Is College Scorecard missing the point?

By Cecilia Luna

If someone were to ask a student why they're going to college, most would answer that they have a passion for their major or are fulfilling their dream of becoming a professional in a field they care deeply about. But what are we, as students, really thinking?

“Yeah, I’m studying business to get a stable job after I graduate and pay off my student debt because societal standards make having a degree a requirement nowadays.”

Doesn’t sound as good, does it? But it’s the truth.

These days, choosing a college is like shopping for a car. We consider the quality, cost, and return on our investment. But let’s face it, we really attend college for the experience.

With College Scorecard, the White House’s latest effort to improve educational standards, students can now see information about a college’s student loans, annual cost, graduation rate, and even post-grad salaries. Such information is important when choosing the right college, but what College Scorecard can't account for is also pretty vital.

Here are the pros and cons from a student's perspective.


1. Gets straight to the point

What’s great about College Scorecard is that it gets to the point. It tells us how loans will affect us after we graduate, which is largely dependent on our salary after graduation.

The website provides statistics from various colleges to help determine each institution's return on investment. Say, for instance, you were thinking of attending the University of Florida. You can simply type in the name of the school and quickly find out that 73 percent of students who attend UF earned, on average, more than those with only a high school diploma. From there, you can get a better idea of where you may stand economically after you graduate and how hard it will be to pay off loans.

2. Holds colleges accountable

Much like financial disclosure laws that require public officials to make public their sources of income, College Scorecard forces colleges to consider the fact that students can discover public information about them that may or may not be positive.

Information like this is what holds higher educational institutions accountable.

When you think about it, College Scorecard’s purpose is to encourage colleges and universities to improve their statistics in order to attract students and ensure successful futures.


1. College requirements can appear discouraging

Though helpful, College Scorecard does have its flaws. The statistics found in this database only account for those students receiving federal student aid, which some students don't qualify for. Furthermore, the statistics can be a bit discouraging. Although it shines in objectivity, it makes it seem as though there are fixed requirements for admission. This can lead someone not to apply to their dream school because they believe they have no chance of getting in due to their test scores or financial situation.

On College Scorecard, the average test scores of admitted students are displayed, which makes this seem like a set criteria for admission. In reality, admissions decisions are not so clear-cut. Everyone's academic and personal backgrounds are different, and colleges take this into account. Where one student fails in a certain subject, they excel in another. What matters most is your all-around experience and what you have to offer as an active member of the student body.

For some students, their college choices are already limited due to finances. The statistics on the site could lead someone to give up on the hopes of attending their preferred school because they don't think they can afford it. More than anything, though, it makes higher education a financial transaction.

2. College is an unquantifiable experience

Sure, a huge reason many of us attend college is for the degree, which will help us land a career. But college is about much more than a diploma!

What College Scorecard doesn’t take into account are the experiences that can’t be measured with dollars and percents. College Scorecard turns what is supposed to be a profound learning experience into a shopping trip. What makes this website great — informing students of important financial statistics — also makes it biased. But it gets an A for effort.

Overall, the Obama administration’s attempt at holding colleges more accountable is succeeding. I wish this information was as accessible when I was choosing colleges. However, in the end, my decision wasn’t based on numerical data or what would happen after I graduated — because nobody really knows what the next four years will look like. I just wanted the best experience.

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About the author

Cecilia is a third-year public relations major at the University of Florida. She's from the small town of Clewiston, and she’s ready to make her mark. “Not only am I learning to adjust to a bigger city, but all of the adventures this big university brings along with it.” You can follow her adventures right here on Unigo!