The College Scorecard: how does your institution rate?

Most of you probably heard about the new College Scorecard that the White House has assembled so that students can compare raw data across the board when deciding where to go to school.  Baa Ram U. looks pretty good in terms of its affordability, graduation rate, and loan default rate.  (You’ll have to click the link and then look it up yourself–for some reason it won’t link directly to searched institutions.)  Shockingly good, actually, when you consider the massive de-funding that we, like most public unis, have experienced over the past twenty years.

Just compare our numbers to the University of Phoenix, suckasHow does your institution rate?  Do you think this will be a useful tool for students?  If not, why not?


20 thoughts on “The College Scorecard: how does your institution rate?

  1. Any school (nick)named for a former Soviet premier who had to shave three times a day would probably not do very well on a White House metric no matter *who* sat in the oval office or what its graduates’ initial salaries. Quote: “Mr {Premier}, tear these goal posts down…” If the folks at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue had been offering to help with the process back in the old paradigm world when *I* was sorting through paper catalogues and breaking pencils on rock-hard PSATs and SATs, I probably would have applied in Sweden.


  2. That is a lot of fancy programming for a calculator that cannot find the flagship college in my state. Grrr. If I put in the name, it finds one of our regional campuses. If I put in just the state’s name, it gives a small private college. If I put in the zipcode, I can’t figure out how to search. I shake my tiny fist at the government for frustrating me this morning.


  3. Unsurprisingly for a private institution without the endowment for cadillac financial aid packages, mine is high on cost, graduation rate, and borrowing, and has a miniscule default rate.


  4. We’re not even on the list…. but our system is affordable, and our grad rate is good, and relatively low loan loads….

    But these may not be the right metrics, of course.


  5. It looks like community colleges really bring graduation rate averages down, probably because a lot of students are there to either take this or that class or to transfer, and relatively few are aiming for a degree from there.

    I searched a number of regional state schools, and they generally seem to be on the lower end of cost, and in the 60s or so for 6 year graduation rates, and so on. What interested me was in looking at the less elite SLACs, which seem to be high on cost, high on loan default, and lower than I’d expected on 6 year graduation rates. You can see that the more elite SLACs can fund needy students and graduate most students, and the state schools largely seem to be graduating students at a lower rate, but the lower tier SLACs stand out for doing neither really well.

    Thanks for the link, though. It’s fascinating!


  6. Aha! My institution is now in there. We still look like a best value.

    It was neat looking at the elite SLAC I went to for undergrad compared to the state flagship I didn’t go to, and my elite SLAC is indeed less expensive than my homestate flagship after scholarships and financial aid are factored in.


  7. What a mess! On the list one finds universities that even god didn’t hear of. Since when is the White House a source for anything but propaganda?


  8. My university comes out looking very good on cost, debt load (Mormons are very debt-averse in general), and defaulting, but fair-to-middling on graduation rates, which I think is a fair assessment.

    The metrics are definitely limiting and faulty, but I can still see this being a useful blunt instrument for the student who is torn between enrolling at the local CC or picking up a few “credits” at the “University” of Phoenix. Seeing that UP costs three times the tuition and fees at Salt Lake CC, and attending it makes you 2.5 times more likely to default on your loans, would register even with many students who lack sophistication regarding the arcane ways of higher education.

    I was surprised to see the low debt burden in Phoenix’s ratings; aren’t most of the for-profits driven by federal student loans?


  9. My hugely defunded Flagship State U, very comparable to Historiann’s I think, comes out looking equally impressive by these metrics. Did I miss something, or is there no information on class size? (One huge shock for our entering students is that a class of 50, even in the humanities, is now considered seminar-size).


  10. Average class size would not be too useful, but I can how the median class size would be a very useful data point.

    I think Dr. Crazy & Bardiac are correct that we need to keep in mind the mission of different universities. CCs and non-residential 4-years probably deal more with transfer students (in & out) than people who graduate in 4 or 5 years.

    My sense of this tool is much like Shane’s: at first I thought it wouldn’t offer much useful info, but my second thought was: What a brilliant way to reveal the fraudsters at the for-profit unis! (Kaplan isn’t up there, or at least it wasn’t this morning when I wrote my post, and only one Phoenix campus is up there. And yet I think the big flaw with the for-profits is pretty darn clear.)


