Education Datapalooza to Promote Innovation in Improving College Access, Affordability, and Completion
- Created on Wednesday, 15 January 2014 21:33
- Written by IVN
Washington, DC - In August, President Obama outlined an ambitious new agenda to combat rising college costs and make college affordable for American families. As a part of this plan, the President called on the U.S. Department of Education to enlist entrepreneurs and technology leaders to catalyze new private-sector tools, services, and apps to help students evaluate and select colleges.
Today, in response to the President’s call, the White House, the U.S. Departments of Education and Treasury, and the General Services Administration are hosting an Education “Datapalooza”, highlighting innovators from the private, nonprofit, and academic sectors who have used freely available government data to build products, services, and apps that advance postsecondary education, empower students with information, and help colleges innovate in creative and powerful ways.
The program focuses on two areas directly responsive to the President’s call: empowering students and families with the information, apps, websites, and other tools to help them make informed decisions about going to and paying for college; and leveraging technology to increase the quality of online teaching and learning, which can lead to breakthroughs on college cost and quality.
Technologies like those being showcased at the Datapalooza can play important roles in support of President Obama’s plan to make college more affordable and accessible. That plan calls for measuring college performance through a new ratings system so that students and families have the information they need to select schools that provide the best value for them; enhancing competition and innovation to provide higher value at lower costs; and supporting new ideas in higher education through a limited number of experimental sites. The plan also proposes to cap Federal student loan payments at 10 percent of income for all borrowers, and directs the Department of Education to ramp up efforts to make sure borrowers are aware of, and can take advantage of, all available repayment options.
Key Administration Steps to Build Momentum for Innovation
As part of today's Datapalooza, the U.S. Department of Education announced a series of next steps aimed at opening up resources that higher-education leaders, private-sector and philanthropic leaders, technology developers, and entrepreneurs can use to enhance affordability, access, and outcomes in higher education. These actions include:
Exploring the Use of APIs to Improve Access to Education Resources: The U.S. Department of Education will explore the use of Application Program Interfaces (APIs) as a way to help students and families access key education processes, programs, and data. The Department will issue a Request for Information (RFI) to gather ideas and feedback on potential development of APIs with key education data, programs, and frequently used forms—including the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). These efforts will build on steps the Department is already taking to make data available to the public in API format from the National Center for Education Statistics’ Common Core of Data and Integrated Postsecondary Education Data Systems (viewable at www.ed.gov/developers).
Opening Targeted FAFSA Completion Data to High Schools and Guidance Counselors. The U.S. Department of Education is committed to responsibly sharing data with schools and guidance counselors about whether their students have applied for the FAFSA, as a tool to increase financial aid application rates. This effort can help spur the development of new resources for parents, school leadership, and guidance counselors to assist students applying for Federal student aid.
Pursuing Data-Driven, Targeted Strategies for Communicating with Student Loan Borrowers: Last fall, the U.S. Department of Education conducted a targeted outreach campaign to 3.7 million borrowers to inform them of their options to manage their Federal student loan debt. Building on these targeted outreach efforts, the Department’s Office of Federal Student Aid will continue to develop data-driven strategies for communicating with student-loan borrowers, tailoring communications to borrowers to maximize awareness of repayment options for Federal student loans. By analyzing available student aid data, the Department will continue to develop more sophisticated approaches to communicating with students, such as targeting easy-to-understand information about Income-Driven Repayment plans to those borrowers who may benefit from such plans.
Considering the Integration of Third Party Apps into the Department’s Financial Aid Toolkit: Last month, the U.S. Department of Education launched the Financial Aid Toolkit at financialaidtoolkit.ed.gov as an online "one-stop shop" for financial aid resources, aimed at guidance counselors, community-based organizations, and others who help students select and finance their higher education. The Financial Aid Toolkit consolidates into one searchable online database a full range of financial aid resources covering the entire financial aid lifecycle—from applying for financial aid to repaying student loans. Going forward, the Department will study the potential benefits of integrating third-party apps, tools, and other services into the Toolkit, potentially making this resource even more accessible and user-friendly.
Streamlining Application Paperwork: The U.S. Department of the Treasury will explore opportunities to help consumers access their own Government-held financial records online. Federal student-loan borrowers need access to Government-held personal records, such as tax returns, to help apply for aid and scholarships, as well as to enroll in programs to help them repay their loans, such as Income-Driven Repayment programs. As a part of this overall effort, the IRS is launching Get Transcript, which will give taxpayers the ability to view, print, and download their tax transcripts—making it easier for student borrowers to access their own tax records needed for loan and grant applications.