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Department of Education Releases College Scorecard, a College Cost Evaluation Tool

February 14, 2013

On Wednesday, the U.S. government debuted its online, interactive College Scorecard, which provides prospective college students with important information about different colleges, including these institutions' average tuition, fees, graduation rates, and graduate employment. The launch followed President Barack Obama's State of the Union address the previous night, in which he declared that the tool would help parents and students find a school "where you can get the most bang for your educational buck," Mercury News reported.

"I think all of us deserve that kind of information so we can make good choices about where we invest our own time and tuition and fees," said Michele Siqueiros, executive director of the Campaign for College Opportunity.

In addition to revealing different colleges' average prices and graduation rates, the Scorecard also discloses students' loan default rates and median borrowing, Higher Ed Watch noted. Median borrowing helps to indicate whether the collective borrowing of a school is low, medium or high compared to other schools. It also shows the median amount in federal loans that students borrow, and outlines a 10-year, standard repayment for that amount. By providing this information in a searchable and printable format, the Obama administration hopes to hold colleges more accountable for providing degrees that are worth what students pay for them.

The employment component of the College Scorecard site isn't complete yet. The U.S. Department of Education plans to put information about the average earnings of former undergraduate students who obtained federal student loans on the site. As Higher Ed Watch notes, the College Scorecard has several very positive characteristics, several of which are its simple, easy to use design and its link to a calculator that determines a net cost of a particular college's education.

The Scorecard also has its limitations, however. Higher Ed Watch cites its lack of simple terms and definitions, as well as its tricky search function as two of its shortcomings. Furthermore, according to Mark Schneider, vice president of the American Institutes for Research and president of College Measures, the tool does not provide enough context for the information it provides, meaning that users cannot conduct side-by-side college comparisons, reported The Chronicle of Higher Education. For example, while the median student-loan borrowing amounts are helpful, this data is not delivered in the context of what a student's future earnings could be. Consequently, the figure likely is more of an abstract number that will be hard to understand, particularly for the site's target audience -- that is, high school students and their families.

The College Scorecard is not the first of its kind, Higher Ed Watch noted. Other searchable databases include College Navigator, Net Price Calculators and the College Affordability and Transparency Center. For this tool to be truly effective and reach its intended audiences, Higher Ed Watch stated, the federal government must mandate all schools link to the College Scorecard on their home page and provide access information to all prospective students requesting information about their institution.

The College Scorecard is located at www.whitehouse.gov/issues/education/higher-education/college-score-card.


Compiled by Doresa Banning

Sources:

"New College Scorecard: Will Students Use It?" higheredwatch.newamerica.net, February 13, 2013, Rachel Fishman

"Federal college guide gives San Francisco Bay Area families a look at the bottom line," mercurynews.com, February 13, 2013, Katy Murphy

"With New 'Scorecard,' Obama Seeks to Give Students a Tool to Compare Colleges," chronicle.com, February 13, 2013, Allie Bidwell

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