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College Scorecard Reading List

On September 12th President Obama unveiled the new College Scorecard, a database that provides a host of information such as graduation rate, percentage of first-generation students, and typical debt load for more than 3,500 colleges and universities. This was exciting news for Meritus, as we will be able to use this data to better counsel our college-bound Scholars.

The College Scorecard itself, which allows users to find schools based on program, location, and size, can be accessed at http://collegescorecard.ed.gov. If you are interested in learning more about this tool, we have gathered some useful resources below.

Though the Obama administration initially intended to rank schools against one another, the final product leaves comparison up to the user. Several institutions have stepped in to create their own tools for drawing conclusions from this wealth of data.

  • ProPublica’s “Debt by Degrees” dashboard ranks colleges based on average cost for low-income students, average discount for such students, and average debt of Pell Grantees. It also provides additional information about each school, providing a snapshot of student finances during school, at graduation, and years later. http://bit.ly/1Jsqkpk
  • Planet Money, a podcast and blog produced by NPR, also sought concrete rankings. In a post entitled “Obama Won’t Rate Colleges, So We Did,” three higher-education experts were asked to design their own ratings using the College Scorecard data. The result are lists of the top 50 “Schools That Make You Money,” “Schools That Emphasize Upward Mobility,” and “Schools That Make Financial Sense.” http://n.pr/1Vc3UEZ
  • The New York Times’ “College Access Index” is a feature that predates the College Scorecard but utilizes much of the same data; its intent is to measure the effort made by colleges to increase economic diversity. Excitingly, the University of California system comes out on top of this list, with six of the top seven spots going to UCs: http://nyti.ms/1PyWIvY

Experts are roundly praising the College Scorecard for providing the most comprehensive set of data on higher education outcomes yet to be seen in the United States. But that praise comes with many caveats, mostly about the limitations of such data to paint a fully accurate picture of the college landscape.

It remains to be seen what, if any, impact this increased transparency will have on prospective students and their college success. We imagine that our 2016 class of Scholars will be able to use the College Scorecard data to make more informed decisions about financial, social, and programmatic fit.