When applying for college, wouldn’t it be great to have a crystal ball that showed your paycheck 10 years after graduation? You could weigh the tuition costs versus the return on your investment. Well, believe it or not, former President Obama created this crystal ball back in 2013. Obama announced during his State of the Union address that he was launching a plan to make higher education data accessible to all. Known as the College Scorecard, it was intended to give parents and students the information they needed to “get the most for your educational buck.”
This resulted in a system that opened up information such as average family income, average annual tuition, debt upon graduation, average loan payment after graduation, graduation percentages, and average salary after graduation.
Why Is The College Scorecard Useful?
The College Scorecard gives a level of transparency to higher education that was previously only imagined. Anyone who wants to evaluate colleges and universities based on actual data can now do so. Students are empowered to thoroughly research universities and not rely solely on marketing information. Also, educators are more motivated to have their students graduate and succeed because the numbers are being tracked.
What Information Can I Obtain from The College Scorecard?
By typing in the name of a college in the CollegeScorecard.ed.gov website you can find the graduation rate of attendees. Seeing graduation rates is particularly helpful, because they will show who completed, transferred, or is still enrolled in school two, three, four, six, and eight years later.
Cost of Education
You can also view the average annual cost of attending the school in addition to seeing how many students repaid a dollar of principal on their federal loans within three years. The comprehensive pages of information on each school enable you to take a deep dive into the amount of debt you might walk away with.
Perhaps most importantly, you can see how much students are earning 10 years post-graduation. The earnings data can show results by gender, income upon entry, and dependency status. This is of particular interest for most prospective students, because they need to assess their ability to repay loans.
The College Scorecard also shows how many students attend full-time versus part-time, the breakdown of race/ethnicity, and the socio-economic diversity of the students. You can also see their SAT/ACT scores upon entering and what programs are the most popular.
Ways to View the Data
You can sort colleges by metric, which means that you can sort schools by post-graduation earnings. For example, SUNY Downstate Medical Center, Albany College of Pharmacy and Medical Sciences, and Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center – Shreveport all top the list for earnings. When you search according to graduation rate, Harvard, Princeton, Yale, and Miami Regional University are all ranked high.
How Does the College Scorecard Compare to Other Rankings?
There are a few sources available for college rankings that existed prior to the creation of the College Scorecard:
U.S. News & World Report, Forbes, and The Princeton Review
Organizations such as U.S. News & World Report, Forbes and The Princeton Review rate and compare colleges and universities in the U.S. They were the leading sources of information prior to the College Scorecard being released.
Money, ProPublica, and The Chronicle of Higher Education
Money shows factors in their school rankings that measure quality, affordability, and outcomes to show schools that have the best return on investment. ProPublica created a ranking system that shows how schools support poor students. The Chronicle of Higher Education has an interactive site that lets you create your own ranking based on “prestige” and “fat paychecks.”
College Salary Report by Payscale
The College Salary Report from Payscale is a useful tool that aggregates self-reported earnings data by alumni. It surveys 2.3 million graduates from over 2,700 colleges and universities who are asked to report their pay, major, highest degree earned, and the name of their degree.
Why the College Scorecard is Better
The rankings that existed before the College Scorecard can be misleading, because they’re based on data that isn’t readily available and may be influenced by the outlet’s opinions of what makes a quality institution. Obama urged that these rankings encourage schools to “game the numbers” causing them to be even more inaccurate. The College Scorecard compiles raw data without the opinion of a third-party layered on top.
The data in College Scorecard aligns with what’s available in the Census Bureau. Comparisons of the accuracy show that the earnings data is closely correlated across the College Scorecard and the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, which surveys one percent of U.S. residents.
Longer Period of Time
The College Scorecard supersedes other rankings, because the earnings data covers a longer period of time. You can find data from six to 10 years after graduation, which is more indicative of a person’s potential lifetime earnings. It also shows data for people who leave the state after graduation.
