Better Information for Better College Choice

Jan 13, 2017 | Publisher: edocr | Category: Education |  | Collection: Policy Reports | Views: 53 | Likes: 1

Better Information for Better College Choice & Institutional Performance U.S. Department of Education September 2015 2 Table of Contents Introduction .................................................................................................................................................. 3 Context of Postsecondary Education ........................................................................................................ 4 The Diversity of the Higher Education System ...................................................................................... 5 Misaligned Incentives in Other Consumer Information Systems ......................................................... 6 Identifying Performance Metrics That Matter .............................................................................................. 7 Overview ................................................................................................................................................... 7 Access ........................................................................................................................................................ 9 Percentage of Pell Students .................................................................................................................. 9 Alternative Access Measures .............................................................................................................. 10 Affordability ............................................................................................................................................ 11 Net Price .............................................................................................................................................. 11 Borrowing and Debt ............................................................................................................................ 13 Outcomes ................................................................................................................................................ 15 Completion Rate ................................................................................................................................. 15 Transfer Rates ..................................................................................................................................... 18 Labor Market Outcomes ..................................................................................................................... 18 Loan Performance Metrics .................................................................................................................. 21 Composite Metrics .............................................................................................................................. 22 Learning and Other Outcomes ............................................................................................................ 26 Other Metrics for Consumers ................................................................................................................. 27 Steps Forward ............................................................................................................................................. 27 Improving the Data ................................................................................................................................. 27 Improving the College Scorecard ............................................................................................................ 28 Changing the Public Discourse ................................................................................................................ 29 3 Introduction In today’s economy, higher education is no longer a luxury, but a necessity for individual economic opportunity, as well as America’s competitiveness in the global economy. At a time when jobs can go anywhere in the world, skills and education will determine success, for individuals and for the health of our democracy and our nation. Over this decade, employment in jobs requiring education beyond a high school diploma will grow more rapidly than employment in jobs that do not; of the 30 fastest-growing occupations, more than half require postsecondary education.1 With the average earnings of college graduates at a level that is twice that of workers with only a high school diploma, higher education is now the clearest path into the middle class. There are a variety of ways that postsecondary institutions prepare students for diverse personal and career goals in their future. Many institutions offer high-quality, affordable educational experiences that expose students to new fields of thought and prepare them to be engaged and productive citizens in their communities. However, some schools do not serve their students well; for instance, they may charge prices that make higher education increasingly out of reach or fail to support students through to completing their education and obtaining well-paying jobs. With such great variation in the types of educational opportunities available throughout the country, it is increasingly important for students and families to have the best information about the educational experiences and outcomes they may expect at different institutions. To that end, the Administration is releasing new information to provide unprecedented transparency about the costs and quality of institutions of higher education:  An updated College Scorecard redesigned to provide students, families, and their advisers with a truer picture on college cost and value, and includes the most reliable national data on the earnings of former college graduates and new data on student debt. Rather than highlighting traditional rankings that are constructed to drive colleges to care more, for example, about how many students they reject, this new College Scorecard can empower Americans to compare colleges’ performance based on what matters most to them; highlight colleges that are serving students of all backgrounds well; and keep the focus on ensuring that a quality, affordable education remains within reach.  