How is Obama's "College Scorecard" Scoring?

Written by Vickie Moller  |  22. February 2013

One day following President Obama’s State of the Union address outlining a series of bold proposals to strengthen the middle class and increase access to high-quality education, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced the release of a “College Scorecard.

During his address, the President said his administration would provide the Scorecard to enable parents and students to compare schools based on a simple criteria—“where you can get the most bang for your educational buck.”

The interactive College Scorecard, which, according to Duncan, is designed to “empower families to make smart investments in higher education,” provides them with five key pieces of data about a college:

  • costs
  • graduation rate
  • loan default rate
  • average amount borrowed
  • employment

“Too often, students and their families don’t have the right tools to help them sort through the information they need to decide which college or university is right for them. The search can be overwhelming, and the information from different colleges can be hard to compare,” Duncan said.

The tool allows students to base their search upon several factors according to their individual needs, including location, type of college and area of interest.

According to Duncan, the Scorecard is part of the Obama administration’s “efforts to hold colleges accountable for cost, value and quality” and offers key information about institutions across the country to help students choose a school that is “well-suited to meet their needs, priced affordably, and is consistent with their educational and career goals.”

Data on the Scorecard will be updated periodically, and the Education Department plans to publish information on average earnings in the coming year.

But how is the Scorecard scoring with parents and students who have been using it? Following are some responses from the U. S. Department of Education’s official blog.

One college freshman said she was never able to find a trusted site to compare colleges and would have loved to have had the tool before she applied to college. While she agreed that the Scorecard was a valuable resource, she said that adding more information, such as SAT and ACT scores would be very helpful.

Another responder labeled the Scorecard seriously deficient for not including post secondary education and training schools that grant certificates in its database, pointing out that it is biased toward a particular type of institution.

One writer suggested adding scholarships granted by each institution to the Scorecard’s database and others suggested adding it to the FAFSA application process and to the SAT/ACT sites.

A disgruntled user who was directed by the Scorecard to colleges he knew did not offer the degree program he was searching for and whose search within his zip code did not turn up a major university located just three miles from his home, said the program was “deeply flawed” and that it should have been “debugged” before being offered to the public.

While admitting that the Scorecard is a helpful resource, another responder pointed out that it could also encourage inflation of grades to improve placement and ultimate employment.

Others were very happy that a helpful tool providing the facts they need to plan for their kids’ college was made available to them.

The College Scorecard is new; and it seems from the feedback it is receiving, that just like the institutions it is designed to hold accountable and improve, it too, must be held up to scrutiny and improved upon.

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