The president wants colleges to start collecting jobs data from their graduates. But it could cause more harm than good. Just ask some recent law grads.
Last week, President Obama unveiled a raft of proposals to rein in the rising cost of college. One of the most seemingly innocuous measures would require schools to begin collecting employment and earnings data from their recent graduates, so that potential students can have a realistic idea of their post-collegiate job prospects.
Simple. Transparent. Consumer-friendly. What's not to like?
In an ostensibly unrelated story a few days later, a group of lawyers filed suits against a dozen different law schools accusing them of using rosy, and grossly distorted, jobs data to dupe students into applying. They followed three similar suits filed last year, including one against Thomas M. Cooley Law School, which is the largest law school by enrollment in the country. The cases are seeking hundreds of millions of dollars, tuition refunds, and reforms to the way law schools calculate and present their jobs data.
Yes, these cases sound like a bad joke -- If a law school loses a suit to its recently graduated students, does that make it a terrible law school or a great one? -- but they offer a lesson that the administration should keep in mind if it's serious about pushing schools to collect job numbers. Bad data can be much, much worse than no data at all. And without serious oversight, there's a good chance you'll end up with some terribly misleading numbers.