U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION RELEASES EXPANDED COLLEGE SCORECARD

I remember when the College Scorecard was first released. The most striking thing about the scorecard wasn’t the just the data it provided about institutions, but rather the data it didn’t. First off, it excluded thousands of institutions, particularly for-profit colleges and schools with primarily non-degree certificate programs. Graduation data for non-first-time and non-full-time students weren’t included either, since the Scorecard then, only looked at first-time-full-time students, and the only information available on student debt was an institutional, not programmatic.

Following an executive order signed by President Trump last year, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos released an expanded College Scorecard last month. According to an ED press release, “the tool now includes information on 2,100 additional postsecondary education options”. To be clear, that’s 2100 institutions that are now being included in search options for students, parents and others to aid them in making informed choices about the schools and programs they are interested in attending.

In addition to the inclusion of these schools, the new College Scorecard includes information about graduation rates for non-first-time and non-full-time students, and the percentage of students who transferred or were still enrolled in school. Cost, graduation rates, student demographics and other data will now be updated at multiple times each year instead of once annually; making use of the data institutions report three times a year to the IPEDS data system.

The expanded College Scorecard data also includes information on student loan debt, broken down by field of study. According to the Press Release, Secretary DeVos had this to say; “For years, the College Scorecard provided undergraduate loan debt information at only the institution-level even though the amount borrowed to attend school can vary substantially depending on which program the borrower is enrolled.”

As of today, the information in the expanded scorecard is only preliminary data. The U.S. Department of Education decided to release this data while asking institutions to update their historical enrollment data from which these loan debt metrics are derived. Later this fall, the Scorecard will be updated to include any adjustments institutions submit this summer. The deadline for such corrections is July 10, 2019

COLLEGE SCORECARD REPAYMENT RATES INFLATED BY ED

Following what the U.S. Department of Education cited as a coding error, ED corrected a significant error in loan repayment rates on the College Scorecard and Financial Aid Shopping Sheet. Since its release in 2015, the College Scorecard has been promulgated as a tool to assist students and families choosing a college.
 
According to Lynn Mahaffie, a senior department of education official, “an error in the original college scorecard coding to calculate repayment rates led to the undercounting of some borrowers who had not reduced their loan balances by at least one dollar, and therefore inflated repayment rates for most institutions”.
 
As a result of the correction, institutions across all sectors of higher education saw a significant reduction in their 3, 5, and 7 year repayment rates. On average, three-year repayment rates fell by 20% from 61% to 41%, five-year repayment rates fell 14% from 61% to 47% and seven-year repayment rates fell 9% from 66% to 57% according to analysis by Robert Kelchen, an assistant professor of higher education at Seton Hall University.
 
Institutions using the 2017-2018 shopping sheet should be aware that the errors on the College Scorecard impact the data output on the Financial Aid Shopping Sheet. All schools should download the revised institutional metrics data file which is programmed with the correct formula needed to update and correct the shopping sheet using the corrected college scorecard data.
 
The institutional metrics data file is updated on an annual basis. Data used to populate the metrics on the Shopping Sheet comes from ED’s Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) and National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS), through the College Scorecard. Therefore, accurate institutional reporting to IPEDS and to NSLDS is necessary to ensure that correct information is populated within the Shopping Sheet metric data file and, ultimately, made available to students.