Obama introduces college search engine tool

Earlier this month President Barack Obama supported an online search engine tool that would provide students with college-specific data that would allow them to compare colleges throughout different categories.

The search tool, College Scorecard, was created by the U.S. Department of Education and is meant to give students a look at what they can expect at the schools they are interested in attending. Students can find information such as what the top five most popular majors at a school are, financial aid availability, how much average debt students leave with and even the average salary of graduates from that school.

As a new search tool College Scorecard is looking to provide as much data as possible to students to aid in their college decision-making process.

Director of Undergraduate Admission, Michael Elgarico said he believes the tool is helpful but could stretch its services further to give students a more specialized look at a campus.

“I looked at the website and thought that it really gives some basic data, but it doesn’t give you everything a student may want know. Like what campus life is like, what are the residence halls like,” Elgarico said. “But I think there’s some great foundational points of information on there that are valuable for a student.”

The data on College Scorecard is gathered through the National Center of Educational Statistics which requires schools to submit this data if they want to be able to give their students financial aid. Because of this process, students can now find more accurate data about schools.

College Scorecard also gives students a new alternative to finding statistical information about colleges, instead of having to resort to sources such as magazines.

Rodney Reynolds, director of Educational Effectiveness and Institutional Research at Cal Lutheran, said because the information is streamlined now through NCES it can provide a more objective look at schools.

“It’s an improvement on what was there before. The news magazines that have produced information like that are traditional and relied on their own data, which results in false impressions and missing information,” Reynolds said. “Some of the sources that you buy at the news stand are based on their own for-profit services, which isn’t really objective.”

College Scorecard eliminates problems that result from schools reporting their own information. It also eliminates news outlets getting their data from resources such as ratemyprofessor.com

Cathy Alexander, institutional research officer in the Office of Educational Effectiveness and Institutional Research said she believes it was issues with data reporting that brought about the idea of using the NCES to gather this information.

“Since they’re using the National Center for Educational Statistics as their primary source, its got standardized methodologies that every institution’s required to report the same information the same way. I think that’s why they are using that source, so it’s more credible than the information that was self-reported and wasn’t standardized across all schools,” Alexander said.

An example of something a student would find on College Scorecard would be graduation rates and how they compare with the national average. When comparing California Lutheran University to another local school like California State University Los Angeles, students would see Cal Lutheran has a graduation rate of 65 percent, while CSULA has a rate of 36 percent. Using College Scorecard, students would see Cal Lutheran is steadily above the national average of 44 percent, while CSULA is almost 10 percent below it.

College Scorecard is one among many search tools that will help students discover which school they want to attend. Elgarico said he believes NCES will serve its purpose as being another option for students to explore their opportunities.

“I don’t think there is going to be one exclusive way to find out about a college, because there are some students who are going to use it, there will be some people who will never look at that website for their entire life. It really just depends on the demographic, who’s going to be interested in looking at it, who’s promoting it. Some schools may never say to use it, some schools might say use it,” Elgarico said.

Because College Scorecard is still so new, it still remains to be seen how effective it will prove to be for future college students. Eglarico said that from an admissions point of view, he supports it, however believes it will have a lot of growth to go through in its first year.

“I think it has some way to go, I think that it’s a wonderful step in the right direction. I think they’re going to have to take cues from other companies that have been doing it for some time now and I think that we have to see how the first year usage goes,” Elgarico said. “I’m really open to it, I think its great.”

Hailey Klemenok
Staff Writer
Published September 30th, 2015