A New Ranking?

It’s been a week now since President Obama promised, in his State of the Union address, to release a “College Scorecard,” that would “compare schools based on a simple criteria — where you can get the most bang for your educational buck.” And, as promised, the scorecard is now available on the White House website.

Obama SOTU

President Obama working on the State of the Union address with speechwriters. Photo courtesy of http://www.whitehouse.gov

This new device is really very simple–it includes a measurement of what the typical student will pay at a selected college or university after grants and scholarships. It also offers the college or university’s graduation rate, loan default rate, and median borrowing per month for an undergraduate degree. So when I looked up my B.A. alma mater (Ripon College), I discovered that it now costs $19,475/year, that 70.1% of students graduate from Ripon (ranking it in the “high” category), that the loan default rate for Ripon graduates is 3.1% (compared to 13.4% nationally), and that the average per month borrowing rate to attend Ripon is $260.37.

The “College Scorecard” also lets parents and students search for particular majors, locations, sizes…just about any relevant criteria that they might use in selecting the right college or university.

What is the consequence of this new development in higher education? Is this just another feeble attempt to keep college costs down? Or the beginning of a new effort to nationalize higher education? Also of interest are new metrics emerging all the time about the success or failure of particular majors and career trajectories for today’s young people. Yahoo’s education section recently ran an article about “Degrees Employers Hate and Love,” and the second most “loved” degree among employers was Communication.

In short, rankings are changing–U.S. News and World Report is dropping schools out of their ranking scheme for faking data and new ratings systems are emerging daily. And the criteria for why and how college and universities are ranked as they are continue to fluctuate–affordability, default rates, quality of faculty, graduation rates, GPAs for entering first-year students.

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