In 2015, President Obama’s White House launched the College Scorecard, a college information website that opened public access to a wide range of federal data for the first time. Now, the U.S. Department of Education plans to add even more information to the online database sometime in the future, Delece Smith-Barrow writes for the Hechinger Report.
When the College Scorecard first launched, it included publicly available data on graduation rates, average annual costs, and standardized test scores for two- and four-year colleges, as well as data based on federal tax records, like the median salary of graduates, percent of graduates who earn more than $25,000, and average monthly student loan payment.
But the College Scorecard doesn’t provide enough information on college students’ earnings and debt, argues Diane Auer Jones, assistant secretary for postsecondary education at the Department of Education. And it doesn’t let users compare income and debt for different programs within the same institution, adds Mark Schneider, director of the department’s Institute of Education Sciences.
Auer Jones and Schneider suggest that these gaps in information make it harder for low-income students to make informed decisions about institutions and degree programs—especially at for-profit institutions.
Including for-profit college program debt and earnings in the College Scorecard will “stop the false advertising, or at least you make it much more difficult for an institution to get away with it and you make it much easier for them to be caught,” says Auer Jones.
In addition to median wages and debt at the program level, the department will also add information on graduate and professional degree programs, says Auer Jones. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, between 2014 and 2024, the number of jobs requiring a master’s degree will increase by 13.8%, and the number of jobs requiring a doctoral professional degree will increase by 12.2%.
And students who pursued an advanced degree in the 2015-2016 school year borrowed more than three times as much undergraduate students during that same period, according to a report by the Urban Institute. Even more, master’s and professional degree students accounted for 38% of federal student loans despite making up just 17% of loan borrowers.
“We know that at the graduate school level, that’s where students take on the lion’s share of debt,” says Auer Jones. “And while we agree that these are informed consumers, we have an obligation to give them the information to make informed decisions” (Smith-Barrow, Hechinger Report, 10/5).