College scorecard an improvement

Daily Editorial Board

This month, President Barack Obama revealed a new “College Scorecard” that provides unprecedented access to federal data regarding schools’ sizes, demographics and graduation rates. It also highlights students’ expected post-graduation salary, among other information. The result is very different from the controversial rankings system Obama had originally anticipated instating in 2013.
 
Obama believes better access to reliable data will allow students to make better-informed decisions and hold schools accountable for metrics like graduation rates and tuition costs. In short, the scorecard is less about rankings and more about highlighting which schools are struggling so that students can develop a plan to repay their loans after graduating. 
 
But hedging bets on students to take personal responsibility for planning their college experience is risky, and some people do not agree that the scorecard will be effective.
 
Some university presidents, such as J. Randall O’Brien of Carson-Newman University in Jefferson City, Tenn., believe the scorecard is too broad. He argues that focusing, for example, on average post-graduation salaries — without including per-capita, geographically corrected or major-specific data — risks missing out on the widespread benefits of a liberal education.
 
We feel that the scorecard, while not perfect, is a positive development that will be a useful tool for prospective students. It is important to recognize that there will never be one ideal method of ranking to compare schools. Everyone is looking for something different. However, pointing out schools with low graduation rates and excessively high tuition should help students intelligently choose their school and avoid being misled by snazzy advertising.