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Feedback Requested on Federal Tools for College Comparisons

College value is high on the agenda of the Obama administration—as it is for most students and families deciding on where to spend their tuition dollars.

As part of the president's college-affordability rollout last month, a new college scorecard is being developed by the U.S. Department of Education to give students data to compare schools.

A preliminary version of the college scorecard is available on the White House website. It includes information about four-year colleges and universities, compared with other institutions, in these areas:

• Average net price
• Percentage of full-time students who graduate within six years
• Percentage of total loan amounts being repaid by former students
• Average amount of loans students borrow to get a degree
• Earning potential

The administration is looking for feedback on the usefulness of the sample, including whether the version should be modified for two-year colleges.

Eventually, the scorecard will be available on the Department of Education's College Affordability and Transparency Center. (If you haven't checked out that site, it's worth spending some time if you are in the midst of college shopping.)

Much of the data can be found in federal records. The 1990 Student Right to Know Act and the 2008 Higher Education Opportunity Act required more transparency on graduation rates and costs, but these NEW??? efforts make it more readily accessible to students.

In addition to the scorecard, the new federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is coming out with a Know Before You Owe shopping sheet. It will give information from colleges about cost, student borrowing, how the school ranks in price, and whether students who have graduated are earning enough money to repay their loans.

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