Obama administration evens score with College Scorecard

Mary Dolan

College students are faced with a lot of complicated questions when trying to decide on a school to attend. They need a lot of information and finding the most important facts can be difficult. Luckily, the Obama administration launched a new website Sept. 12 that helps students get the answers they want.

The website, known as College Scorecard, offers several categories of data on every “degree-granting institution” within the U.S. This information includes easy-to-read facts and brightly colored charts that illustrate statistics including a school’s average annual cost of attendance and graduation rates.

The site also provides useful financial information. For instance, the national percentage of students paying off debt after graduation is 67 percent. UT’s is 90 percent.

This will be a good tool for students who feel like they don’t have enough information to decide on a college. Colleges often put their most impressive statistics front and center online and in campus tours, and finding facts that cast a more realistic spotlight on a university isn’t easy. However, College Scorecard offers students information from a third party, not from a source that is funded by or paid to endorse a specific university.

This information allows students to get the full story on the colleges they wish to attend. For example, UT’s financial aid website does not prominently post the average amount of loan debt a student will graduate with. College Scorecard shows that UT “undergraduate borrowers” will complete college with an average of $22,165 in debt. Students with this information are able to use a tangible figure to see whether or not they will be able to pay back that kind of figure with their projected earnings after graduation.

This is not to say that College Scorecard is perfect. While the website offers students a wealth of information, it does not directly compare colleges or offer students suggestions about which college to attend based on their personal profile. Thus, students and their parents may find themselves struggling to compare vastly different colleges and finding one that caters to their individual academic and financial situation.

Detractors of the website also argue that the scorecard fails to take into account nontraditional student experiences. For example, a student who works and only attends school part-time would have a negative effect on their school’s four-year graduation rates, even if they are working toward a degree.

Even if College Scorecard isn’t perfect, there is no doubt that it provides students with a quick and easy way to look up their desired college’s most important facts and figures. While it is too early to find out whether or not students and their families embrace the website, there is no question that College Scorecard will be a helpful tool for the students who choose to use it.

Dolan is a journalism sophomore from Abilene. Follow her on Twitter @mimimdolan.