NAICU Washington Update

White House Seeking Comment on New "College Scorecard"

February 15, 2012

Once again, federal  policymakers are searching for a simple consumer information tool to assist students and parents in selecting a college.  It was in response to similar calls in the mid-2000's that NAICU developed U-CAN (University & College Accountability Network), basing the concise content of the U-CAN profiles largely on feedback from focus groups.

Unsurprisingly, the federal government has had less success in keeping it short.  Currently, the Department of Education maintains college information on its College Navigator site. However, few consumers are aware of the site as a resource for comparing colleges, and many find it difficult to wade through the depth of information it contains.

The latest federal effort is to develop a one-page "College Scorecard."  Education Under Secretary Martha Kanter describes it as a means to "make it easier for students and families to choose a college that is best suited to their financial needs, and consistent with their educational goals and career aspirations."

Information in the proposed scorecard will be grouped into five categories:  Costs, Graduation, Student Loan Repayment, Student Loan Debt, and Earnings Potential.  Data currently collected by the federal government would be used for the first three information items.  The administration is exploring options for obtaining the debt and earnings-potential information.

In addition to the institution-specific data, an institution's scorecard would include graphs for each category showing where it stands relative to institutions enrolling similar students.

The "College Scorecard" web page provides a preliminary prototype of the scorecard, and invites the public to comment on its elements and to make suggestions for improvement. Seven comment boxes solicit feedback on such items as what information is most important, how colleges should be grouped for comparison, and what search and comparison features should be included.

Those interested in commenting on the proposed plan should do so as soon as possible. The White House has indicated they would like a refined prototype up by the end of February, and are relying heavily on feedback from the website in crafting the template.

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