Comparing College Outcomes with the Equitable Value Explorer

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Kim Dancy, Associate Director of Research and Policy, and Piper Hendricks, J.D., Vice President of Communications and External Affairs at the Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP), join the podcast to discuss the Equitable Value Explorer and a new way for institutions and policymakers to compare college outcomes.

For any assessment of student outcomes, including the Equaal value explorer. There are three crucial things listeners should keep in mind. One, context matters to public data is limited and, three, outcomes are not causes. You're listening to enrollment growth university from Helix Education, the best professional development podcast for higher education leaders looking to grow enrollment at their college or university. Whether you're looking for fresh enrollment growth techniques and strategies or tools and resources, you've come to the right place. Let's get into the show. Welcome back to enrollment growth university, a proud member of the connect ETU podcast network. I'm Eric Olson with Helix Education and we're here today with Kim Dancy, associate director of research and policy at the Institute for Higher Education Policy, and Piper Hendrix, vice president of Communications and External Affairs. That I have Kim Piper, welcome to the show. Thanks for having us. Sary, it's great to be here. Hi, Eric, really excited to talk with you both today about the equitable value explore in a different way to compare college outcomes. But before we dig in, can you give the listeners a little background on yourself and your role at I have beginning with Kim Hi and Kim Dancy. I'm the associate director of research and policy, with I have I were, on a range of our policy issues, including college affordability as well as our work on post secondary value. And I'm Piper Hendricks, vice president of Communications and External Affairs, and I have the joy of taking all the wonderful research that our research team does and connecting it for audiences on it in the field, on the hill and across higher education. So excited that you're both here today to give a lot of different contexts and nuance this conversation. Kim, to kick us off,...

...where does the current difficulty live today when trying to compare colleges by their student outcomes? That's a really a great place to start. When we were working on building the equable value explorer, we talked a lot about knowing your numbers, but it's also really important to keep in mind that numbers need context. So for any assessment of student outcomes, including the Equaal value explorer, there are three crucial things listeners should keep in mind. One, context matters to public data is limited and three, outcomes are not causes. So first, context matters. A single number can't capture the whole picture of a school. Anyone using this tool should consider the numbers in the larger context of an institution and higher education as a whole. That includes looking at an institution's history as well as their mission. Is it a huge public flagship or a small librollers college? What students are they serving? What financial resources are available, either from the state or from tuition revenue? What are the local and regional labor market conditions that could influence post school earnings? There are so many factors to consider to really start to understand why a certain school's outcomes might look the way they do. So it's important not to jump to conclusions based off of earning data alone. Number two, there are limitations in the publicly available data. The explorer leverages the best available data from the College Score Card and from other public sources, but those data are incomplete. That's a conversation for another day on why the College Transparency Act is so important and the need for better postsecondary data, but for today as one example, unless your institution has undertaken efforts similar to what we've seen from the University of Texas system and others,...

...to both analyze and publicly report data, on student earnings outcomes. It's really difficult to evaluate how students earnings vary across race, ethnicity, family, income or gender, which makes understanding equity and earnings and employment outcomes nearly impossible. And number three is that outcomes are not causes. The data that we've included in the explorer in the explorer are just snapshots of the various outcomes that institutions are currently seeing. This isn't designed for ranking or penalizing institutions or for making any causal claims. Instead, it's about understanding where we are and informing efforts to improve super helple context and giving us some understanding of the current data limitations visibility challenge. With that, Piper, give us a high level overview of the equitable value explore and it's primary goals to help start to solve and address some of these challenges. Yeah, thanks, Erk. We develop the equitable value explore birth as a free online tool that emerged from the work of the Post Secondary Value Commission and it's a tool that's designed to help higher education policymakers make better policy and deliver the value of higher education to to students across the country. It's there's a lot of ways to think about the tool. It is is pretty complex, I think people see when they get into it. But we think of it as a diagnostic tool. It's supposed to show what's going well and also what's not going so well, and this is emerging from from years of work, but I can send it up by saying like the explore provides a snap shot of the present and we want people to use that snapshot to Improve Our Future. And it's a tool that we design for members of Congress, Department of Education, decisionmakers at colleges and universities, all folks who are needing to better understand current student outcomes and see the gaps and then use that information to change policies and equitably deliver value. And One ad you...

