Today, after a two-year process, the Obama Administration is unveiling a new College Scorecard intended to better inform prospective students, the public, and policymakers about graduation rates and college students’ earnings once in the workforce. We strongly support the purposes motivating this initiative, but we are concerned that neither the process nor this first version of its product adequately accomplishes the Administration’s lofty and laudable goals.

First, the algorithm continues to track only first-time, full-time students. We understand that the Department of Education plans to present a more nuanced picture of academic outcomes by including additional data from the Student Achievement Measure (SAM), the higher education community’s voluntary data system.

Second, we are concerned that providing wage data at the institutional rather than the programmatic level will provide a highly misleading statistic of minimal usefulness to students and families. Co-mingling earnings and debt data for college graduates in widely different fields may well end up misinforming prospective students in lower-paying fields; it could induce them into borrowing more, while discouraging students in higher-paying fields from pursuing their preferred majors out of concern with average institution-wide lower-than-expected earnings data.  

Finally, we are disappointed by the lack of adequate transparency and external consultation and review of this highly technical, very complex, and consequential initiative. We believe that a more collegial and consultative approach would not only have improved the metrics being unveiled today, but also expedited the process.

Despite these misgivings, we remain optimistic that the Department will work with the broader community and improve the new Scorecard in future iterations.