College Scorecard data aids prospective undergraduate students

On Sept. 12, President Barack Obama announced the launch of the Department of Education’s College Scorecard, a new website which aggregates economic data about American undergraduate educational institutions, including the College, in order to help prospective students in their undergraduate searches.

“The goal is to help everybody who’s willing to work for a higher education search for and select a college that fits their goals,” Obama said in the announcement. 

The website includes information about costs, financial aid and debt, graduation rates, earnings, student demographics, standardized test scores and academic programs for all undergraduate degree granting institutions in the United States. There is a small amount of data directly displayed on the website in the earnings section, which only states the median salary for students 10 years after entering college and the percentage of students earning more than an average high school graduate. The website links to additional raw data, however, which includes a document solely devoted to post-school earnings.

According to the post-school earnings document, the mean earnings of employed students from the College six years after first entering the school is $50,100. After seven years, earnings increase to $56,100. Eight years after entering, mean earnings are $61,400. Then after nine years, mean earnings rise to $73,000.

The mean earnings of employed students from the College 10 years after first entering the school are $83,200, with a standard deviation of $87,000, while the median earnings are $58,100. The 10th percentile earnings are $16,800, the 25th percentile earnings are $39,100, the 75th percentile earnings are $97,000 and the 90th percentile earnings are $167,700.  Mean earnings of females 10 years after entering are $69,400, while the mean earnings of males are $95,500.

The earnings statistics come with three caveats, according to the data documentation. First, earnings differences between majors within a school are significant. For example, STEM majors frequently earn more than students in non-STEM majors. Additionally, the data only includes students that receive federal student aid, who may not be representative of the school as a whole. The data also does not include students who are currently enrolled in school, whether at the undergraduate or graduate level.

Dick Nesbitt ’73, director of admissions, downplayed the importance of the data.

“So far I haven’t encountered any prospective students or parents who have referenced the Department of Education’s College Scorecard as a source of information,” Nesbitt said. “I imagine it will have a negligible effect on admission in this year’s cycle.”

Obama’s original design for the website, which he announced in 2013, included a plan to rank all 7,000 undergraduate institituions in the United States. However, many critics spoke out against the rankings, including President Adam Falk, who told the New York Times that a ranking system can be “oversimplified to the point that it actually misleads.” Rankings are not included on the website.

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