The Obama Administration has wanted to change the way colleges are ranked since 2013. Current systems focus on the prestige of the institution in terms of endowment, numbers of students and cost. They want to make the system more focused on the students’ academic experience. An actual all-encompassing ranking system has not been put into place, but the Obama administration has come out with the “College Scorecard,” which is a part of the overall plan for a future national ranking system.
The Scorecard allows people to compare over 7,000 higher-education institutions, but these institutions are not ranked. The website shows graduation rates, post-college earnings, levels of student debt and how likely students are to repay loans at the top of the list of metrics. Other available information includes retention rates, breakdown of costs, student body demographics, list of academics programs and average ACT/SAT scores. These statistics are taken from only students who receive federal aid.
One can look at the numbers, but what do they mean? How does William Jewell College compare to other colleges? Austin College in Texas and Beloit College in WI are the top two schools on Jewell’s aspirant list. These two colleges are among a list of 15 higher-education institutions against which Jewell compares itself.
Jewell is comparable in size to both Beloit College and Austin College. The average annual cost for students at Jewell after scholarship is $21,805. This is lower than both Beloit and Austin at $21,979 and $24,019, respectively. All three colleges are above the average of $16,789.
Another statistic provided by the College Scorecard is the percentage of students that have paid off some of their debt within three years of graduation. On average, students have about $26,000 in debt at all three schools. 92 percent of Jewell students have started paying this debt compared to 93 percent at Beloit and 90 percent at Austin. These are all above the national average of 67 percent. Only 66 percent of Jewell students receive federal loans, where as 77 percent of Austin students. Beloit has the fewest students receiving federal loans at 58 percent.
Jewell has the lowest retention rate with 76 percent of students returning after their first year compared to 92 percent and 83 percent at Beloit and Austin, respectively. Jewell also has the lowest graduation rate at 63 percent, versus Beloit, 78 percent, and Austin, 74 percent. Graduation rate is measured by the percentage of students who graduate in four years.
The average earnings within 10 years after graduation are above the national average of $34,343 for all three colleges. Jewell falls in the middle with an average of $40,300. Beloit has the lowest with $37,900 and Austin with the highest, $47,600.
The Scorecard also gives statistics on the most popular majors at the college. The most popular at Jewell include health professions, business management, marketing, psychology, social sciences and education. Popular majors at Beloit include social sciences, visual and performing arts, physical sciences, psychology and English. Psychology, business, management, social sciences, biological sciences and history are the most popular majors at Austin. This variety in popular majors among the colleges could account for the variety in statistics between them because recruiting strategies for different majors tend to vary.
The most well-known current ranking system is the U.S. News and World Report’s annual college rankings. This website ranks colleges using a formula that includes information such as location, feel of campus life, majors offered, activities on campus, sports, cost and financial aid.
The new College Scorecard lists previously unpublished statistics and provides prospective students with yet another tool for comparing universities without ranking them. Only 66 percent of Jewell students borrow federal funds, so 34 percent of students are excluded from these statistics. This system does not take into account student experience, which is for some a valuable tool needed for deciding on a college. Overall, the College Scorecard is primarily useful for comparing higher-education institutions because they offer more than numerical statistics.