A new technical site for researchers, policymakers, and others interested in delving more deeply into institutional performance. After exploring several methods for assessing the extent to which institutions contribute to students’ growth and future opportunities, the Administration has produced data and published analyses that share lessons learned and provide considerations for researchers and others in the field regarding factors to consider when building models for evaluating institutional performance. This release represents the best national data on higher education, ranging from demographic information to student outcomes, 1 “Employment Projects: 2012-2022 Summary.” Bureau of Labor Statistics. 19 December 2013: http://www.bls.gov/news.release/ecopro.nr0.htm. 4 from the Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics, the Federal Student Aid office, and the Department of the Treasury. With greater transparency around student outcomes at various colleges, the tools needed to identify and promote high-performing institutions no longer rest solely with policymakers and accreditors. On the other hand, students, parents, researchers, and others in the higher education community can serve as better-informed ambassadors and advocates in the conversation about strengthening the higher education system for all. This paper describes the measurements included in the updated College Scorecard and explores how the data can be combined to measure the tradeoffs that exist among outcomes and costs of different institutions of higher education. It accompanies a technical paper that describes the data, and explores their use and limitations in greater detail. Context of Postsecondary Education American higher education comprises a diverse range of colleges and universities that vary significantly in terms of quality and cost, making it challenging to evaluate college performance and difficult for students and families to understand which college options are most suitable to them. Indeed, surveys of Americans reveal that they are looking for more and better information to help evaluate their options.2 Existing college ranking systems focus attention on resources spent, rather than outcomes achieved, and often emphasize selectivity over inclusiveness. At a time when our nation needs more college graduates, and credentials at an affordable cost, these are the exact wrong characteristics to encourage. Moreover, existing rankings do little to focus colleges and universities on improving the effectiveness of academic offerings, strengthening supports that help students to persist in and complete college, and providing increased opportunities for disadvantaged students to earn a college degree. In August 2013, at the State University of New York at Buffalo, President Obama announced that his Administration would work to combat rising college costs, expand opportunity, ensure quality, and make college more affordable for American families. He committed to focus on improving college performance across the critical dimensions of access, affordability, and outcomes—the key goals and expectations for the higher education community, regardless of school mission, location, size, or student body. The new College Scorecard provides free, transparent, and nationally comparable data on the full universe of higher education institutions and their performance on student outcomes, such as graduation rates, student debt repayment, and post-college earnings prospects – information that can help students apply to and enroll in colleges that serve them well. The website will also provide states, colleges, and the public with access to a large database suitable for in-depth analyses to examine 2 “Is College Worth It?” Pew Research Social & Demographic Trends, 15 May 2011. http://www.pewsocialtrends. org/2011/05/15/is-college-worth-it/2/#fn-7679-1; and Fishman, Rachel. “Deciding to Go to College: 2015 College Decisions Survey part 1.” New America, 2015: https://static.newamerica.org/attachments/3248-deciding-to-go-to- college/CollegeDecisions_PartI.148dcab30a0e414ea2a52f0d8fb04e7b.pdf. 5 questions related to the quality of academic offerings, student supports, factors affecting student outcomes, and other key areas for improvement. With access to better information, the public can engage in a shared effort to strengthen educational opportunities and resources for students from all backgrounds. The College Scorecard represents the Administration’s continued commitment to expanding college opportunities for all students. Since the President took office, the Administration has made historic investments to help Americans pay for college and to reduce the burden of student debt by increasing the maximum Pell Grant by over $1,000, creating the American Opportunity Tax Credit worth up to $10,000 over four years of college, and letting borrowers cap their student loan payments at 10 percent of income. The Administration has also worked to promote innovation and competition to improve the overall performance of our nation’s colleges and universities to ensure they are working to reduce costs, improve quality, and help more students complete their education. A critical part of that strategy has been to help students and families obtain reliable information about college performance to help them select schools that provide the best value, and to encourage colleges to improve by making them publically accountable for the outcomes of the students they enroll. With the resources available through the College Scorecard, college leaders and policymakers now have access to free, high quality, comprehensive, and accurate information that can help inform their efforts to raise graduation rates, bring down costs, and help colleges improve. The Diversity of the Higher Education System Comparing and evaluating the performance