Scorecard for Colleges Needs Work, Experts Say

Ann McClure's picture
Friday, February 15, 2013

The steps that President Obama promised in his State of the Union address to control college costs and give consumers more information on the prices and values of individual colleges drew tepid responses on Wednesday from educational groups, who said the measures seemed generally positive but had many blanks to be filled in.

As Mr. Obama promised on Tuesday night, the White House unveiled an interactive College Scorecard Web site on Wednesday morning that allows anyone to retrieve the net cost — not the full “sticker price” — of attending a particular college, along with data on student loan repayment and the loan default and graduation rates.

The new site follows other steps the administration has taken — including the introduction of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s online college cost-comparison tool, and the creation of a uniform “shopping sheet” of financial information, since adopted by many colleges, to enable families to make apples-to-apples comparisons that had been elusive.

But some of the data in the new scorecard is a few years old, and most of it has been available from other sources, notably the federal government’s own College Navigator site. Further, the information is presented as averages and medians that might have little relevance to individual families. The scorecard does connect to each institution’s net price calculator, which allows individualized cost estimates, but it does not provide side-by-side comparisons of multiple schools, as other government sites do.

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