Home > Uncategorized > College Scorecard Provides Bogus and Worthless Data to Prospective Students, Reinforces Notion that College is All About ROI, Earning Lots of $$$

College Scorecard Provides Bogus and Worthless Data to Prospective Students, Reinforces Notion that College is All About ROI, Earning Lots of $$$

December 19, 2019

A recent Forbes article by Kristen Moon touts the benefits of the recently redesigned USDOE’s College Scorecard. The article quotes Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ praise for the valuable new tool:

Every student is unique,” said Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos in a release about the updates to the College Scorecard. “What they study, as well as when, where and how they choose to pursue their education will impact their future.”

Ms. Moon then elaborates on the Scorecard’s benefits:

Finding the best program for your chosen field of study is important, but so is finding one that gives you a good return on investment for your money. This new version of the College Scorecard helps you do both.

You might ask, “How what data does the College Scorecard provide to help every unique student find their unique path?” The answer?

A few of the key additions to the College Scorecard include:

  • Median earnings and debt for graduates, categorized by field of study at a particular school, rather than for the whole institution.

  • Graduation rates for all students, including part-time and transfer students. Previously, the Scorecard focused only on first-time and full-time graduation rates.

  • The ability to filter potential schools by acceptance rate, median standardized test scores and distance from home.

But wait, there’s even more!

By using the new “Custom Search” feature, the student can input where they want to study, what field and what degree they want to earn.

Once you have gathered your data, start to think about how much your student loan payment will be after college. Ideally, it shouldn’t be any more than 10 to 15% of your monthly paycheck. If your student loans are more than 20%, you will likely have trouble paying it off in the long run.

However, it is important to note that the median earnings data given on the College Scorecard is not a complete measure of your future earnings: The statistic indicates just the graduate’s first year in the workforce. Many fields of study have earnings that can change drastically within the first 10 years of graduating. Some professions have lower starting salaries that increase rapidly over the years, whereas others start high and don’t increase as much as time goes on.

As a liberal arts graduate who aspired to become a public school teacher and administrator who married an art major and had two daughters, one of whom works in social services and one of whom is a writer, I never thought of college in terms of a return on investment as measured by earnings. I was eager to attend college where I could explore subjects beyond those spoon fed to me as a high school student and dig more deeply into areas that I became interested in. Since I attended a college with a cooperative work-study program I was able to explore careers in engineering and business and determine that those paths were not of interest to me. Moreover, those assignments paid me enough to graduate without any debt– something that would now be impossible. Once I switched my major to liberal arts I figured once I graduated I would be able to earn a living— maybe not getting the “return on investment” I would have gotten had I stayed in a field that I found uninteresting but sufficient earnings to meet my needs.

As I’ve written in previous posts, using “return on investment” as a metric for colleges is wrongheaded. And claiming that the provision of data based on median earnings and indebtedness provides information that will help every unique student make uninformed decision is misleading at best. Students will need to do their own calculations when it comes to determining the costs and debt they will incur and— most importantly— they will need to visit the campus in person to determine if the college meets their unique needs. It may be possible to purchase a car using a spreadsheet full of data, but selecting a college requires a much more wholistic approach.

And here’s what is even more problematic: the data on the College Scorecard is incomplete! Here’s more from Ms. Moon:

While the College Scorecard is a step in the right direction for transparent data, it isn’t perfect. For example, graduates who didn’t receive federal financial aid like grants or loans were excluded. This could mean that some students were excluded based on their socioeconomic background. In addition, students who didn’t earn an income in the first year after graduating were not included in the dataset. 

The College Scorecard also uses different samples of students to calculate the median loan debt and earnings, so you should use caution when trying to compare schools accurately. Data about median earnings came from 2015 and 2016, while data regarding debt were calculated based on students graduating in 2016 and 2017.

How Forbes can tout a system that omits key information and is full of mismatched data is hard to fathom… unless the principle behind the data confirms the beliefs of those who write for Forbes and Forbes readers… all of whom evidently believe that college is all about return on investment and an imperfect metric based on that principle is better than something “soft” like learning for the sake of learning.

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