THE ARNE NEEDS YOU: What can you do with an API? That's what the U.S. Department of Education is formally asking in its new Request for Information (RFI). Similar to how TurboTax and the IRS work together to make life a little easier when it comes to filing taxes (and getting refunds), the DOE wants to help students researching and applying for colleges and seeking financial assistance.
But getting and making sense of even public information from government websites can sometimes be a confounding task. As the RFI acknowledges, the Dept. of Ed. offers over $150 billion each year in higher-ed financial aid resources but "their utility only goes as far as the public's awareness of and access to them.
To better serve students and families, the department is seeking your input on API questions like:
- How can third-party organizations use APIs to better target services and information to low-income students, first-generation students, non-English speakers, and students with disabilities?
- What benefits to consumers or the Department would be realized by opening what is currently a free and single-point service (e.g., the FAFSA) to other entities, including those who may charge fees for freely-available services and processes? What are the potential unintended consequences?
- How could data sets that are already publicly available be made more accessible using APIs? Are there specific data sets that are already available that would be most likely to inform consumer choice about college affordability and performance?
- How can the Department prevent unauthorized use and the development of unauthorized products from occurring through the potential development of APIs?
In an accompanying blog post, David Soo (senior policy advisor at the Dept. of Ed.) is inviting "the best and most creative thinking on specific ways that Department of Education APIs could be used to improve outcomes for students."