Critics Say College Scorecard Is Not All It’s Cracked Up to Be
March 7, 2013

I wrote last month about President Obama’s College Scorecard that was released after the recent State of the Union Address. While the intentions of the scorecard are laudable, there are aspects of the scorecard that are not yet functional. In addition, critics are saying the scorecard is just not all it’s cracked up to be and may be less helpful than intended.

New Information or Just Information?

In fact, senior vice president of the American Council on Education, Terry Hartle says the scorecard is, “not a game-changer as much as the administration would like to believe.” Most of the information presented in the scorecard was already available on the long existing College Navigator. True the College Scorecard does present the information in an easier to read format, but it’s really offering no new information.

The one aspect of the scorecard that would provide fresh and insightful information on how recent graduates are doing in the job market in terms of employability and salaries has not come online. So what at first glance seemed like a great new tool is a more pleasing arrangement of existing data with little new functionality.

What Critics of the Scorecard Are Saying…

One school that’s less than happy with its ranking on the College Scorecard is Pima Community College in Tucson, Arizona. The College Scorecard shows Pima’s graduation rate at a paltry 12% and student loan default rate at a whopping 23%. But is that fair? Pima spokesman CJ Karamargin says, “Some may start at Pima but not graduate because they decided to transfer to a four-year institution after one or two semesters. Some may come to us with no intention of working toward a formal diploma, but anxious to increase their employability.”

Often community colleges operate as stepping stone schools, for lack of a better word, and offer students a cheaper start to a four year degree  by knocking out core courses for lower prices. But they wouldn’t graduate from there, they’d go on to a four year college whose statistics would reap the benefits of the foundation Pima laid!

Is the College Scorecard a Help or a Hindrance?

And InsideHigherEd.com takes the scorecard to task for being wildly off the mark by relying on “average net price.” They looked at a low-income minority student’s net price compared to the average net price and found great skewing of numbers. Abigail Seldin writes, “For low-income students like Cristina, the College Scorecard misses the mark – sometimes by a big margin. As with sticker prices, these average net prices can indicate to low-income students that they will find neither financial support nor a warm welcome at selective schools.”

If this tool turns off minority students from what could otherwise be an affordable and meaningful educational opportunity, it’s hurting more than it’s helping! Until the full functionality of the White House’s College Scorecard comes online, it’s difficult to rate the value it’s providing. So far, it seems there’s not a lot of new information there. It can also be helpful to look at other college comparison tools. Here are some to check out:

$$  BigFuture by The College Board

$$  College Results Online

$$  NerdScholar by NerdWallet

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