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Grading the Administration’s College Scorecard: Incomplete

President Obama has unveiled a new “College Scorecard,” an online tool the administration promises will provide prospective students “reliable data on every institution of higher education.” The basic concept behind the scorecard – strengthening transparency in higher education – has long been a bipartisan priority. In fact, Republicans and Democrats are championing a legislative proposal to help students and families make informed decisions about which school to attend and how to pay for it.

Will the administration’s College Scorecard help achieve that goal? Probably not. Judging by the reviews, the scorecard earns, at best, an “incomplete” for its confusing, misleading, and, in some cases, irrelevant information.
  • What the government released [Saturday] isn't a scorecard at all — it's a data dump of epic proportions. – “President Obama’s New ‘College Scorecard’ Is A Torrent Of Data,” National Public Radio
  • The new College Scorecard … seems to have a great potential to mislead, misinform and discourage students and their families. Talk about defeating the purpose. – “Salary Isn’t the Only Measure,” op-ed by Christopher B. Nelson, president, St. John’s College, Inside Higher Ed
  • American Council on Education President Molly Corbett Broad said that “developing a system of this size and scope is a complicated and nuanced endeavor, and the [Education] Department has done so without any external review.” – “Obama Unveils Diluted Colleges Affordability Plan,” Politico Pro
  • [The Scorecard paints] a skewed view of graduation rates that I believe does a particular disservice to students and prospective working adult learners the very people this tool should help. – “Success of Nontraditional Students,” op-ed by Timothy P. Slottow, president, University of Phoenix, Inside Higher Ed
  • I regret to say I find the New College Scorecard, however well-intended, seriously flawed, patently unfair, and exceedingly disappointing. – “President Obama’s New College Scorecard Receives an ‘F,’” op-ed by J. Randall O’Brien, president, Carson-Newman University, The Huffington Post
  • Prospective students who turn to the revamped tool to estimate their future earnings probably won’t get a realistic sense of what they can expect to make after graduating. And if they’re checking out state websites with wage data as well, they're likely to end up more confused than enlightened. – “‘How Much Will I Make After Graduating?’ College Scorecard Offers Only Clues,” Chronicle of Higher Education
  • “There are factoids here that reflect traditional, national norms that don't reflect who we are,” says Pat McGuire, president of Trinity Washington University in Washington, D.C. … “And it would suggest to consumers that everybody would be better off going to Georgetown or to Harvard.” – “President Obama’s New ‘College Scorecard’ Is A Torrent Of Data,” National Public Radio
  • Significant data limitations exist, [American Council for Education President] said, such as one single earning number for an entire institution - regardless of whether the student studied chemical engineering or philosophy. – “Obama Promotes Online Search Tool with College-Specific Data,” Associated Press

While the scorecard may not be as bad as it could have been, it’s still not what students need to make smart decisions about their college education. Students need reforms that will empower them with unbiased, easy-to-understand, meaningful information, and the best way to achieve that bipartisan goal is to reform the law.

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