice and quality data, they will gain the knowledge and understanding they need to become informed and responsible decision makers.



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