What is the College Score Card?

What is the College Score Card?

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What is the College Score Card? 

The College Scorecard is an online tool established by the US Department of Education. It serves as an extensive database that allows you to delve into colleges’ inner workings. From the programs they provide to their student demographics, costs, admissions information, outcomes, and beyond. 

Strengths and Weaknesses of the Data on College Score Card

An advantage of the college scorecard lies in its ability to bring higher education data into the open. This increased transparency can prove to be beneficial if utilized judiciously. Generally, the tool offers a broad perspective on cost comparisons. However, experts caution against relying on it to accurately forecast your individual college expenses. 

This is primarily due to the fact that the costs provided are net costs, not the advertised price visible on a college’s website. The net price represents the school’s average annual expenses, encompassing factors such as tuition, living expenses, books, and fees. This net price is then adjusted by subtracting the average grants and scholarships awarded to recipients of federal financial aid

One drawback of the tool is its data limitations. Often, the metrics rely on information reported by schools, which might not be comprehensive or entirely accurate, as stated in disclaimers by the US Department of Education. 

So, what can you gather from this? The college scorecard could serve as a valuable starting point. It could aid in refining your college choices for more in-depth investigation. Another valuable resource is the College Navigator, a tool provided by the National Center for Education Statistics, which could address additional queries you might have about a specific college. 

How to Navigate the College Score Card Data 

Navigating the college scorecard is akin to handling an actual card, embellished with icons and numeric insights. The interface incorporates a user-friendly search bar and provides direct access to a variety of resources through embedded links. Beyond the search functionality, the lower section of the homepage is dedicated to a range of additional resources. Here, you can uncover details about potential career paths and apprenticeship opportunities. Alternatively, you can opt to delve into comprehensive information about federal financial aid possibilities. Notably, financial aid may be attainable for individuals who meet the specified eligibility criteria. 

Here is a walk through on how you might use the college score card data in your college search.  

1. Find the college you want to learn about 

When using the college scorecard, your first step is to search for the college you’re interested in learning about. This essential information is readily available on the homepage, offering you three distinct search options: 

  • Custom search. his allows you to refine your search by location, field of study, and desired degree type – be it certificate, associate, or bachelor. 
  • Name search. Input the name of the specific school you’re seeking information about. 
  • Show me options. A more personalized route, where you can customize your search based on factors like location, admission rates, graduation rates, and degree type. 

If a college has multiple campuses, you can further narrow down your search to compare different locations.  

2. How to read each card 

Each scorecard comprises four sections: a header, a set of illustrative icons, relevant metrics, and an option to “view more details.” The top header displays the college’s location, followed by the university name and the number of undergraduates. The four icons provide insight into the college’s characteristics, including its duration (two or four years), public or private status, urban or rural setting, and size. 

Beneath the icons, you’ll encounter three sets of metrics, each expandable for more in-depth understanding: 

  • Graduation rate. This metric indicates the percentage of students who successfully graduate within eight years of their initial enrollment. 
  • Salary after completing. This data showcases the median annual earnings of former students one year after graduation, specifically those who received federal financial aid. 
  • Average annual cost. The average net price paid by students receiving federal financial aid, which encompasses tuition and living expenses. For public schools, this reflects in-state students’ average cost. 

At the end of the card, if you select “view more details”, the card opens up to a new screen. 

3. Make sense of the big screen 

Upon expanding the scorecard, the screen provides additional features. You can choose to add the school to your comparisons using the “+ compare” button or share it with others. A prompt to “start my FAFSA form” assists with financial aid application initiation. Military benefits for education are also covered. The map displays the school’s location, aiding in gaining a sense of its surroundings.

Some of the other pull downs from the menu delve deeper into data.

  • Costs. Calculate personal net price and estimate costs for students in your income bracket.
  • Graduation and retention. Examine the number of returning students after their first year.
  • Financial aid and debt. Obtain insights into monthly loan payments and post-graduation student debt.
  • Salary after completing by field of study. Bar graphs depict first-year earnings for various programs.
  • Fields of study. Fields of study represent programs but may not map in a direct way to actual course catalogs.
  • Student body. This gives you an idea of the racial and ethnic mix of a college. Also, it shows you how many eligible low income students received federal Pell Grants
  • Test scores and acceptance. Charts ACT/SAT score ranges for admitted and enrolled students.

4. View more details  

For deeper exploration, the “blue i” or “view more details” button provides additional information, each leading to a distinct menu. The “i,” representing ‘information,’ leads to:

Data documentation. College scorecard provides data at two levels. The scorecard provides data at both institutional and field of study levels, with technical details provided here.

Change log. As a rule, the USDE updates the college score card a few times per year. So, on this page, you can check if their data is recent. At last check, their last date stamp was March 30, 2020.

Glossary. Understand the terminology used in the scorecard, clarifying data sources and compilation methods.

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Sources for school statistics is the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics.

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