Earlier this week, President Obama talked about the new College Scorecard tool in his State of the Union Address. This new tool provides college data to students and families going through the college selection process and aims to provide some statistics that allow families to assess the return on investment.
The College Scorecard allows users to evaluate colleges on:
- Graduation rate
- Loan default rate
- Average borrowing
- Employment outlook
While historically, many families have chosen schools based on social environment, location, and academic programs, college costs are now a driving factor. The College Scorecard allows families to make better decisions around college expenses, by providing average borrowing and default rates of schools.
Just as families should not base choice solely on the social environment of a school, college costs should not be the only factor considered either. What’s great about this tool is that it also allows families to search for schools by other areas of interest such as size, major, or type of institution, giving a good overall picture of a a school.
While the scorecard does a great job at providing some baseline data by school, it seems to be missing a couple of features.
- Comparing Schools: The tool does not allow for any side-by-side comparisons, making it difficult for families to compare the strengths and weaknesses of many schools.
- Stats by Major: Additionally, it would be helpful to see data broken out by field of study or even occupation. Just because a college has a high graduation rate, it doesn’t mean all majors are created equal. When choosing a school or even major, do some research on the job prospects ahead of time.
- Private Loan Data: This tool only provides data based on average federal borrowing habits. It does not include any private loan borrowing statistics, which would benefit families when comparing costs.
Overall, this tool provides some easily-accessible information to aid families in the college decision process. While final financial aid information won’t be available until March for many students, having this data in mind when evaluating financial aid award letters will help in understanding the true cost and returns on investing in education.
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