Necessary but Insufficient? The Influence of Data on Federal Higher Education Accountability Policy Beliefs and Policy Change

dc.contributor.advisorLester, Jaime
dc.creatorDooris, John
dc.description.abstractThis case study identifies college outcomes data transparency and accountability beliefs held by policy-makers, higher education associations, advocacy groups, think tanks, and other actors in the federal higher education policy domain, as well as how these beliefs have changed since the last reauthorization of the Higher Education Act in 2008. Using the Advocacy Coalition Framework to examine policy beliefs and policy change, I investigate the ways in which data were used by policy actors to advocate for preferred policies, and how actors’ own policy beliefs were influenced by data. This study’s data collection consisted of 26 semi-structured interviews with federal policy actors and document analysis of special interest group position papers; media statements from special interest groups and members of the executive and legislative branches of government; public comments submitted to the Department of Education during notice and comment periods; congressional hearings; and legislative proposals. While nearly all higher education policy actors shared beliefs about the need for more transparency of outcomes data, actors disagreed on the need for federal consequential accountability in response to such outcomes data. Two advocacy coalitions were defined by this split in beliefs on accountability: a No Accountability coalition and an Accountability coalition. Actors engaged in several strategies to advocate for preferred policies, most notably providing technical assistance to legislative staff by analyzing data to assess the impacts of proposed legislative or regulatory changes or to help staffers interpret complex data; drafting legislative language; and using data and analysis in direct lobbying of Congress. The increasing data transparency, particularly related to wage and debt outcomes, from the College Scorecard and other data sources has allowed the Accountability coalition to develop metrics and reify concepts about individuals’ return on investment in higher education, elevating the outcomes accountability issue beyond the policy field and into the broader public consciousness.
dc.format.extent250 pages
dc.format.mediumdoctoral dissertations
dc.rightsCopyright 2022 John Dooris
dc.subjectAdvocacy coalition framework
dc.subjectCollege outcomes
dc.subjectFederal higher education policy
dc.subjectHigher education accountability
dc.subjectTechnical assistance
dc.subject.keywordsHigher education
dc.subject.keywordsEducation policy
dc.subject.keywordsPublic policy
dc.titleNecessary but Insufficient? The Influence of Data on Federal Higher Education Accountability Policy Beliefs and Policy Change
dc.typeText Mason University in Education, Higher Education Concentration


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