Pixel Tracker

Tuesday, January 15 , 2019, 8:17 pm | Overcast 54º


What Parents Need To Know about the New College Scorecard

For the first time, the US government has jumped into the business of evaluating colleges, launching a website meant to provide useful consumer information about college cost and value.  

College Scorecard emerged as a compromise after many college presidents bitterly fought the idea of strict hierarchy, pressuring President Obama to back off a bit.  

So what are we to make of this new website and how is it useful to families in Santa Barbara?

First and foremost, the website is meant to protect the most vulnerable college applicants: students from first-generation and low-income families who've been getting fleeced.  

Sadly, many colleges operating in U.S. today offer very little value for the money, with abysmal graduation rates and very high student debt. Even graduates of such institutions find that their degrees barely boost their earnings in the workforce.

Scorecard identifies the worst offenders and is meant to shame them or even drive them out of business.  

At the opposite end, the government's website reveals the colleges with the highest graduation rates, lowest student debt and highest average earnings after graduation.  

But surprise, surprise, it turns out that these are largely the old, famous and nearly-impossible-to-get-into colleges that everyone's heard of.  

The UC's receive praise as public universities, but as Californians know, getting in and graduating in four years can be tough.  

So what about families in the middle, those with moderate to high incomes whose children have good but not exceptional grades and scores?  

Here, a little insider information goes a long way.

Forbes magazine has quietly been rating colleges for several years using metrics similar to the federal government's — their scorecard also emphasizes return on investment (ROI) and gives colleges a financial grade from A to F.

The trick is to examine the schools ranked between, say, 50 and 200, those with high graduation rates, happy alumni and financial grades of A- or better, which tend not to be household names. 

These are the colleges with the institutional resources to offer merit scholarships and grants instead of loans for financial aid. 

Such places, where nearly everyone graduates in four years, will often match the in-state tuition that a family would otherwise have paid their state's public universities, and their records at placing students in graduate school is typically superb.

Does a student need to be a rocket scientist to qualify? No, but having grades and scores near the middle 50 percent of the admitted student profile helps.  

Keep in mind, the real savings may come in having your child graduate in four years, recouping an entire year's tuition.

Also remember that these schools, which are relatively obscure, suffer a shortage of well-prepared students with modest financial need. This gives them a big incentive to pursue kids from Santa Barbara and similar communities, especially when they can contribute athletically or artistically.  

Will President Obama's new website end the turmoil and confusion facing today's college applicants? No, but by placing the emphasis on the relative performance of America's colleges, he has given families much more clout as consumers, and that can only be a good thing.  

— Matt Struckmeyer is director of college counseling at Dunn School in Los Olivos. He can be reached for questions or comments at [email protected]. He offers a college counseling bootcamp every August as part of Dunn's summer program, and he also gives talks to schools and community organizations on the changing landscape of college admission.


Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made using a credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Select your monthly membership
Or choose an annual membership

Payment Information

Membership Subscription

You are enrolling in . Thank you for joining the Hawks Club.

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.
You may cancel your membership at any time by sending an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.