of diverse institutions of higher education in order to identify those that provide good value to students based on objective and valid measures presents an array of challenges. Institutions serve students from a wide array of backgrounds, with varied levels of academic preparation and different goals for their education. Differences in students’ needs and institutional resources across higher education create a challenge in assessing institutional performance using shared measures of student success.3 Moreover, institutions have varied strengths. For instance, many community colleges serve and are closely connected to the populations in their area; build strong partnerships with local employers, tie their curricula and program offerings to local labor market needs, and tend to offer skill-building opportunities as well as educational experiences. In many cases, they provide students with affordable opportunities for success at an impressive value. Some colleges excel in preparing students for important careers in public service, such as social workers and teachers. Still others produce graduates 3 Notwithstanding the complexity of comparing the performance or value of institutions in general, in some cases a more focused assessment is appropriate. In particular, title IV of the Higher Education Act requires vocational programs to prepare students for gainful employment in a recognized occupation. 20 U.S.C. §§1001(b)(1) & 1002(b)(1)(A)(i). As the Department has indicated, to meet this obligation, such programs at the least should be enabling students to earn enough money to pay the debts they incur in purchasing their education. 6 in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields and may, as a result, boast high earnings for alumni as a result. Yet despite the diverse higher education landscape, all colleges should meet baseline expectations and advance values that the public generally shares: whether the institution is affordable; the degree to which the institution supports students to and through graduation and prepares them to earn at least a minimal wage and repay their educational debts in the future; and the extent to which the school serves low-income students and serves them well. Data aligned with these expectations will serve as a starting point for meaningful public discourse, and promote a collective effort to understand institutions’ performance and for various audiences. Misaligned Incentives in Other Consumer Information Systems As President Obama noted in his August 2013 speech, many of the incentives in higher education do little to promote an affordable, high-quality education – and often even work against promoting affordability. For instance, the U.S. News and World Report ranking weights spending and school resources as nearly thirty percent of the evaluation, scored six times greater than how students fare after their educational experience. Although a few college ranking systems have attempted to value access and affordability, they focus on only a fraction of the highest-regarded institutions in the U.S. rather than providing information for the majority of colleges. For instance, MONEY magazine’s college rankings consider only about 700 of more than 5,000 total degree-granting institutions, leaving many students unable to access information relevant to their own college selection process. Due in part to pressure from distorted incentives such as those created by some ratings systems, many leaders say that to show their institution is a good choice, they would have to increase selectivity by rejecting more students who apply, admitting fewer disadvantaged students, and implementing policies that drive up costs. Schools face severe pressure to climb the existing rankings, to succumb to the “higher education arms race” of raising tuition and growing more selective as ways to compete with other institutions for higher scores.4 One holdout to the U.S. News and World Report rankings, Reed College, has declined to participate to avoid those misaligned incentives; said the school’s former president Steven Koblik, “The best college is what’s best for the individual student.”5 The Administration’s efforts with the redesigned College Scorecard focus on driving the conversation and the incentives toward what is most essential for students, with their families, in making a decision about where to go to college—what it costs and whether students at the college graduate with more opportunities. As Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has said, “[t]he degree students truly can’t afford 4 Burd, Stephen. “How public colleges use merit aid to compete in the out-of-state student arms race.” The Hechinger Report, 18 May 2015: http://hechingerreport.org/how-public-colleges-use-merit-aid-to-compete-in- the-out-of-state-student-arms-race/. 5 Watson, Harriet. “U.S. News and World Report Hat Trick.” Reed Magazine, November 1997: http://www.reed.edu/reed_magazine/nov1997/news/3.html. 7 is the one they don’t complete, or that employers don’t value.”6 The College Scorecard provides a critical improvement over the information currently available to students and families. And it does something even more important—it holds colleges accountable to the public. The new College Scorecard, accompanying data, and research analyses are the result of teamwork from federal staff and the American public, who engaged with thoughtful ideas and a shared concern for students. In addition to pulling together experts from across the federal government – including the White House’s Council of Economic Advisers, Domestic Policy Council, Office of Management and Budget, and the U.S. Digital Service; the Department of Education; and the Department of the Treasury– the team traveled the country to hear from thousands of students, families, advocates, institutions, researchers, and other stakeholders through bus tours, technical review panels, conferences, and consumer testing to develop the most relevant and responsive college website tool. This collective work will strengthen