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New website helps students find higher education

September 25, 2015

The Obama administration has announced a new website aimed at helping college-bound students and their parents choose a college based on cost, graduation, post-college earnings and debt, according to a press release from the White House.

The College Scorecard is found at collegescorecard.ed.gov. It is inter- active and compatible with mobile devices.

In his Sept. 12 weekly address to the nation, President Obama introduced the site by highlighting the importance of higher education.

“Some higher education is the surest ticket to the middle class,” he said. “By the end of this decade two in three job openings will require some higher education.”

Users visiting the site may search for a college based on programs and degrees, location, size, name, and more advanced categories. The user can then choose the “Find schools” button to see what colleges best fit their needs.

After selecting a college, information is presented in seven main categories: costs, financial aid and debt, graduation and retention, earnings after school, student body, SAT/ACT scores and academic programs. The categories then may be broken down further providing even more details.

President Obama and his administration felt the categories highlighted on the website were necessary because they offer reliable data on factors important to prospective students.

“The old way of assessing college choices relied on static ratings lists compiled by someone who was deciding what value to place on different factors,” according to a White House fact sheet regarding the website. “The new way of assessing college choices, with the help of technology and open data, makes it possible for anyone — a student, a school, a policymaker, or a researcher — to decide what factors to evaluate.”

Some students at UW-River Falls agree. They were searching for the statistics on the schools of their dreams well before the site was established, and looked into the points highlighted on the website.

For one student, cost was his main concern.

Chris Diaz, a junior at UW-River Falls, looked into the school be- cause of how it compared to other schools.

“It wasn’t, like, too expensive, but it was that right price. Like, it’s not $30,000 a year to get my education,” he said.

Three years ago, when Diaz was looking for information on the campus, it wasn’t all in one place, and he said if the College Scorecard website had been around when he was looking he would have found it to be a very useful tool.

In fact, on the website UW-River Falls ranks better than the national average in every category. In one category alone UWRF ranked 25 percentage points higher than the national average. UWRF has 92 percent of students paying down their debt compared to 67 percent in the nation.

Provost Fernando Delgado said the site provides a fair depiction of certain variables, but does not highlight all of them.

“What it doesn’t really give us a great sense of is the complexity of the people who come here,” Delgado said. “So it talks about output, but one of the challenges we have in higher education, all of us, is what is the value-added dimension?”

Another factor he said the scorecard lacks is the reason students choose a particular campus. For example, the decision could be based on location rather than the merit of the school.

For Diaz, a big factor that went into his decision to go to UW-River Falls was that he could keep his job in his hometown and be close to home. Other colleges and universities offered his major, but the location of UW-River Falls is what drew him in.

Another student, Abby Krueger, a freshman at UW-River Falls, picked the campus after her high school teacher told her to look into it be- cause he graduated from the campus.