College students want institutions of higher education to be held accountable for meeting basic quality standards and to be assessed based on student success, a report from the Young Invincibles finds.
Based on interviews with students across the country, the report, Maximizing Student Success: A Student-Driven Platform for Higher Education Accountability (24 pages, PDF), examines student expectations of colleges and universities, the government, and themselves, as well as their views with respect to how public policy can help minimize risk and maximize student success. Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the report finds that students see themselves as sharing responsibility for their success with colleges and universities as well as with government, which they believe should protect the interests of students as they pursue their degrees. Students' perspectives on accountability in higher education include defining college success as degree completion, positive workforce outcomes, and loan repayment; prioritizing diversity of the student body as well as efforts to close inequities; and adjusting measures of success to account for the life circumstances of many students and the challenges they face.
According to the report, the top three accountability policies students supported include risk sharing for delinquent student loans, whereby the U.S. Department of Education would aggregate delinquent loans by institution and charge them 5 percent — half of which would be returned to the students in the form of deductions from their loan balances. A second recommendation would require all Title IV institutions to meet a "success" threshold of 33 percent of their students continuing to pursue their degree, transferring to another accredited institution, or completing a degree — or be subject to a penalty equal to 1 percent of their total Title IV receipts for each percentage point they fall short. And a third policy supported by students was the creation of a bonus grant program — funded by risk-sharing fees and "success" threshold penalties — to incentivize institutions to enroll and successfully serve low-income or otherwise disadvantaged students.
"Students are the most important part of the equation for understanding how best to hold institutions accountable because, simply put, they have the most at stake," the report's authors note. "Millions of young people each year enroll in higher education because society has signaled to them that investing time and money at a college or university will result in an improved career and enhanced life....Maximizing student success means holding institutions accountable for the impact they have on the most vulnerable populations."