Pursuing a higher education is often an overwhelming process for students and parents alike. To simplify the task of choosing an institution, the Obama administration has launched a new “College Scorecard” – a White House effort to assist Americans in finding the best value for their education dollars. In a recent address to the nation, President Obama explained the new college rankings system. “The goal is to help everyone who’s willing to work for a higher education search for and select a college that fits their goals,” he stated.
Although the Scorecard offers relevant information, such as how much graduates earn and what percentage of students can pay back their student loans, the effort fails to include pertinent data.
What if future college students wish to look beyond finances? While money is an essential concern, the overall college experience is equally – if not more – significant. Because of this, it is important to acknowledge the reasons we’ve given this college scorecard a failing grade.
1. College faculty is not taken into consideration.
Financial concerns are not the only benchmarks worth bearing in mind when deciding on higher education. Caring, knowledgeable professors can make all the difference in a student’s perception of the college experience. One question that is important to ask when considering an institution is, “How often will I get to speak to a real professor, and not just a teaching assistant?” The one-on-one interactions between undergraduate students and their professors lead to more individualized teaching, and greater learning opportunities.
When college graduates reflect on their higher education, they will undoubtedly recall the overall experience before dwelling on financial concerns.
2. Diversity is ignored.
Before entering the workforce, it’s imperative to learn the importance of diversity among colleagues, as well as how to respectfully work with people from many different backgrounds. The White House College Scorecard does not address this significant topic. Prospective students should ask, “Will I experience a good deal of diversity among students, faculty, and staff, or is everyone from the same background (financially, socially, etc.)?”
A valuable scorecard would emphasize individuals above financial matters, and a diverse college campus allows all students to feel that their individuality is valued and respected.
3. Extracurricular activities are omitted.
Beyond innovative classrooms and fancy dorms, on-campus activities are an important aspect of the overall college experience. Many students choose to continue a sport they excelled at in high school, while others enjoy engaging in activities they’ve never experienced such as clubs or interest groups. Some colleges acknowledge their athletes above all other students. But what if a student wishes to pursue an activity simply because they enjoy it? Future students may consider asking, “If I’m not a Division I athlete, will I still get a chance to engage in something I love simply for fun? And will I be institutionally supported?”
The College Scorecard fails to take into account the importance of extracurricular activities can have on the overall undergraduate college experience.
4. There is no mention of undergraduate internship opportunities.
A reputable college will prepare its students for the working world. Internships offer invaluable experiences and provide numerous advantages to future employees. The Obama administration did not consider this important aspect of the college experience when they devised the College Scorecard. Some students enter an institution unclear as to what career they wish to pursue. Because these undecided individuals may hope to find career clarity upon starting their college careers, an important question to ask is, “Will I have an opportunity to participate in a few great internships so I can figure out what kind of career field I might enjoy?”
Obama’s College Scorecard data has fallen short in its failure to address the importance of internship experiences available at each undergraduate institution.
5. Study abroad programs are overlooked.
Many colleges allow students to study abroad to expand their knowledge and understanding of other cultures. Because the Scorecard’s primary focus is on financial concerns, there is no mention of important study abroad opportunities. Future students may be inclined to ask, “Does the school encourage study abroad so I can expand my understanding of other cultures outside the USA? Will I be financially supported in my endeavors abroad?”
These programs often allow students to see the world in a new way and prepare more broadly for life after college, which is something the Obama administration simply didn’t consider.
6. There is no data on health services for students.
President Obama has emphasized the importance of affordable health care since the beginning of his term. But the College Scorecard makes no mention of individual institutions’ health services for students. Before choosing a college, two vital questions to consider are, “What are the campus health services like?” and, “Will they be able to support my issues?”
College brings new challenges and stressors for many individuals. Because of this, it’s imperative that students have access to reliable health services which will provide adequate support throughout their 4 years at the school.
7. Likelihood of employment is not mentioned.
While the College Scorecard offers financial information, a significant aspect of this still remains unaddressed. There is no discussion of the likelihood of employment for the students after graduation, and the average salaries for individual career paths are omitted altogether.
Students entering college should consider these important issues. By asking about the likelihood of employment and average income for specific fields, they will have a better understanding of what the future may have in store, depending on both the school and the choice of major.
As for the future of the College Scorecard, President Obama has promised to continue to improve this online resource. He believes that “every student should have the chance to get a great education and achieve their full potential.” Perhaps if the initiative took unique financial and personal situations into account, the Scorecard would be of more help to those individuals who want to make an informed decision before choosing a college that will meet their needs and wishes. The real value in rankings, of course, comes from opinions of students themselves.