College Scorecard, an online tool to help prospective students navigate their educational options, recently released preliminary data in an effort to provide more transparency surrounding levels of student debt. The service, provided by the U.S. Department of Education, has expanded its database to include more postsecondary options to further assist students in their search for higher education.
Keep reading for more information about how (and why) to consider using College Scorecard.
What does this mean? Previously, College Scorecard’s data could only show you the average amount of debt acquired by student borrowers for a given school. Now, you’ll be able to explore student debt rates by institution and educational pathway.
Soon, the data will be loaded into College Scorecard, so students will be able to check out their top schools and programs, and see how much debt they’ll potentially acquire pursuing one area of study over the other.
High debt rates don’t necessarily reflect on the quality of the program, but the new data will enable students to better compare their options.
For example, the preliminary data illustrates that student borrowers pursuing a master’s degree in social work at the University of Southern California average $109,000 in debt, while Appalachian State University borrowers average a significantly lower sum of $24,329. These findings are especially important when considering earnings in this field. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, social workers take home a median annual wage of $49,470.
“Given these data are preliminary, U.S. Department of Education (the Department) does not recommend using these data for informing enrollment decisions,” the Department of Education notes, adding that a final version will become available this fall for prospective students to factor into their decision-making process.
The school search tool, which outlines data surrounding the cost, graduation rate, employment rate, average amount borrowed, and loan default rate of accredited, degree-granting institutions, now includes brand-new information on 2,100 additional non-degree granting postsecondary institutions.
These private, for-profit institutions award certificates to signify students’ completion of an educational program rather than degrees, and cater to a vast universe of vocational and technical career paths across culinary, healthcare, business, computers, cosmetology, massage, and more fields.
Certificate-granting institutions often draw in students for their competitive prices and ability to offer pathways to in-demand careers. Although they still rank below associate’s and bachelor’s degree programs in terms of enrollment, as the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) shows, they are swiftly growing and worth incorporating into the data.
Postsecondary institutions awarded 945,000 certificates below the associate’s level in the 2016-2017 school year, NCES data illustrates, as compared to 553,000 in the 2000-2001 school year, a 71% increase.
Unfortunately, not all non-degree granting programs have stellar reputations. In January 2017, the Education Department announced that approximately one-tenth of vocational programs it assessed had failed to meet new standards determining whether graduates are able to repay their federal student loans.
“These important reforms are a more complete and effective way to hold all types of higher education institutions accountable and make sure that students have a full suite of data when making a decision about their education,” Secretary of Education Betsey DeVos said in a statement on Friday, June 28.
Students considering higher education are increasingly able to explore crucial components of effectiveness to decide if a school meets their long-term standards. In the case of non-degree granting schools, the Department of Education proposes that this new iteration will increase transparency around the programs that will most likely provide graduates with a return on their investment, as well as those that will leave them burdened by debt.
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