The U.S. Department of Education recently released its College Scorecard website, an interactive online resource designed to make federal data more accessible for students and families to compare the affordability and quality of colleges and universities across the nation.
The College Scorecard uses financial aid data, tax information and federal reporting to display select data from an institution’s profile, including net price, student demographics, test scores, affordability, and graduation and retention rates. It then compares these data points to national averages. Although much of the information is available through multiple sources, the tool is the first attempt at aggregating it into a centralized, user-friendly interface. Users can search and filter the database by programs and degrees, location, size and name.
So how does DePaul measure up on the scorecard?
DePaul ranks positively overall. The university’s graduation and first-year retention rates of 69 percent and 85 percent, respectively, are higher than the national averages. DePaul graduates earn a higher average salary 10 years after graduation compared to national counterparts. While the scorecard shows DePaul’s average annual cost higher than the national average, the university’s net cost is comparable to institutions of similar profile.
This last fact illustrates some of the tool’s limitations. The data exclude students who do not receive federal aid and is further limited to students who attend federal aid granting institutions (also known as Title IV participants). It does not take into account peer sets or market-based factors as the national averages are compiled from differing types of institutions (private, public, for profit, etc.). Despite its limitations, the scorecard can still be a helpful tool, but is most effective when coupled with other resources and activities.
“The college selection process is deeply personal for most families,” said David Kalsbeek, senior vice president for Enrollment Management and Marketing. “The College Scorecard is a supportive tool to assist students and families in their decision, but can’t replace campus visits and meetings with college counselors, faculty and current students to identify if a school is good fit for that student.”