How to Use the College Scorecard
The College Scorecard is one of the most powerful tools for students and parents in the admissions and financial aid processes. The College Scorecard was launched by the federal government in 2015 as a way to provide reliable data about college cost, starting salary for graduates, and student debt.
For students, the College Scorecard is a useful research tool to understand what a college costs and how much money you can expect to earn afterwards.
Using the College Scorecard
The College Scorecard is a comparison tool that allows students and parents to compare colleges by a number of factors.
Here’s a sample College Scorecard page:
For our purposes the most important factors are the Average Annual Cost (or Net Cost), the Graduation Rate, and the Salary After Attending. These factors will help you determine your college Return on Investment by answering these three questions:
- Will the college be affordable?
- Am I likely to graduate?
- What type of salary am I likely to be making upon graduation?
This is useful information both for both selecting colleges for your list and for making a financial decision. Now, let’s dive into these three big questions that you can answer with the College Scorecard:
Will the college be affordable?
The College Scorecard has a number of important data points focused on college affordability. Specifically, the Average Annual Cost is useful to look at because it will give you a sense of whether a college offers generous financial aid.
There is even a chart that breaks down price by income bracket:
The Scorecard also provides information about the average student loan burden over four years. This will give you a sense of how much money students must pay back in student loans.
Note that the most accurate college cost estimate will be through the Net Price Calculator.
Am I likely to graduate?
Graduation rate (or the percentage of students who graduate within six years of starting college) is important to consider, because the value of college is based on actually earning a degree. As a benchmark, the average six year graduation rate is 60% according to the National Center of Education Statistics.
What type of salary am I likely to be making upon graduation?
One of the best stats you can discover through the College Scorecard is average salary after graduation. This can be really helpful for determining whether your student loan burden is appropriate.
Keep in mind that salaries can vary from major to major, as well as the industry you are going into pretty significantly. The average English major does not have the same earning potential as the average Engineer. Similarly, someone who is going into teaching will be taking home a different salary than someone who is working in finance on Wall Street. This is just something to keep in mind as you consider this data.
Bottom line for students
The College Scorecard should be an essential tool in every student’s research toolkit. To get started, you can search the College Scorecard by a specific college or university:
Students can also conduct a search by other factors such as specific graduate rates, starting salaries, locations, and degree types.