After spending considerable time and resources, the U. S. Department of Education has released a newly expanded data tool developed to take the place of the proposed college ratings system announced by President Obama two years ago. Using data points culled from existing federal sources, the College Scorecard website provides prospective students, parents, school counselors, and the general public with metrics to compare college costs and a limited number of student outcomes.
AGB has been following this policy development closely since the ratings system was initial announcement in August 2013. A full AGB Alert provides greater context for this recent development and what it means for higher education boards.
Only time will tell if the new tool achieves its intended purpose: to help prospective students and their families make good decisions. And only time will tell if the Scorecard satisfies some as-yet undefined and undetermined federal accountability standard, or if some new or potentially more problematic standard for student outcomes lies in the future.
In the meantime, AGB offers these suggestions to boards and institutional leaders:
- Be aware of the limitations of the data provided in the current version of the College Scorecard and don't rely on them for decision making about your institution.
- Understand the relationship between your institution's mission and such metrics as student retention, graduation rate, and salary after graduation.
- Use your institution's own data to inform the public about your cost, quality, and outcomes. Make sure these data are presented as clearly and transparently as possible.
- Ask your president or chancellor to develop effective ways to present measures of educational value.
- Spend board time discussing meaningful indicators of institutional accountability and student success. Use these indicators to track and improve performance over time.