With my 17-year-old daughter headed to college, I tried out the new college scorecard tool launched by the Obama administration following the president’s inaugural address.
I was not impressed. Some links didn’t work, and certain information I wanted wasn’t there. Overall, the tool just didn’t add much value to help our family figure out which college would be the most affordable.
The tool, which you can find at whitehouse.gov, is too general when it comes to the final price of college, what the academic industry calls the “net price.”
“Net price is what undergraduate students pay after grants and scholarships [financial aid you don’t have to pay back] are subtracted from the institution’s cost of attendance,” the scorecard tells us.
Designed by the Department of Education, the scorecard includes the average net price data for in-state students, the school’s graduation rate, loan default rates and median borrowing. Oh, and the data used for the average net price are for the 2010-11 academic year.
The college scorecard doesn’t address our most pressing needs. What would help more would be an intensive effort by the administration to bring down the cost of college so families wouldn’t have to borrow so heavily.
Roberto Rodriguez, special assistant to the president for education, said the college scorecard is meant to be part of a suite of tools that families can use to help in the college selection process. You can find the tools by going to the National Center for Education Statistics’ website (www.nces.ed.gov) and searching for College Navigator.
A useful tool I’m looking forward to is one the administration previously announced, a financial aid shopping sheet. The administration has gotten more than 600 colleges to agree to provide important financial information to incoming freshmen starting with the 2013-14 school year.
As part of their financial aid packages, the schools said they would disclose these key pieces of information: They will be clearer about how much one year of college will cost; they will provide a better distinction between grants, scholarships and loans; they will provide estimated monthly payments for the federal student loans that graduates will likely owe; and they will supply information about the percentages of students who enroll from one year to the next, graduate and repay their loans without defaulting.
The shopping sheet is a tool the administration should demand that colleges provide. Right now it’s only voluntary.
Now we wait, like so many others, hoping we get some money from the schools that do want our daughter.