national efforts to develop meaningful measures of college success for all students in ways that are easy to understand. For instance, we encourage additional thoughtful efforts, like that of the New York Times list of “the Most Economically Diverse Top Colleges,” to ensure that rankings also consider and recognize how institutions provide educational opportunities to support the success of all students, regardless of their family income, geography, or personal background.7 Also recognizing the value of diversity, the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, a philanthropic organization, introduced its annual economic diversity award – a $1 million prize to an institution that shows a proven track record of enrolling and helping to graduate low-income high-achievers. The College Scorecard will contribute to the Administration’s vision for a sustained national commitment to strengthen college opportunities for all. Particularly in the coming weeks and months, we welcome continued dialogue with students, parents, counselors, colleges, and other stakeholders to further develop, consumer-test, and expand its potential in order to build upon and improve the resources available to help students and families make good college choices, and encourage institutions to improve their performance. Identifying Performance Metrics That Matter Overview A college degree or postsecondary certificate is more important than ever, particularly for low-income students exiting high school and looking to enter the workforce. However, many students, and especially 6 Duncan, Arne. “Toward a New Focus on Outcomes in Higher Education.” Remarks at the University of Maryland— Baltimore County. 27 July 2015. http://www.ed.gov/news/speeches/toward-new-focus-outcomes-higher- education. 7 Leonhardt, David. “The Most Economically Diverse Top Colleges.” The New York Times, 8 September 2014: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/09/09/upshot/09up-college-access-index.html?_r=0. 8 underserved students, feel unprepared for the choices they need to make and may not even fully understand that college is within reach.8 In exploring the metrics that best represent those categories of information, the Department of Education evaluated all available data sources, from publically available data, including the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), as well as newly produced data from the National Student Loan Data System (NSLDS)9 and from the Treasury Department’s federal wage records, and non- federal data sources like the Student Achievement Measure (SAM).10 We identified particular elements that represent schools that are providing affordable, high-quality educational opportunities, particularly to students from low-income families. As detailed below, the elements we selected revealed several exemplar institutions that serve students well. For example, the graduation rate at Georgia Tech—a predominantly four-year institution located in Atlanta, Georgia—is in the top 10th percentile of four-year schools (80 percent), with median earnings 10 years after entering the school of more than $74,000. The lowest-income students, at Georgia Tech, pay an average of $7,364 per year, and nearly one-fifth of students are Pell Grant recipients. A very different school, State Technical College of Missouri in Linn, Missouri, stands out among predominantly two-year colleges.11 More than 40 percent of its students receive Pell Grants; the lowest-income students pay $7,783 per year, on average, and borrow less than half the federal student loan debt of Georgia Tech graduates; and six years after entry, more than seven in 10 students earn more than the national average annual earnings for high school graduates aged 25 to 34, exceeding many other two-year institutions (see Table 1). Table 1. Net Price for the Lowest- Income / Highest- Income Students Median Debt of Completers Completion Rate Median Earnings Share of Fmr. Students Earning More than HS Graduate Share of Pell Recipients Georgia Tech (Atlanta, GA) $7,364 / $14,114 $22,750 80% $74,000 86% 19% State Technical College of Missouri (Linn, MO) $7,783 / $10,382 $10,500 60% $36,400 71% 42% 8 “Is College Worth It?” Pew Research Social & Demographic Trends, 15 May 2011: http://www.pewsocialtrends. org/2011/05/15/is-college-worth-it/2/#fn-7679-1. 9 Several of the new NSLDS measures mirror similar measures for Gainful Employment programs, but data are now available at an institution level for all schools; for instance, the cumulative median loan debt of graduating students is now being released for all institutions. Newly constructed NSLDS completion and transfer rates and federal student loan repayment rates are also produced across all institutions. 10 “A New System of College Ratings—Invitation to Comment.” U.S. Department of Education, December 2014: http://www2.ed.gov/documents/college-affordability/framework-invitation-comment.pdf. 11 This institution was formerly known as Linn State Technical College. 9 Access The primary goal of the federal student aid system is to provide access to high-quality higher education for low-income populations. The legacy of the Title IV aid programs rests on the millions of low- and middle-income students who have successfully completed degrees, found well-paying and rewarding careers, and can support their families as they pursue their own educational opportunities.12 Recognizing and rewarding institutions that play a critical role in providing educational opportunities to hard-working, low- and moderate-income students—and noting those that have not succeeded in ensuring access to low-income students, and/or that have not served low-income students well—is an important element in examining college performance. Some institutions that admit more Pell Grant students than others may provide more aid to low-income students, or offer more support to help low- income students complete their education. On the other hand, schools that fall short in these areas can negatively impact a student’s chance of completing