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The Color of Money / Home & Consumer

Color of Money: College Scorecard Doesn't Score Well

WASHINGTON -- With my 17-year-old daughter headed to college, I tried out the new college scorecard tool launched by the Obama administration following the president's State of the Union address.

I was not impressed. Some links didn't work and certain information I wanted wasn't there. Overall, the tool just didn't add much value to help our family figure out which college would be the most affordable.

The tool, which you can find at whitehouse.gov, is too general when it comes to the final price of college, what the academic industry calls the "net price."

"Net price is what undergraduate students pay after grants and scholarships (financial aid you don't have to pay back) are subtracted from the institution's cost of attendance," the scorecard tells us.

Designed by the Department of Education, the scorecard includes the average net price data for in-state students, the school's graduation rate, loan default rates, and median borrowing. Oh, and the data used for the average net price are for the 2010-11 academic year.

Honestly, given what I've been experiencing and after talking to numerous other parents, the college scorecard doesn't address our most pressing needs. What would help more would be an intensive effort by the administration to bring down the cost of college so families wouldn't have to borrow so heavily.

During a recent college tour, we saw one parent become very disheartened because her daughter, a good but not great student, wouldn't be able to afford the cost of college -- and she was a state resident visiting a state school. If a degree is a ticket to a middle-class job, then we've got to do something about bringing down the price of attending. Even with a lot of merit and need-based scholarship and grant money available, there isn't nearly enough to go around.

My daughter Olivia, who has excellent grades, applied to four colleges -- two in-state schools and two out of state. She was accepted at North Carolina A&T, Towson University, and the Honors College at the University of Maryland, College Park.

The University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill turned her down. The UNC rejection notice was nice enough, a more "it's not you, it's us" rebuff. "With many more candidates than spaces, we cannot avoid making thousands of difficult decisions," the vice provost wrote.

My heart sunk when Olivia didn't get into UNC. But the penny-pincher in me was jumping for joy. We've saved for her education, but not enough to pay the $43,848 annual out-of-state price for UNC.

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Copyright 2013 Washington Post Writers Group



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