...know sometimes, while we call it the explore for short, it's really important to remember those first two words, equitable value, and I think that your listeners already can appreciate that. We're moving from the first wave of access in college and then into completion and now moving into that third wave of a new movement within higher education to focus on the delivery of value, and that's that word. Value is both simple and and really complex. And then there's a simple version. Is that? Value is it? You know, means access to quality credentials that students can afford and that offer economic mobility and preparing them to advance racial and economic justice across society. That is a simple version of you can believe it, and I can turn to Kim, who helped design the explore if we want to dig a little bit more into the complexity. Thanks tiper put secondary value is really complex. We can certainly spend this entire conversation Jaffa talking about all of the nuances of the framework that underlies this tool. So instead I will provide a quick overview to encourage listeners to visit the website to read the final report and really dig into some of the materials that came out of this work, including the definition of value, the measurement framework and the action attenda. For today I'll focus on a set, one of those, which is the measurement framework. That includes a series of six thresholds that span from threshold zero up to threshold five. Each threshold measures a students return on investment and the value that they get from an institution or program of study. So, for example, if an institution passes threshold zero. That means they are receiving a minimum that their students are receiving a minimum economic return. So students are better off financially for having attended that institution or program then...

...if they had not pursued post secondary education at all. That sounds like a really low bar and that's because it is, and unfortunately what we see from the data is that not all institutions in the US are currently needing that threshold. In contrast, going up to the threshold five requires equitable wealth accumulation for former students. Threshold five is a pretty high bar and it is a worthy goal, but unfortunately we need some substantial improvements to post secondary data systems to measure institutional outcomes related to wealth, including threshold five. For now, I want listeners to know that this tool will help them better understand current student outcomes and to see existing gaps. That's information that they can use to change policies and practices in ways that will help them better serve students and deliver equitable value. We've already referenced the College Score Card. Kim. Let's say you're an institutional leader who is currently using the college score card to try and compare university outcomes the best that you can give us a hypothetical of a situation where college might look better using college score card data than it does when you're looking at similar data through the Lens of the equitable value explorer? Yeah, that's it. Great question to when people think about what looks that are in higher education, it's usually used as code for how selective or prestigious a school is, even in a sense of just being exclusive, and that's because for a long time those are the measures that were available to us to think about what institutions were the best. So it was important for us to create something that didn't simply reinforce those pre existing and narrowly defined ideas of what qualit equality and higher education means. In particular, we really wanted to shine a light on the...

...value created by serving diverse student populations. Well. That means providing access to quality, affordable educational opportunities for black, Latin X, indigenous and underrepresented Asian, American and Pacific Islander Students, as well as students from lowincome backgrounds and women, and preparing all of those students for success in the workforce and in their lives. Institutions that are doing both of these things, are really going to be able to move the needle on both equity and on economic mobility, which is a game changer in terms of thinking about value. The college scorecard does include median earnings information for former students and our tool relies on that data because we know how important it is. But we also wanted to include additional measures to help reflect the full dimensionality of value in post secondary education. So, just to give a couple of examples, the scorecard earnings outcomes don't reflect differences in living costs and wages across different geographic locations, even though we know that geography makes a big difference and how far your post college salary might go. The data in our tool allows institutional leaders to say things like our students, on average, are earning more than the typical bachelor's degree recipient in our state, which is meaningful and consistent benchmark across different geographic regions. And then another example of this is that looking at earnings alone doesn't account for what students are investing in their education. So our return on investment measure, threshold zero, offers institutions a chance to demonstrate whether the services that they're providing are worth...

...what students are putting in and also to adjust accordingly when they find that they're falling short. Wonderful context. To Piper. How do you hope that the equal value explore is used, and specifically by WHO? Well, in short, we want it to be used widely and an often. We developed it for for all policymakers, including institutional leaders, and that's an addition to to state and federal lawmakers and their staffs, and for researchers. We want this for everybody who needs to understand student experiences and outcomes and then use that this wider picture, the clearer picture that the explorer provides to encourage better practices and making more informed public investments in in Higher Ed and smarter policies. I think everyone knows that that pathway to a degree, as a lot of barriers, you know. How can we identify those barriers and who they're they're impacting, and so I do want to be clear that that. You know, while anyone is welcome to explore it, that the tool is free, it's online, it's available. It's not for students in families or not, our primary audience. Are Welcome to use it, but really this is. This is intended for policymakers and, and this can mention you know, it's important to remember that the the tool could be even more useful if we had the robust data infrastructure that we'd like to see. This is something that's really key to US set at I have seeing something like a secure, privacy protected student level data network would be incredibly helpful. So there are some questions we can yet answer, but the explorers doing the best with the data that we've got available. One thing I find ironic is that we've already talked about the difficulties in the issues with looking at single metrics to tell a broader story, and yet I find myself compelled to but but if there's a better metric, so obviously I am the problem. And yet Kim is economic mobility at least a better...