college and transitioning to the workforce. Percentage of Pell Students For the College Scorecard, we measure low-income students’ access to education based on the share of Pell Grant students that the institution enrolls using IPEDS data. The Pell Grant program, which has provided grants to low- and moderate-income students since its inception in the 1970s, forms the cornerstone of efforts to increase access for disadvantaged students. This metric is widely recognized and understood within the field as a proxy for the financial circumstances of enrolled students and their families. Some institutions do well by the disadvantaged students that they do enroll, but serve only a small number of them. Ivy League schools like Harvard University, Columbia University, and Princeton University have some of the lowest net prices for students in the bottom two quintiles of family income ($0 to $48,000), low typical loan debt for students, and high graduation rates and earnings. However, these selective institutions tend to be among those in the bottom 10 percent of all four-year institutions whose students receive Pell Grants (see Table 2).13 Table 2. Share of Pell Recipients Net Price for the Lowest- Income Students Median Debt of Completers Completion Rate Median Earnings Harvard University 10% $3,897 $6,000 97% $87,000 Stanford University 16% $3,516 $12,224 95% $81,000 Columbia University 22% $8,086 $19,435 94% $73,000 Princeton University 12% $5,932 $6,810 96% $75,000 12 Title IV of the Higher Education Act authorizes the federal loans and grants administered to students by the U.S. Department of Education. 13 These data measure the outcomes from the most recent cohort available. 10 Many public colleges are pledged to an historic mission of serving low- and moderate-income students, and some stand out as serving them especially well. For instance, a large share of students at the University of California—Los Angeles (UCLA) receive Pell Grants (36 percent), and the school has a high overall cohort graduation rate (91 percent) among first-time, full-time students and below-average debt. Similarly, about 20 percent of undergraduates at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign receive Pell Grants, and the school reports excellent outcomes, including an 84 percent completion rate for first- time, full-time students and median earnings of more than $57,000 10 years after entering the school (see Table 3). Table 3. Pell Recipients Net Price for the Lowest-Income Students Median Debt of Completers Completion Rate Median Earnings UCLA 36% $8,883 $15,900 91% $59,000 University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign 20% $7,954 $20,950 84% $57,000 Alternative Access Measures Students can use the College Scorecard to identify schools that serve disadvantaged students. These student populations, which may be geographically constrained in the locations they can consider, often have less guidance available to them, may do less research prior to selecting a school, and are vulnerable to choices that may lead them to enroll in a school with fewer opportunities for them to succeed.14 The Administration is releasing additional data that can help inform higher education stakeholders about the quality of educational services those low- and moderate-income students received, which is a critical component of ensuring equitable access to a high-quality education for all students. Several of the data elements published through the technical page of the College Scorecard disaggregate key metrics—completion rate, federal loan repayment rate, and median debt, for instance—by family income and for Pell Grant recipients. These metrics offer additional details on how well schools serve specific subgroups, like first-generation or low-income students, rather than simply meeting an average bar for the entire student population. The disaggregated data may also help schools to identify their own shortcomings and develop solutions. The data produced also include disaggregated enrollment information addressing the income breakdown of federal financial aid recipients at the institution, those who are first-generation students, 14 Fishman, Rachel. “Deciding to Go to College: 2015 College Decisions Survey part 1.” New America, 2015: https://static.newamerica.org/attachments/3248-deciding-to-go-to- college/CollegeDecisions_PartI.148dcab30a0e414ea2a52f0d8fb04e7b.pdf. 11 the racial/ethnic makeup of the student body, and more, all of which can provide important evidence of the degree to which schools serve historically disadvantaged populations. Indeed, these elements can contribute to a more complete picture of institutional performance. Affordability Affording college is one of the concerns at the forefront of students’ and parents’ minds as they explore the college selection process. Families’ out-of-pocket costs have continued to rise, in part because of the economic downturn, which precipitated further declining state investments in public higher education.15 In Wisconsin, state higher education appropriations per student as of fiscal year 2014 were reduced nearly 20 percent since 2008, before the recession. Over the same period, tuition at Wisconsin state institutions increased by more than 30 percent. Similarly, Florida reduced its per-student appropriations by 32 percent from fiscal year (FY) 2008 to FY 2014, and tuition rose 53 percent over that time period.16 At the same time, fewer public institutions are helping make up the difference in costs for low-income students. Many public colleges and universities—including well-resourced ones—are reacting to budget constraints, contracting enrollment, and college rankings that emphasize spending over outcomes by diverting their institutional aid to attract high-performing students, which can drive up costs without improving quality.17 Net Price The combination of falling state investments, redirected institutional aid, and rising costs force many students to wonder which—if any—colleges are worth the cost. But finding information about the true