Editor’s note: The following commentary was contributed by Daniel Elkins, legislative director of the Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States. The content may be edited for clarity, style and length.
As a combat veteran, I know firsthand how important it is to work together as a team. The same teamwork mentality has led to many great successes on Capitol Hill. As the legislative director of the Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States (EANGUS), I have worked hard to establish a reputation as a consensus builder. I strive to be the type of person who wants to understand both sides of a situation. Recently, EANGUS has been trying to collaborate with the Department of Education (ED) to create an environment of transparency for student veterans to access information about higher education. We firmly believe that information empowers student veterans to make better decisions about their future.
Unfortunately, ED has recently decided to disable key data from the College Scorecard tool by removing national averages. This decision left student veterans vulnerable. ED removed this information without inviting public comment or consulting the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the Department of Defense (DOD), or the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). It appears that the Department of Education didn’t even attempt consumer testing regarding the affects these changes would have on a student. If more transparency is the goal, then ED removing essential information is a step in the wrong direction.
Without national averages, or medians, student veterans are not able to make informed decisions about institutions. Having data without a touchstone makes it almost impossible for student veterans to know if an institution’s net cost, graduation rate, average post-graduation income, and loan repayment rates are excellent or mediocre.
ED made another alarming change, this one to the way College Scorecard presented the total cost of tuition. Initially, a simple bar graph was displayed that ranged from $0-$40,000. This graph has now been changed to show a spectrum of $0-$100,000. Such a major change drastically affects an observer’s perception of how much a yearly tuition of $35,000 appears. ED has yet to give an explanation to why this change was made.
Lastly, ED’s decision to do away with national medians impacts valuable data utilized by VA, DOD, and CFPB. Now highly-trafficked student veteran aid tools will be less relevant. ED appears to be unconcerned by this and has been unwilling to continue to provide the data to other departments. These agencies were forced to urgently patch their online tools but are unable to continue to update their data, meaning all posted medians and averages will remain outdated and misleading.
We hope that the Department of Education will take the necessary steps to provide this valuable information to student veterans once again. We sincerely ask Education Secretary Betsy DeVos for a commitment to serving student veterans across all sectors of higher education.