...or more helpful metric when trying to broadly evaluate a collegist performance? I think economic mobility is certainly a critical metric to include in any type of evaluation of college performance. It is also a core component of the equitable post secondary value framework. But we also want to point out that there is a wide range of both economic and noneconomic factors that can reflect the value that an institution provides. So in the tool you'll also see a range of other economic indicators, including things like whether students earn enough to recoup their investments and higher education and whether students earn similar amounts to others with the same degree. At the same time, looking at value more holistically, I mean it's also considering the non economic benefits that post secondary education can provide. So for students, the non economic benefits of pursuing post secondary education include things like learning and personal growth and the development of new skills, as well as an enhanced sense of wellbeing and purpose. And at the same time there are certain societal advances that come from post secondary education, like improved health outcomes and increases in civic engagement, and in that way post secondary education can actually provide value to communities and to society as a whole. Measuring the non economic returns is generally pretty challenging, and so data on those types of outcomes is not currently included in the explorer. But that doesn't mean that those are not important dimensions of value and we do see that. The research pretty strongly demonstrates that there is a link between the non economic and economic aspects of value. So understanding those factors a little bit better is a critical next step to advancing the conversation around equitable value. And...

...just to clarify it, is the zero to five threshold you spoke about earlier? Is that the same as the economic mobility score or are those different metrics? So there's actually a threshold specific to economic mobility, which is threshold three. That measures the percentage of students who are earning at least in the sixty percentile of income for their state, and so that is a measure of essentially whether you're in the top two income quin tiles. And that's your number, folks. Just like Kim said, there's only one number you should care about. I'm just thinking about institutions, like who are going to be playing in here, trying to figure out do we do? We have a strong story to tell here. Can we talk about our threshold? Can we point out kindly our competitors thresholds that might be dissimilar or worse? I mean, it's at the very least going to be I see why it's so intriguing to policy makers, but I'm instantly thinking about this is a reality check for institutions pretty quickly. Really appreciate the thoughts. Leave us with some next steps advice per institutions looking to use the explorer to help get that reality check we just talked about, also to make institutional improvement decisions. Where should they start? Starting With Piper? Well, Eric, I've got four steps that I'd want people listening to take in the first is to use the explore. Second, use your data. Third, use for equity principles. I'll touch on those really quickly. And forth, use your voice. First, with the explorer, I mean look and see how your institution compares with those who are serving similar students and some key factors that that may be limiting the value that your institution provides. ME. That may be the cost of the degree at completion rate, the time it takes for students to to receive of a credential. In all these things, I think knowledge is is power, and knowing where things are and where the barriers are as the first step to to removing them.

I'm secondly, use and building internal data systems, and this is something that we haven't touched on yet, but the tool includes data from the University of Texas, which is incredibly robust and so being able to separate earnings outcomes from students separately by race and ethnicity, income, gender, all of that. The more we know, the more you know, we can address the current shortcomings out there. Thirdly, the equity policy making principles. We just release these last month and I'm happy to send a link that we can include in that the show notes. But you know, we have five principles for equity policy making that are really conscientiously intended to infuse equity into every step of every policy and those are great starting point for for institutions wanting to be sure that they're doing everything that they can to to have equitable outcomes and support their students. Finally, using your voice. It's as folks are focusing so much on campuses and systems. I don't want people to forget how important it is to connect with state and federal lawmakers and and there's a lot of important conversations going on there. So understanding what's happening on the ground that campuses, the challenges that are being faced, or a really important way to then have policies that address those challenges and remove the barriers that we're seeing that, you know, to success for all student in higher education. Kim Piper, thank you both so much for your time today. What's the best place for listeners to reach out if they have any follow up questions? Starting with Kim, you can reach out to me at K Dancy at I have dot org, or follow me on twitter or Linkedin and send a message that way. People are welcome to reach me at p Hendricks, that's a G, and DRIC KS at, I hope, Dot Org. I'd also encourage folks to check out our website. I have dot Org and follow us on twitter. I hip tweets, so here the latest and greatest there on our twitter feed. Awesome. Kim Piper, thanks so much for joining us today. Thanks, Zark. It's been a pleasure and say right. Attracting today's new post traditional learners means...

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