  11. p.s. to loumac: FIFTY students is a SEMINAR? That’s effing crazy. I have 18 (!) students in my senior seminar this term, and it’s pretty overwhelming (and will only be even moreso once the research proposals, drafts, and final essays start rolling in.)

    But you know me: I aim to serve with humility.



  12. The database used with the search tool seems incomplete. I used criteria that describe my undergraduate engineering college (one koshembos has surely never heard of) and it was not found. It’s in the list though: it went down in cost over the study interval. I have no idea why.


  13. An article in the New York Times yesterday (February 14, paper version) points out some of the strengths and shortcomings of the tool, and airs some of the carps and complaints of various gored and non-gored interest groups. I printed out ours and posted it in the office. As I suggested yesterday, I wouldn’t have chosen a college based in any substantial way on “data points,” and wouldn’t now, but it does provide perhaps some useful information, and at least gestures toward transparency. (At the SLAC I eventually chose, I interviewed with an admissions counselor who years later hired Coach K. at Duke!).

    Fifty-student seminar? The university president there should have to relocate into a university-provided one bedroom house. Historiann, we’ll give your prez. that and either a half bath off the dining room or a breakfast nook in the kitchen.


  14. My regional R2, still somewhat funded by the state (basically the same sort of place Bardiac searched, and with similar results), comes off looking pretty good, especially since they managed to get transfer as well as graduation rates reported (we have a lot of coming, mostly from community colleges, with private and/or out-of-state colleges that proved too expensive coming in a close second, and going, mostly, I think, to colleges in the state system that are perceived as “better” in some way, and to schools in other geographical areas, often because a spouse or other family member is in the military or some other mobile career. Even if they live on campus, many of our traditional-age students seem to prefer to live fairly close to family, and will follow if parents move — and we’re located in an area where mobility is common). Given that reporting of that data doesn’t seem to be universal, I’m assuming that schools are providing some of the information, which of course allows room for gaming the system, which I’m sure will increase as time goes on. Still, it seems like a potentially-useful tool.

    One thing I was interested to note: the tool makes it very clear that some of the wealthier private universities and colleges (those that can afford to offer generous financial aid) can be very good deals. As a graduate of an ivy (and an aunt to nieces and nephews who are headed toward college, and whose parents are very aware of just how much of a bargain some of the familial alma maters are these days for even upper-middle-class families), I’m surprised how many highly-educated people in my social circle aren’t aware that it would cost them about the same to send their child to some of the schools they think, on the basis of sticker price, are way out reach as it would to send them to our (admittedly very highly-regarded, and probably equally good) flagship state U. It’s as if the news of all the initiatives to make the ivies affordable had primarily been circulated in the alumni magazines (or maybe others just hear it in the press and think “that doesn’t mean us”; I’m not sure. Maybe graduates of these schools are more likely to wonder “how did my [middle class] parents do it?” and keep an eye on how/whether they might do the same.) Mind you, the “secret” is at least partly out (witness the very high selectivity/low acceptance rates for wealthy private schools), I’m not sure that even more competition to get into these places is a good thing (for the competitors, the “winners,” or the schools), and I’d much prefer to see a system where good schooling is available to all at a reasonable price (higher ed as basic infrastructure), but, as long as it’s true (and, according to the calculator, it is) people should know that they might well graduate with less debt from Harvard than from Penn State, Ann Arbor, or UVA.


  15. And yes, some sort of measure of what the educational experience will be like would be a good addition. It’s hard to figure out exactly how to do it given the huge differences in schools and approaches, but I’d think that some basic data about what I’ve heard called “commodity” courses (freshman comp, intro to communications, western civ and/or world history, intro. bio., micro/macro economics, intro psych., etc.) might be useful. In addition to the basic structure of the class (lecture? discussion? both? class size for each component?), it would be handy to know something about the instructors (TT vs. contingent; full-time vs. part-time; M.A., Ph.D. or current grad student, course load for full-timers). I suspect that sort of snapshot for a dozen or so classes commonly taken during the freshman or sophomore year, evenly-divided among Humanities, Social Sciences, and STEM disciplines, might provide a clearer picture of the actual experiences a student is likely to have early on than statistics that attempt to represent a whole fruit-salad of kinds and levels of classes in single numbers. If they really wanted to get ambitious, they could do something similar for intro-to-the-major classes (“research methods in” et al.), courses at the highest undergrad level, and/or senior “capstone” courses.


  16. Pingback: Um….What College Should I go to? « Grey Matter

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