Larger Sample Size
The College Scorecard’s sample size is about 10 times larger than Payscale and covers approximately 4,000 more colleges. This means it has additional reach that Payscale doesn’t offer. When comparing Payscale’s mid-career salary earnings data, the correlation is 0.82. That means the earnings information from the College Scorecard aligns with Payscale for the most part.
Cons of the College Scorecard
Not Representative of All Students
A weakness about the College Scorecard is that it only shows students who received federal aid. Those students are more likely to be financially disadvantaged than students who don’t receive financial aid. This skews the data toward students who come from families with lower incomes.
Limited to One Branch of a School
Another difficulty with the data from College Scorecard is that it doesn’t show data for the different branches of a school. For all colleges with earnings data, “8 percent of students across 31 percent of campuses attend what appears to be…a branch campus.” This affects federal default rate data and makes it harder to distinguish if the earnings reported are accurate for one or more campuses.
Recent Updates to the College Scorecard
- In September 2017, a new feature was added that allows students to compare up to 10 schools at once.
- Nearly 700 additional universities that primarily grant certificates were added in January 2016.
- Closed institutions were removed from the site and “caution flags” were added to schools that had financial or federal compliance issues in March 2016.
- Improvements were also made in September 2015 to the College Scorecard website, data, and Application Programming Interface (API), which makes data more readily accessible.
- Now, the Department of Education is working to integrate the College Scorecard with the FAFSA in order to provide students with more data to help during the decision-making process of choosing a higher education institution.
The College Scorecard gives you more ways to find the right school for you. Although critics say that it doesn’t offer a completely well-rounded image of what a school’s actual value is and whether or not you leave with a quality education, more data is better than less data, right? It’s meant to guide one of the toughest decisions you’ll ever make
Compare the Best Student Loan Refinance Rates
Here are our top student loan refinance picks for 2019
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Student Debt Relief Loan Refinancing Advertiser Disclosure
College Ave: College Ave Student Loans products are made available through either Firstrust Bank, member FDIC or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply.
College Ave Refi Education loans are not currently available to residents of Maine.
1 – The 0.25% auto-pay interest rate reduction applies as long as the borrower or cosigner, if applicable, enrolls in auto-pay and authorizes our loan servicer to automatically deduct your monthly payments from a valid bank account via Automated Clearing House (“ACH”). The rate reduction applies for as long as the monthly payment amount is successfully deducted from the designated bank account and is suspended during periods of forbearance and certain deferments. Variable rates may increase after consummation.
2 – $5,000 is the minimum requirement to refinance. The maximum loan amount is $300,000 for those with medical, dental, pharmacy or veterinary doctorate degrees, and $150,000 for all other undergraduate or graduate degrees. Information advertised valid as of 04/26/2019. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation.
3 – This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a refi borrower with a Full Principal & Interest Repayment and a 10-year repayment term, has a $40,000 loan and a 5.5% Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 120 monthly payments of $434.11 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $52,092.61. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary.
ELFI: Subject to credit approval. Terms and conditions apply. To qualify for refinancing or student loans consolidation through ELFI, you must have at least $15,000 in student loan debt and must have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher from an approved post-secondary institution.
LendKey: Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, any educational institution.
CommonBond: Offered terms are subject to change. Loans are offered by CommonBond Lending, LLC (NMLS # 1175900). If you are approved for a loan, the interest rate offered will depend on your credit profile, your application, the loan term selected and will be within the ranges of rates shown. All Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) displayed assume borrowers enroll in auto pay and account for the 0.25% reduction in interest rate.
Splash Financial: Terms and Conditions apply. Splash reserves the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. Rates and terms are also subject to change at any time without notice. Offers are subject to credit approval.com
Earnest: To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.
Earnest’s fixed-rate loan rates range from 3.89% APR (with autopay) to 7.89% APR (with autopay). Variable rate loan rates range from 2.50% APR (with autopay) to 7.27% APR (with autopay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms of 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 0.26% and 5.03% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of April 23, 2019 and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.
Auto Pay Discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.
The information provided on this page is updated as of 04/23/19. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice.
Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 303 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, e-mail us at email@example.com, or call 888-601-2801 for more information on our student loan refinance product.