Doing More With Higher Ed Data: Agenda
Philadelphia • February 2–3, 2017

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Welcome & Lunch
12:00–1:00 p.m.


Which Students Count in College Data-Keeping?
1:00–2:00 p.m.

One consequence of the increased focus on whether colleges are graduating their students is the recognition that for many types of students, answers aren’t easy to find. Results for part-time students, transfer students, adults returning to college and others can all be hard to unearth at the institutional level. In this session, journalists get guidance on figuring out whether the student data provide a complete and accurate picture of a college’s outcomes, along with insights about where to find data about those students who might be “missing.”

Would a National Student ID Number Help?
2:15–3:15 p.m.

One potential solution for gathering better data on colleges would be to assign individual students ID numbers that follow them as they move from school to school over a lifetime. But Congress has banned the use of such an identifier, known as the student-unit record. Why was the ban enacted, and have the data privacy and political landscapes changed enough for the prohibition to be lifted? Policy experts and reporters explore why this debate matters for students and colleges.

On the Money: College Students’ Earnings Data
3:30–4:30 p.m.

The costs of college and student loan debt both continue to climb. But how well do college studies translate into actual career earnings? Researchers and policymakers are looking for ways to help students, policymakers, and journalists make better comparisons on the financial benefits of a college degrees, among both schools and programs at the same institution. This session offers guidance on where to find reliable data on how much money students from specific schools earn.

Tuition-Free and the Future of College Affordability
4:45–5:45 p.m.

New York’s governor recently proposed  making the state’s public colleges and universities tuition-free for many students, signaling that this prominent Democratic goal might move forward despite the party’s Election Day defeats. But is the political focus on tuition-free the most effective way to make higher education more affordable for students with the most financial need? How do states currently compare on the costs of college, and how might tuition-free change that picture?   In this session, leading researchers and experts discuss policies that might affect the future of college affordability.


6:15 p.m.

Sponsored by the Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions.


Friday, February 3, 2017

8:30–9:00 a.m.

Getting More Out of College Scorecard Data
9:00–11:00 a.m.

Designed as a tool to help students and families make better-informed choices about colleges, the College Scorecards that the U.S. Department of Education releases can also be a mother lode of data for journalists to assess the institutions on their beat. In this two-hour, hands-on session, experts guide reporters through getting started with the Scorecard data set, analyzing and creating story ideas about college graduation rates, and digging into the data on student loan repayment.

Data files you’ll need:

Optional data file:

Using Records Requests to Build Original Data Sets
11:00 a.m.–12:00 p.m.

There’s no secret sauce to building a database in the public interest. Issuing public records requests is part of the process, but sweat equity and clever workarounds when data-keepers don’t cooperate can often be journalists’ best bets. Reporters hear from colleagues about successful efforts to obtain higher education data and work together to devise techniques for gaining access to such data in different circumstances.

12:00–1:00 p.m.

New President, New Higher Education Agenda
1:00–2:00 p.m.

During his time in office, President Obama substantially altered the landscape of postsecondary education, from making the federal government the direct lender of student loans to changing the climate for how colleges address allegations of sexual assault. Journalists who cover federal policy on higher education offer insights and story ideas about issues to track, from the regulation of for-profit colleges to the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.


‘Sanctuary Campuses’ and Undocumented Immigrants in Higher Ed
2:15–3:15 p.m.

During his campaign, Donald Trump frequently promised to deport undocumented immigrants. Now that he has been elected president, student activists and college administrators are considering how their institutions might respond to federal actions affecting the immigrants in their communities. What are the legal ramifications if a university declares itself a “sanctuary campus”? If President Trump rescinds DACA, the federal policy that provides some protections for undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, how might students in higher education be affected? In this session, legal experts and students share insights.


Where Are the Faculty Members of Color?
3:15–4:15 p.m.

Why don’t prestigious colleges and universities employ a more racially diverse faculty? “The reason … is that we don’t want them. We simply don’t want them,” wrote University of Pennsylvania Professor Marybeth Gasman in an op-ed that went viral a few months ago. This session will dive into that topic, exploring questions of whether there are enough candidates of color in the faculty pipeline and the potential effects of more colleges competing for the most-promising faculty from racial minority backgrounds.