–President Obama, 2013 State of the Union
About the Scorecard
Indeed higher education is buzzing about the new White House College Scorecard officially launched last week. The scorecard is designed to give students and families five key pieces of data about a college: cost, graduation rate, loan default rate, average amount borrowed, and employment. Already concerns have been raised by higher education scholars and journalists regarding the overall utility and scope of this resource.
“Grading” the Scorecard
This heading may be particularly misleading as I have no intent to assign a grade to the scorecard so early. I do however feel that analysis of the scorecard should consider some important areas.
It is interesting that once again higher education researchers have been cited the most for their insight into the utility of this scorecard. The question I find myself asking is: What about students and parents? Any business that seeks to have longevity will to some degree invest in the perceptions and feedback of their consumer. While this scorecard was not created to generate profit, its successes and failures should take into consideration those who were meant to benefit from it. Thus the “grade” for this scorecard should also reflect the feedback of the real students, families, and administrators who will use it in the process of making decisions.
It is also helpful to ascertain the utility of this scorecard longitudinally. Rather than give a score from its initial features, we need to tie it to college choice, decision, and success outcomes. Such information and data regarding the scorecard’s usefulness over time will be critical to how the scorecard can evolve and receive the necessary critiques to improve its functions.
Moving Forward with the Scorecard
It is my hope that the scorecard does not appear to be an end-all-be-all to the college search process. College choice is not akin to grocery shopping in that we can simply evaluate nutrition labels, consider prices, and decide what is worth buying.
Perhaps the scorecard needs a disclaimer that all students, parents, practitioners, and other parties that use this tool should do more research beyond what the scorecard provides. This is especially because the scorecard mainly prioritizes important financial aspects of “fit” while the social and cultural identity of an institution warrants further exploration. While quick and easy information is helpful in college searches and research, it could be dangerously deceptive for trying to understand the totality of an institution’s compatibility with prospective students.