Reception mixed for federal college calculator website
An online government-run calculator designed to help families understand the complexities of college costs could be helpful, though some information might be misleading, experts say.
The site, whitehouse.gov/scorecard, calculates five criteria for every college: annual price after grant aid, six-year graduation rates, loan default rates, median borrowing and post-graduate employment — a section yet to be completed. It debuted last week under the cloud of student debt surpassing $1 trillion last year.
The web tool met with mixed reviews.
Lauren Asher, president of the Institute for College Access & Success, a nonprofit with offices in Washington and Oakland, Calif., that provides an annual state breakdown on student debt, said it “has the potential to be a game-changer.”
“Overall, the data provided on the scorecard are what students and families need to better understand their college options,” Asher said. But she cautioned that data on default rates and median borrowing can be misleading without context, such as the percentage of students who borrowed money.
Rachel Fishman, a higher education policy analyst for the nonpartisan Washington-based New America Foundation, said the scorecard's plan to aggregate post-graduate employment data by tapping federal databases rather than accepting self-reports from schools is a first and could prove valuable.
“We're spending so much of our education budget on higher education that taxpayers have a right to know what they're getting for it,” she said.
Fishman commended the calculator's monthly payment feature: “That's something we haven't been giving students.”
Some experts cautioned that graduation rates might be misleading, too.
The Center for American Progress, a nonpartisan education policy group in Washington, said four-year graduation rates would be more helpful to families of high school students considering a traditional route to an undergraduate degree. Others contend that even the six-year figure gives misleadingly low numbers for some schools with a high percentage of non-traditional students.
“We're concerned that it's hard to apply a one-size-fits-all form to all schools across the country,” said Megan McClean, policy director for the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators in Washington.
University of Pittsburgh junior Dave Rosenthal, 20, of West Chester said he'll graduate debt-free. But he will borrow money for graduate school and said most of his fraternity brothers went into debt to pay for college.
“It's hard to fathom how much something is going to cost when you are 18 and just getting out of high school,” said Rosenthal, who remains confident that the benefits of his education will outweigh any debt he incurs.
Debra Erdley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Muslim civil rights group seeks investigation into shooting of Pittsburgh taxi driver
- Sports Deli is latest tenant to say goodbye to Parkway Center Mall
- Package thefts can be prevented, police, experts say
- Newsmaker: Norman L. Bier
- Pet chiropractic more popular in Western Pa., but doubts linger
- Man surrenders after standoff in Middle Hill District
- Shooting of Pittsburgh cab driver spotlights risks of profession
- Woman dies after bleeding on sidewalk outside Carrick pizzeria
- Downtown holiday parade festive, but weather dampens turnout
- Century Inn owner hopes to reopen Washington County landmark, gutted by fire, by end of next year
- Renovation planned for blighted homes in Garfield