Some Say ED’s College Scorecard Unfair to Financially Independent Schools

By Allie Bidwell, Communications Staff

In the months since the Obama administration released its revamped College Scorecard – which includes an expanded set of data delivered in place of a federal ratings system – thought leaders in higher education have questioned the quality of the information, while others have said the federal data trove is not necessary at all.

During an event at the Heritage Foundation on Monday, Paul McNulty, president of Grove City College, expressed concern that the College Scorecard  does not capture the student outcomes of colleges and universities that do not participate in Title IV aid programs, and skews the appearance of outcomes at other institutions where very few students receive federal aid.

Although other institutions may be delivering quality results for their students, McNulty argued, they receive no recognition in the federal database.

“If the administration is so concerned about everyone, that presumably would include families looking for a private, academically excellent, Christian and highly affordable liberal arts college,” he said. “Should not these consumers be able to use the College Scorecard to learn about Grove City College?”

McNulty said that institutions such as his own, and those that do not participate in federal aid programs, but still deliver an affordable education, should be admired. Rather than discounting tuition and relying on revenue from wealthier students to subsidize the cost of others, McNulty said, Grove City College keeps the cost affordable across the board. Annual tuition at the college, listed at just over $16,000, is significantly lower than the national average tuition for private nonprofit institutions – $25,523 in 2014-15, according to the Department of Education (ED).  

Because the school doesn’t accept federal aid, including federal student loans, students must rely on institutional aid (which about 58 percent of students receive), state grants, outside scholarships, and private student loans to finance their education.

McNulty went on to say that Grove City College was told it was left off of the College Scorecard because it doesn’t participate in Title IV aid programs, but said the college still voluntarily submits student outcomes data to ED each year.

“This tool might be the beginning of an effort by the federal government that will significantly influence the beliefs, convictions, programs, and policies that are deemed as acceptable in American higher education,” McNulty said. “As colleges and universities focus their outcomes on the scorecard’s metrics, academic freedom and diversity may be the big loser.”

NASFAA has previously weighed in on the Scorecard and, while appreciative of the administration’s interest in improving consumer information, has expressed some concerns about the narrow focus on traditional students, the language used to communicate with low-income or first generation students, and an over-emphasis on loans.


Publication Date: 11/17/2015

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