NASFAA Endorses Repealing Ban on Federal Student Unit Record

August 2014

The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) released 15 policy recommendations for improving consumer information requirements for higher education institutions earlier this month. Several of the recommendations would affect the collection and dissemination of federal higher education data.

Most notably, the NASFAA Consumer Information Task Force recommended that the ban on the federal-level student unit record be lifted to allow more accurate data collection on transfer rates and post-graduation outcomes, among other indicators. The report noted that lifting this ban would improve upon the current Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System.

“This recommendation merits further attention by the higher education, science, and education policy communities,” said AERA Executive Director Felice J. Levine. “Perhaps it is a good time to take a new look at an old debate. There is much to commend a unit record system that enables important and relevant policy research, with appropriate safeguards for data confidentiality and protection.” 

The NASFAA task force also called for expanding data collection beyond full-time, first-time students for the purposes of calculating graduation and retention rates. The House of Representatives recently passed a bill, the Strengthening Transparency in Higher Education Act, which would expand data collection for College Navigator, a free consumer information tool, to include students other than full-time, first-time students.

Other recommendations proposed by NASFAA to improve and streamline higher education data collection include:
  • Eliminating the annual notice and using College Navigator as the primary tool for dissemination of federal higher education data to students and parents;
  • Conducting a study to determine the usefulness and utility of the Campus Security Report, Fire Safety Report, Fire Log, and Drug and Alcohol Prevention Information; and
  • Using consistent metrics when presenting borrowing levels.