New College Scorecard Site Compares Costs, Graduation Rates, and ROI

For two years, the Obama Administration had been working on a system to publicly grade each of the nation’s 7,000 colleges, based on their ability to educate without burdening students with high levels of debt and low levels of earning potential.

Plans for those college rankings were scrapped, in part because of vocal opposition by some university officials. In its place, the U.S. Department of Education developed a College Scorecard to facilitate comparisons between universities. The “scorecard” doesn’t rank schools, but it does provide information about college costs, graduation rates, and expected salaries after graduation.

Will paying more in college tuition make a student smarter? The College Scorecard doesn’t tackle that question. But it does give families a chance to compare schools in terms of tuition costs, graduation rates, and the likely return on investment.

The scorecard also enables potential applicants to search for two-year and four-year schools based on categories such as enrollment, location, and programs offered. Additional information, including admission and financial aid numbers, is available in varying degrees from school to school.

If there is any takeaway, it’s that college applicants should look beyond the advertised costs of tuition and fees when making an educated choice.

Among revelations found on its home page, the College Scorecard concludes:

  • College graduates, on average, will earn $1 million more over their lifetime than those who only graduate high school
  • College applicants can be eligible for up to $5,775 a year in Pell Grants—money which does not have to be paid back
  • Thirty percent of students do not enter college until they are 25 or older

Some of the College Scorecard numbers are based on the expectations of available financial aid both from the government and schools. The finances, of course, are contingent upon a student being accepted at a given college. Digging a bit further provides these surprising numbers about specific schools:

  • Among best bang-for-the-buck opportunities for “lowest-income” students, the scorecard lists Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), with a $6,733 cost, leading to a median income of $91,600 within ten years of entering school. Harvard ($3,386, $87,200) and Stanford ($3,895, $80,900) are next, when ranked by income expectations.
  • Among public four-year institutions, Georgia Institute of Technology offers the highest median earnings within ten years of entering school ($74,000) and the University of Virginia shows the best graduation rate at 93.2 percent.
  • Two-year colleges with the highest median salaries within ten years of graduation are Los Angeles County College of Nursing and Allied Health (182 students) at $85,800, with Marion (Alabama) Military Institute a distant second at $48,500.



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