The US government recently announced the publication of a new government service known as College Scorecard. The scorecard contains searchable information about both public and private colleges throughout the US, and is free to use for everyone.
The College Scorecard differs from current rating systems such as US News or The Princeton Review in that it doesn’t rank colleges. In fact, it doesn’t compare colleges with each other at all—just against the national average.
The Scorecard is more accurately described as a giant data dump: nearly 200 mb worth of data about colleges. This data, which was previously hard to find and conglomerate, is now all in one place.
The data includes everything from average graduation rate to earnings ten years after graduation, as well as one of the most important statistics for students evaluating colleges: the actual average cost for one year of education.
The system does have its critics, who note the information is too money-oriented and overlooks many nuances involved in choosing a college, such as the experience of students and overall learning environment. Generally, however, the response to releasing more data about colleges has been quite positive.
The release of the College Scorecard coincides with a larger effort by the White House to improve the entire experience around college admissions.
This effort also includes a recent change to the FAFSA, or Free Application for Federal Student Aid. The aim is to make the FAFSA available “earlier and easier,” in order to encourage more students to fill it out and apply for loans and grants.
Previously, the FAFSA became available on January first and required tax information from that year, meaning applicants had to file taxes before filing for the FAFSA. With this change, the FAFSA is now available in October, and requires data from the previous year. This change is aimed at getting families and students the financial information they need to make an informed college decision earlier.
In regard to making the process easier, the FAFSA now includes a tool to import data from the IRS, automatically filling out a large portion of the form.
Overall, the White House is hoping that the changes to this process will lead to more applications for aid and grants, a better experience for families and students going through the college admission process and ultimately a more affordable cost to attend college in the US.