Obama’s college scorecard gives ‘buck’ without the ‘bang’

college scorecard

Screenshot of the Department of Education’s “College Scorecard” (Click for external link)

By Andrew Scoggin
@AScoggin

Paying for college sucks. It’s all fun and games for four (or more) years, but the ride eventually stops and you’re stuck with a huge bill. Huge as in $27,000 on average.

And the worst part? There’s virtually no way around it these days, when jobs like filing paperwork now require a college degree. But like with a new car or house, prospective college students (and parents) can aim to make a better-informed decision using the tools at their disposal.

So when President Obama announced during his State of the Union last week that his administration would release a “college scorecard,” no doubt this drew the attention of budget-conscious families. This scorecard, Obama said, would show which schools gave students the most “bang for your buck.”

And there it was, the very next day, on the White House website — customizable, sortable data on seemingly every college and University in the Union. The scorecard gives info for each college on average cost, graduation rate, loan default rate and median federal borrowing.

So the “buck” is there. But the “bang?” Not so much.

This scorecard, at least right now, provides little context. Its setup allows users to compare schools based on certain criteria, like available majors, enrollment size and location. For instance, a query for large New England schools with education programs brings up six results, and from there users can look at monetary data for each school. That, or there’s a search function to find schools directly.

Except, right now there’s an important category missing: “Employment.” Here’s what it says under that heading:

“The U.S. Department of Education is working to provide information about the average earnings of former undergraduate students at [school] who borrowed Federal student loans. In the meantime, ask [school] to tell you about how many of its graduates get jobs, what kinds of jobs they get, and how much those graduates typically earn.”

So they’re working on it. Great, but it’s like the Obama administration released an unfinished product still in beta testing.

Getting a job, next to growing as a person and being what people do after high school, is the reason kids go to college. And with the job market as tough as ever for young graduates, it only makes sense to make more data available.

The White House’s scorecard is a bit lacking compared with other college information websites, including Princeton Review and U.S. News and World Report. There’s also no accounting for prestige in the scorecard, meaning, for now, schools like Northwestern and Northwestern State are given equal weight.

But maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe our college culture has become (or always has been) too elitist and focused on rankings or endowments. If people find the right fit and can get a job after they get their degree, then what does it really matter?

Well, until the White House gets solid job data, prestige is the measure we’ve got at our disposal. Obama’s team made a solid first effort, but didn’t tell those budget-conscious families how far their dollar will go.

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Posted by on February 22, 2013. Filed under Economy,Recent News,Top News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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