costs of college can be difficult, and the information that exists for students can be misleading. Prospective students are often presented with a school’s tuition and fees, which can understate the costs of attendance by excluding the living costs and additional costs of books and other supplies. Other 15 “Out-of-Pocket Net Price for College.” U.S. Department of Education, April 2014: http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2014/2014902.pdf. 16 “State Higher Education Finance: FY 2014.” State Higher Education Executive Officers Association, April 2015: http://www.sheeo.org/sites/default/files/project-files/SHEF%20FY%202014-20150410.pdf. 17 Burd, Stephen. “Undermining Pell: Volume II.” New America, September 2014: https://www.newamerica.org/downloads/UnderminingPellVolume2_SBurd_20140917.pdf. $58,408 $3,516 $40,323 $0 $10,000 $20,000 $30,000 $40,000 $50,000 $60,000 $70,000 Cost of Attendance Net Price for the Lowest-Income Title IV Students Net Price for the Highest-Income Title IV Students Stanford University provides low average costs for the lowest-income students Figure 1 12 students may see the full cost of attendance, which may overstate the cost because it does not account for federal, state, local, or institutional aid—possibly substantial—that students may receive.18 For consumers looking to compare college costs, the best publically available, comparable information is the net price of the school across students’ income brackets, as it provides a more personalized number that allows students to better gauge the actual price they will need to pay to attend the school. These data also help policymakers, researchers, and institutions to identify inequities in the distribution of need- and merit-based aid. The metric used here captures the total cost of attendance, less federal, state, local, or institutional aid, for students, based on the income of the student and/or his family, on average.19 Presenting this information tailored to each student’s income can show that schools they thought were too expensive may actually be affordable for them. For instance, students who received federal financial aid at Stanford University and who come from families earning $30,000 per year or less can expect to pay, on average, $3,516—just a fraction of the overall cost of attendance for the 2012- 2013 academic year ($58,408). Even Title IV-receiving students from families earning over $110,000 annually pay less than the full, posted cost of attendance ($40,323) (see Figure 1). The Department of Education already helps students understand costs in terms of net price, recognizing it as the most accurate available measure of what students can actually expect to pay. In 2008, Congress required institutions of higher education to create net price calculators that generate individualized cost estimates for the freshman year. 20 The Department’s Net Price Calculator Center compiles the information from all institutions, allowing students to easily access their top schools’ calculators. For the purposes of college comparison on the redesigned College Scorecard, the Administration chose average net price calculated across the five income quintiles, an element reported through the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) for every institution and that provides a reasonable expectation of what Title IV students (those eligible for federal grants and loans) pay. More detailed institutional pages also offer net price information by income quintile, to help lower-income students especially get a more accurate sense of their cost of attendance.21 To date, this is the most consistent and individualized source of information for each school. Furthermore, the data are listed on the College Scorecard’s profiles for each institution, where students can weigh the metric side-by-side with other metrics that illuminate such important questions as their odds of graduating, their prospects in the job market, and the amount of debt they are likely to take on. 18 Low-income students and families, particularly Latino parents, frequently overestimate the costs of college. “Paving the Way: How Financial Aid Awareness Affects College Access and Success.” The Institute of College Access and Success, October 2008: http://ticas.org/sites/default/files/pub_files/Paving_the_Way.pdf. 19 The net price calculation used on the College Scorecard is derived from a weighted average of the five income quintiles reported in IPEDS. We have also provided some of the information by income bracket to aid students in identifying the most granular information possible. 20 Levine, Phillip. “Transparency in College Costs.” Brookings Institution, 12 November 2014: http://www.brookings.edu/research/papers/2014/11/12-transparency-in-college-costs-levine. 21 Income quintiles are defined as follows: $0-$30,000; $30,001-$48,000; $48,001-$75,000; $75,001-$110,000; and $110,000 or more. 13 For instance, at Columbia University in New York City, students in the lowest income quintile can expect to pay an average net price of $8,086 per year. That price is substantially lower in cost than neighboring institution New York University, where the net price for students in the lowest income quintile is $25,441. Moreover, Columbia has a completion rate for first-time, full-time students of 94 percent, and median earnings 10 years after entry of nearly $73,000. At NYU, though outcomes are still relatively positive, the completion rate is lower at 84 percent, its median earnings average closer to $58,800, and graduating students carry a similar amount of loan debt at both schools (see Table 4). Knowing that information, students who are weighing the two schools stand a far better chance of making an informed, carefully considered decision. With that information, students can be better prepared to delve deeper into the programs and other specifics of the two schools. Table 4. Net Price for the Lowest-Income Students Median Loan Debt of Completers Completion Rate Median Earnings Columbia University $8,086 $19,435 94% $73,000 NYU $25,441 $23,250 84% $58,800 It is also crucial to note that the total cost of attending and graduating from college depends largely on the number of years a student takes to complete. If a student takes longer to graduate, and pays for more credits or terms, he will face higher costs than a more efficient completer. An $8,000 per year bachelor’s degree program that takes six years to complete still costs more in the end ($48,000) than a $10,000 per year, bachelor’s degree program in which most students complete on time ($40,000), despite a $2,000 additional annual cost. Given that most students who default on their federal student loans are those who never complete a degree22, a marginal additional cost each year to attend an institution that provides substantially greater academic supports and has higher completion rates and employment outcomes is one that may be a wiser choice for many students. Borrowing and Debt The Administration has also worked to reduce the burden of student loan debt. The Financial Aid Shopping Sheet is designed to help students disentangle the types and amount of loans the typical student can expect to borrow each year. The interest rate reform that the Administration signed into law has resulted in lower interest rates on federal undergraduate student loans. And reforms and expansions to income-based repayment options, like the establishment of Pay As You Earn to limit loan payments to 10 percent of a borrower’s income over 20 years, will help make loan payments more affordable, particularly for low- and middle-income alumni. Students and families can and should consider their expected levels of indebtedness when searching for and selecting a school. While federal student loans enable millions of students to enroll in and complete 22 McCann, Clare. “College completion is the best default aversion.” The Hill, 13 October 2014: http://thehill.com/blogs/pundits-blog/education/220532-college-completion-is-the-best-default-aversion. 14 higher education, excessive amounts of debt should serve as a warning to students. In a consumer- facing college selection tool, the debt levels students who borrow can expect to bear through graduation, and the payments they can expect to owe each month thereafter, along with information on these other metrics, are relevant. The College Scorecard site includes the median debt of graduates from each institution who borrow, and the typical monthly payments due on that debt level, based on a 10-year repayment plan, though payments could be lower on an income-driven or another repayment plan. The Department previously reported debt of all former students, which may perversely make an institution appear more affordable if its students are less likely to persist. Knowing the full debt typically required of borrowers to earn a college degree, rather than just the cost of taking classes that fall short of a degree, provides a more realistic picture of affordability to students. Details of student debt—presented as the overall loan balance borrowed and as monthly payments—are included for each institution. In addition, the College Scorecard’s technical page includes even more information about the debt levels of students who borrow at each institution, including the total median debt that incorporates data for both borrower completers and non-completers. The data are disaggregated in several ways, including family income, first-generation status, and Pell Grant recipient status. The new information will provide additional nuance to researchers, counselors, and advocates exploring the borrowing behaviors at a school to help hold institutions to high standards across all of the students they serve.23 Clear information on debt is essential as students consider their choices. For instance, at the predominantly two-year Bellevue College outside Seattle, Washington, graduates who take out loans typically leave with just $12,224 in federal student loan debt—about $136 per month in monthly payments; and the institution has a completion rate of about 26 percent and median earnings of nearly $42,000. But at the neighboring ITT Technical Institute in Seattle, a two-year, for-profit institution, students take on far more debt for similar completion rates (37 percent) and post-school earnings ($42,500). Debt levels for ITT Tech students total around $27,833 for students who graduate, or about $309 per month in student loan payments—more than twice what Bellevue students owe after completing with similar post-school outcomes (see Table 5). The College Scorecard will help students to evaluate their expected federal student loan debt against the payoffs of attending the school. Table 5. Share of students borrowing federal loans Median loan debt Completion rate Median earnings Bellevue College 10% $12,224 ($136) 26% $41,300 23 One element that we are unable to provide at this time is the amount of private student loan debt that students take on per institution. These loans frequently offer less-generous terms for students who fall on hard times or find their degree cannot bear its own weight in the job market; and they may have much higher interest rates or require a credit check that many undergraduates are unlikely to pass. Data on private student loan borrowing can offer an important measure of students’ expected financial health upon leaving the school. 