College Blackout

How the Higher Education Lobby Fought to Keep Students in the Dark
Policy Paper
March 11, 2014

Ever-rising college costs, more than $1 trillion in outstanding federal student loan debt, and graduates doubtful that they’ll be able to earn enough to repay their loans have driven college value to become a major concern for most prospective students. Yet students, families, and policymakers are finding their questions can’t be answered—because the higher education lobby has fought to keep it that way.

This new report, College Blackout: How the Higher Education Lobby Fought to Keep Students in the Dark, tells the story of how the private nonprofit higher education lobby, whose members rely heavily on federal financial aid, drove efforts to preempt the creation of a federal student unit record system that would enable students, families, institutions, and policymakers to answer fundamental questions about college value. Although those institutions represent a minority (less than 15 percent) of undergraduate students, they often exercise outsized influence on federal financial aid policy. Changing politics, however, mean that the industry organizations that represent the vast majority of the country’s undergraduates now support a student unit record system.

And students, experts, and education stakeholders across the country are asking the same critical questions about college value—ones only a unit record system can answer.

Click here to read the full report.