Sunday, September 27, 2020
US flag

Government college scorecard leaves teens baffled

Last February, the White House came up with what we thought was a pretty good idea: produce a one-page snapshot of undergraduate colleges to help teens decide which college might be best for them.

The “college scorecard” is about to come out. Where it succeeds is in taking away the hype almost every piece of literature directly from colleges contains and putting every school on an even playing field, a field where cold, hard facts reign supreme. Where it fails is that kids can’t actually read the thing.

“What am I looking at? It looks like a bill or something but I’m not sure what it is,” one high school student told the Center for American Progress in a focus group, after examining a sample college scorecard. “This is why I hate college stuff.”

The center recommends, in a report, that some sort of introductory material be provided to give readers of the college scorecard a frame of reference. Stats on the scorecard include college costs, student loan debt and repayment, graduation rates, and potential earnings averages for graduates. But students said that information is difficult to frame, because some stats, such as “net price,” aren’t described clearly enough.

In addition, some possibly important stats are omitted, like the four-year graduation rate; the six-year rate is reported. High school students in the US are dramatically increasing their taking of Advanced Placement exams designed to let them hit the college turf running and potentially finish earlier. This information suggests the four-year number would be more relevant to college-bound seniors in America.

Finally, it has been documented that, even at the best universities, graduates with some degrees fare better at salary-making than those with other degrees. An average earnings potential for graduates of a whole university may not reflect the wide variance between the different degree programs.

Like many government reports, the scorecard and its design haven’t really been tested with actual students. We join the center in advising government to perform this kind of consumer testing on products it makes, especially where those products are a good idea designed to help teenagers.

This scorecard has the potential to deliver very useful information to college-bound seniors without all the advertising and hype colleges bombard them with. It just cuts to the chase, but it seems the government designers’ lack of testing made it so those doing the chasing can’t even see the road. There’s still time.

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

Recent posts

On constitutional flat taxes in Illinois

An important ballot question in IL involves the elimination of the flat tax in favor of a graduated income tax structure.

Weather conference for Howard Co. 6th graders

The Howard County (Md.) Conservancy invites 6th graders to register for a conference about preparing for extreme weather.

Exercise harder, remember more

Scientists have found that the more vigorously you exercise, the stronger the response in the brain that helps your memory.

More than Covid keeps kids home at E. Peoria

Mud & debris flooded E Peoria Comm HS this summer, so students can't return to in-person learning sooner than the end of Oct.

Schools rethink the whole idea of snow days

Why have snow days anymore if we can have 'virtual learning' days, now that we know a thing or two about how they work?

Student news roundup, Maryland, Sept. 24

State to allow sports beginning in Oct., but some districts won't go back yet; Miss Maryland Agriculture; music lessons virtually.

Grand jury indicts officer in Breonna Taylor case

A former police officer was indicted in connection with the death of Breonna Taylor in Louisville. But it was less than many had hoped for.

New youth forum talks virtual learning in Md.

Virtual learning thoughts from a Md. HS: It can work and keeps kids safe, but it ends up being harder (you can't just ask a teacher if you don't understand).

IL brings 1000s back to school for SAT exam

Many IL seniors went back to their school buildings today to make up the SAT exam, which they missed last spring as juniors due to the pandemic.

Baltimore City Schools to lay off 450

Layoffs are coming to Baltimore City Schools due to a budget shortfall. Some teachers and teacher's assistants are included in the layoffs.

How citizens prefer to fund environmental action

Growing demand for countries to combat climate change, less consensus on how to fund it. New study offers insight from the US, UK, Germany, France.