Kudos to the U.S. Department of Education for updating and improving its College Scorecard, a free and easy to use online tool that lets prospective students compare colleges on factors like cost, completion rates, and debt and median earnings for graduates.
The department restored to the scorecard some useful information that had been removed by the previous administration, such as how each institution’s graduation rates, earnings, and average net price compares to the median of institutions nationwide, as well as institution-level earnings data—providing a quick glimpse into real-world outcomes for graduates from each institution. It also refreshed the data on loan debts shouldered by students at different institutions.
The goal of the scorecard is to empower students, parents, and high school counselors to make truly informed decisions about one of the most significant choices people will make, so it’s heartening to see the interactive tool get a needed refresh.
There is room for additional improvement. The scorecard’s graduation rate metric, for example, displays the percentage of students who complete their degrees within 8 years. That’s useful, but it would be more helpful to also let students see what percentage of students complete a four-year degree program in four or six years.
Of course, the College Scorecard is only as good as the data it includes. That’s why it’s also heartening to see a bipartisan provision pending in the U.S. Congress that would require colleges and universities to make available even more comprehensive information about student success, disaggregated by demographic data.
Requiring colleges and universities to be more transparent about their student outcomes will lead to better decisions by students when they explore their college options—and will encourage all of us in higher education to be more affordable, accessible, and accountable.