Resources & Publications

Better Information Becomes a Priority in the Latest Round of TAACCCT Grants

May 09, 2013

By Patrick Reimherr, Tim Harmon, Julie Strawn, and Neil Ridley

In its newest round of Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) Grants, the Department of Labor took a significant step toward transparency for students by requiring state-consortium applicants to develop an online Employment Results Scorecard. Originally enacted as part of the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010, the TAACCCT grant program awards funds to institutions to expand and improve education and training programs that can be completed in two years or less. TAACCCT-funded programs support displaced and other at-risk workers in their pursuit of skills and credentials in “high-wage, high-skill” employment.

The Employment Results Scorecards will help students navigate the postsecondary environment by providing, at a minimum, information on the graduation rate, employment rate, retention rate, average earnings, and transfer rate, as well as other potential metrics, for all the consortium institutions’ programs of study, including those developed with TAACCCT funds. Ideally, a consortium will connect with other data initiatives and systems, such as the national Workforce Data Quality Campaign and the Unemployment Insurance (UI) program.

Research shows that access to data on labor market outcomes for students—both those who graduate and those who do not complete-is a critical unmet need, especially for low-income and first-generation college-goers.. Findings suggest that providing better information to students and parents on the labor market outcomes resulting from programs of study at individual institutions can improve the ability of students to select programs and colleges that best meet their needs:

  • One study found that when parents were “provided with graduation-rate data, 15 percent switched their preference to the school with the higher graduation rate.” In addition, these effects were stronger among parents with lower educational attainment levels and lower incomes.
  • A review of focus group studies of how students select colleges found that “the focus group findings with low-income, first-generation, and academically underprepared students were consistent with research on adult students in that these students also collapse the search and choice stages into one abbreviated step. They tend to focus on a single college or two, primarily due to cost considerations and the fact that their grades and test scores limit their choices.”

The initiative is similar in purpose to the recent College Scorecard in that it aims to supply students with more information about the institution and potential programs of interest.  However, an important difference is that Employment Results Scorecard data will be collected at the state and institutional level, and reported at the program level, while the College Scorecard relies primarily on data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) and the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS), and is reported at the institution level.

Making program-level data widely available has the potential to expand the range of program and institutional options students consider when investing in their postsecondary education.  The Department of Labor’s inclusion of the Employment Results Scorecard is a step in the right direction and has the potential to help an especially vulnerable population access programs that better prepare them for the demands of the labor market.

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