Choosing a college in the US, with myriad subjects, funding schemes and course costs, has always been a minefield for prospective students and their parents. Now President Obama’s administration has released a new College Scorecard, saying teenagers will have “reliable data on every institution of higher education”, although his long-mooted plans for a college rating system have now been scrapped.
The Scorecard has three main features on its summary page – average annual cost, graduation rate and salary after attending – and also collates data on financial aid, debt repayments and SAT requirements.
The plans to rate colleges were first announced in 2013 to name and shame colleges with high tuition fees but low graduation rates and employment prospects. “Colleges that keep their tuition down…are the ones that will see their taxpayer funding go up,” he offered at the time. After a barrage of criticism, he climbed down from a government rating system.
In his weekly address shortly after the Scorecard’s release, President Obama said: “There are colleges dedicated to helping students of all backgrounds learn without saddling them with debt. We should hold everybody to that standard.”
Critics have suggested that the Scorecard has no information about teaching quality – unlike the UK’s National Student Survey – and that it focuses on earnings over employment statistics. Graduates with careers in public and non-profit organisations inevitably earn less than those in industries such as engineering and the financial sector.
Tuition fees in the US have rocketed in the past 25 years, with so-called “sticker” prices – the advertised cost of university tuition – rising by 104 per cent in public institutions and 67 per cent in private colleges. However, when grants and scholarships are factored in, the numbers are 72 per cent and 24 per cent, perhaps making it a more practical option for students in the US and abroad.