College Scorecard Updated

September 15, 2016

Carrie Warick, Director of Policy and Advocacy

With each new college admissions season comes a fresh group of college rankings with the goal of informing prospective college students about their options. The U.S. News rankings have led the way for over 30 years with many others such as MONEY and Washington Monthly joining in with their own take on personally adjustable rankings and "bang for your buck," respectively. Last year, the U.S. Department of Education revamped the College Scorecard and yesterday, they refreshed their data to include the college graduation rates through the 2014-15 academic year.

This updated version of the College Scorecard allows students and their families to use the same tool with the most up-to-date information possible. When the Scorecard was re-launched last year, many in the field wondered if it would become outdated. Yesterday, the Department answered this concern by updating the tool and stating it would continue to do so annually (assuming the next Administration continues the project).

NCAN member College Abacus, (host toPell Abacus and Pell Ábaco), which was an early adopter of using Scorecard data last year, also added new functionality to their tools this year. Using the updated data, College Abacus enhanced its net price calculator aggregator to include a debt-to-earnings rate for colleges and universities. 

For those following larger trends of college success, the fact sheet offers some telling facts to use when you advise students:

  • There is significant variation in the benefits and costs associated with attending particular colleges, or types of colleges. Among the top 10 percent of four-year colleges by completion rates, more than four out of five students graduate within six years; while at the bottom 10 percent of four-year colleges, fewer than a quarter of students graduate within that timeframe.  Earnings also vary significantly, both across degree types and across specific institutions.
  • A student’s ability to get a good job and repay his or her loans is one indication of the quality of the education provided.  Borrowers at all types of schools who entered repayment during the recession were less likely to be on track to successfully repay their loans; but borrowers at certain types of colleges—those at for-profit schools and other two-year institutions—had an especially difficult time managing their debt. While 80 percent of borrowers at public and private nonprofit four-year colleges are making progress within three years in paying down their debt, fewer than half of borrowers at for-profit colleges are. Repayment rates, in general, have also begun to tick back up in the most recent class of borrowers.
  • The most expensive degree is the one a student never completes. Among borrowers who graduated from college, more than three out of four are making progress in paying down their debt within three years of leaving school. However, for those who left school with debt and no degree, only 56 percent were successfully paying down their loans. Students’ chances of successfully repaying their loans may therefore be greatest at the institutions where they have greater chances of graduating.

These trends make it clear: where a student enrolls and if that student finishes are the keys to whether the student can capitalize on the financial and social mobility that a college education has to offer.

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