Federal website helps students get the most bang for their educational buck

by Marion Renault


Now, prospective college students can compare the cost, average student debt, and loan default rates of specific schools thanks to a new federal website: College Scorecard.

The White House unveiled the interactive site Wednesday morning following President Obama’s State of the Union speech — and his promise that his administration would work to control college costs and provide consumers with better information on the prices and values of colleges.

The website will allow users to see the average net cost, graduation rate, default rate and amount of loans for a college.

For example, according to Score Card the average price for an undergraduate here at the University of Minnesota — after grants and scholarships — is $16,019 a year. It also reports that 70.2% of full-time students graduate within 6 years and the typical amount borrowed in federal loans for a family is $19,110.

But according to the New York Times, the site has gotten mixed reviews since its launch.

Critics said some of its data is a few years old and most of it has been available through other sources and have expressed disappointment that the website also doesn’t allow for side-by-side comparisons of schools.

The information’s presentation as averages and medians, according to USA Today, may not give individual families relevant insight as to how much they would be paying at a particular school.

Terry W. Hartle, senior vice president of the American Council on Education, told the Times that the scorecard is “not a game-changer as much as the administration would like to believe.”

Others, like Lauren Asher, president of the Institute for College Access and Success, said the benefit of the website is its presentation.

“This puts the key data together in a consumer-friendly way, which I think is important, because even motivated and informed consumers have a hard time finding and interpreting the data,” she said.

Eventually a feature will be added to the site that shows how recent grads from each school are doing in the job market, but for now that tool is in the works.

Obama said the overall purpose of the scorecard is to help families find “where you can get the most bang for your educational buck.”