There are probably many different causes to the constant increase in cost, and there are also many actions the government could take to alleviate the burden on graduates. On Monday, President Obama took one such action by signing an executive order expanding the Pay As You Earn program to include an additional 5 million Americans.
Yesterday’s Q&A with Tumblr was done in an effort to increase awareness of Monday’s executive order and to answer the public’s questions on student loans, debt, and college affordability. You can view the entire Q&A session below.
As a research fellow at the GovLab, I ask myself how can technology alleviate or at least better inform the problem of rising tuition costs and the huge burden of student debt. The first thing that comes to mind is that the government might not have all the answers, perhaps there are experts out there who might offer better insights and yet we are unaware who they are. This is where platforms for idea generation and collective intelligence sites might prove useful. At the GovLab we also like the idea that the more data and information we have about something, the more intelligently we can make our decisions. More data, more transparency, more openness.
The government has already realized that the potential for technology to provide support and better inform students and parents. Tools that allow parents to make better decisions are already out there. One such tool mentioned by the President during the Q&A is the The Dept. of Education’s College Scorecard. Last year, the Obama administration announced its “Plan To Make College More Affordable”. One of the main points of the plan was to create a rating system that would inform the public on the returns of a college investment. Other points on the initiative involving technology include redesigning courses to integrate online learning platforms (e.g. MOOC’s) and using technology to improve student services (online learning communities, e-advising tools, etc).
A major component of empowering students and parents with information to make the right choices on colleges is having the data open for public use and analysis. The Open Data 500 has a list of twenty companies that are already using the Department of Education’s open data in a variety of different ways. Some of the ways companies are leveraging educational open data is by helping students discover their best options for college, helping parents and students manage the financial aid process, or by finding ways to improve the learning process.
The Dept. of Education is already on its way to providing the new college rankings and ratings by the start of the 2015 school year, but what other data can be made available to better inform students and parents? Is it already out there, does more data need to be open?
A lot of criticism has fallen on the colleges and universities themselves. Perhaps greater access to information provided by these institutions might increase accountability and could make way to designing better and more affordable institutions.