White House releases college scorecard
President Barack Obama has fulfilled a promise he made in his State of the Union Address to release a college scorecard that would show "where you can get the most bang for your educational buck."
If prospective students know which colleges they are searching for or seeking to compare, they can type the name of the institution into a search bar on the site. If they are still not sure of which university they are interested in, they can search for colleges by location, size, area of interest, awards offered, campus setting and other criteria.
When searching for a college, the site scores the selection on cost, graduation rate, loan default rate and median borrowing. The last scorecard is for employment. However, the U.S. Department of Education is unable to score colleges on employment, as they do not have access to the information they need to do so. They would need the ability to track educational backgrounds and tap into tax return data to score colleges on employment. It is unclear as to how the DOE will get sufficient data to make use of the employment scorecard.
Using UConn as an example, the average cost for undergraduate students each year is $14,877. The system calculates this number by subtracting financial aid that does not have to be paid back (such as grants and scholarships) from UConn's cost of attendance. The card also notes that UConn's average net price has increased 16.5 percent from 2007 to 2009. As with all the information on each scorecard, the government uses data from at least two years ago.
The next card shows the graduation rate for UConn as "high," with 82.5 percent of full-time students graduating within six years. The percentage of students that were unable to repay their loans after graduation was 3 percent - over 10 percentage points fewer than the national default rate. The typical amount for a UConn student to borrow was $19,500. On a federal loan re-payment plan of 10 years, that would amount to a little over $200 a month.
There have been criticisms made about this scorecard system. For one, there are already websites that make this kind of information available for students. Furthermore, the Institute for College Access and Success expressed concerns that the scorecard was misleading. For instance, the information on UConn's scorecards is based on averages. It does not give the net price based on out-of-state students or transfer students with fewer opportunities for university scholarships.
Although the College Scorecard website may be helpful in compiling information about colleges in an easily understandable way, without information such as how successful the most recent graduates of a given institution are, students and parents may still have a great deal of trouble deciding which school will provide them with the best education for the best price.
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