Federal Officials Host "Datapalooza" to Improve College Access, Affordability and Completion


Federal officials yesterday hosted an Education "Datapalooza" to promote innovation in improving college access, affordability and completion.

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In efforts to curtail rising college costs and make college more affordable to American families, the White House, the U.S. Departments of Education and Treasury and the General Services Administration yesterday hosted an Education “Datapalooza” to promote innovation in improving college access, affordability and completion.

The program highlighted innovators from the private, nonprofit, and academic sectors who have built products, services, and apps that advance postsecondary education, provide students with greater access to information and help colleges innovate creatively.

As part of the Education Datapalooza, the Education Dept. announced a series of steps it plans to take to open 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. They include:

  • Exploring the use of application program interfaces as a way to help students and families to access key education data, programs, and frequently used forms—including the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The Department has already begun 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.
  • Responsibly sharing targeted FAFSA completion data with high schools and guidance counselors in order to increase financial aid application rates. This effort can help spur the development of new resources to assist students applying for Federal student aid.
  • Continuing to develop data-driven strategies for communicating with student-loan borrowers in order to increase awareness of repayment options for Federal student loans. 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.
  • Studying the potential benefits of integrating third-party apps, tools, and other services into the Department’s Financial Aid Toolkit to make it more accessible and user-friendly. Launched last month, the Toolkit is a single, searchable online database with resources covering the entire financial aid lifecycle, from the application process to repayment of student loans.
  • Continuing to engage with higher education, business, and philanthropic leaders nationwide to find ways to further equip students with tools needed to make more informed decisions as well as to develop and improve teaching and learning. Stakeholders will be encouraged to offer feedback on ways to make Department resources more open and accessible.
  • Calling for new ideas in higher education through experimental sites to test innovations such as enabling colleges to offer Pell grants to high-school students taking college-level courses, offering Federal financial aid to assist students seeking academic credit for prior learning and combining traditional calendar-based and competency based courses into a single program of study.
  • Streamlining application paperwork by exploring ways to help consumers to access government-held financial records online to facilitate financial aid and scholarship application processes as well as to enroll in loan 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.
  • Seeking new incentives (“pull mechanisms”) to accelerate development of learning technologies. The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy is pursuing input on how incentive prizes and other means might be used to hasten the development, adoption and evaluation of high impact learning technologies. Federal agencies have already offered almost 300 incentive prizes on Challenge.gov, providing opportunities for citizen solvers to offer novel solutions to a wide array of tough problems and has released a Request for Information asking stakeholders (e.g., Federal agencies, philanthropists, employers, researchers, nonprofits, and state and local education agencies) what roles they would be willing to play in the design, funding, and implementation of pull mechanisms for learning technology.

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[Source: U.S. Dept. of Education]

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