15 ITT Technical Institute- Seattle 75% $27,833 ($309) 37% $42,500 Outcomes We received hundreds of comments and spoken testimony suggesting particular elements we should examine to determine a student’s success. One of the driving factors in announcing the College Scorecard project was the concern that too many students have their futures shortchanged because they attend schools that do not serve them well—either because the institution doesn’t get the student to graduation, or because the student completes the course of study but finds their credential or degree is not valued in the labor market—and then are left saddled with debt but with few opportunities. These considerations should be a major factor in students’ college choices. At 53 percent of institutions, more than half of alumni are not even earning more than a typical high school graduate within six years after starting at the school.24 Completion Rate One widely recognized metric of student success is the rate at which students are able to earn their degrees. Student borrowers who fail to obtain a degree are three times as likely to default on their federal student loans, and are less likely to find well-paying jobs, than those who complete their programs.25 Completion rates are helpful indicators of institutional quality for students, families, and researchers. Furthermore, for subgroups of students, such as first-generation and low-income students, completion rates can help determine how well the school is supporting its neediest populations. The Administration has taken major steps to highlight the importance of completion on improving students’ ultimate outcomes. The Department of Education has proposed and implemented a number of reforms that incent institutions and other higher education partners to emphasize the importance of college completion through proven, evidence-based strategies and interventions. For instance, the, Administration’s First in the World program, as well as the 2015 TRIO Student Support Services grant competition, emphasize the importance of completion. Both competitions have helped to identify interventions that show positive outcomes, and that meet standards for high levels of evidence, suggesting they can have a real impact on students’ likelihood of finishing their degrees. America’s College Promise, proposed by the Department of Education in its fiscal year 2016 budget request, would encourage and support state and institutional efforts to improve student outcomes through, for example, requiring community colleges to adopt promising and evidence-based institutional reforms and innovative practices to improve student outcomes. In addition, the Administration has proposed reforms to campus-based student aid programs, which would target those institutions that enroll and graduate higher numbers of Pell-eligible students, and offer affordable and quality education and training such that graduates can obtain employment and repay their educational debt. And in the Department’s Gainful Employment regulations, we recognized that “it is important to hold institutions 24 This percentage defines the institution at the six-digit OPE ID level, and includes any institution with Treasury data, regardless of predominant degree type or other characteristics. 25 “Fact Sheet: Focusing Higher Education on Student Success.” U.S. Department of Education, 27 July 2015: https://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/fact-sheet-focusing-higher-education-student-success. 16 accountable for the outcomes of students who do not complete a GE program,” and are requiring institutions to disclose the completion rates for any of their programs covered by the regulation.26 Institutions themselves are also generating many new strategies to support student completion. The Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) program implemented by the City University of New York (CUNY) is one example. CUNY’s educational model provides additional resources and supports to help community college students attend school full time, through funding the cost of attendance and through enhanced advising efforts. Rigorous studies have shown that students participating in the ASAP program earned more credits, graduated at nearly twice the rate of completion, and transferred to four- year degree programs at higher rates than similar students at the institution. It is important to consider what a graduation rate does and does not tell a student about a school. For a school at which programs are typically of short duration—such as six or nine months—the graduation rate may be higher than at a school that typically confers four-year degrees, where the time commitment to graduate is significantly higher. But a four-year degree typically also has higher pay-offs than short-term programs. Both shorter- and longer-duration programs can be right for some students, and the graduation rate tells students what share of their peers finish the programs offered at that school. However, graduation rates must be considered alongside other contextual information, such as the kinds of programs or degrees offered and the employment outcomes of individuals who go to those schools. Importantly, many less-than-two-year schools have high completion rates but poor labor market outcomes. This suggests that the credentials or degrees offered by a school do not necessarily help them in the job market. Consider, for example, Golf Academy of America, which offers online or brick-and-mortar options for associate’s degrees in Golf Complex Operations and Management. Despite a completion rate of 85 percent at the school’s Myrtle Beach, South Carolina location, median earnings 10 years after entering the program fall barely above that of the average high school graduate at $26,400 (see Table 6). Table 6. Median Loan Debt of Completers Completion Rate Median Earnings Golf Academy of America $19,000 85 % $26,400 Similarly, schools that serve large numbers of disadvantaged students may have lower completion rates than schools that may be less accessible to those students. That does not necessarily mean that disadvantaged students are better served in less-accessible schools, however. In this case, the graduation rate data should be considered alongside data that provide insight into how accessible and successful the school is for disadvantaged students. 26 Program Integrity: Gainful Employment; Final Rule. 34 Fed. Reg. Parts 600 and 668 (October 31, 2014): 64928. http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2014-10-31/pdf/2014-25594.pdf. 17 The most commonly referenced completion rates are those reported to IPEDS and are included on the

U.S. Department of Education

September 2015

 

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