A New Report On The Best Schools for Low Income Students Challenges College Scorecard

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Earlier this Fall, President Obama renewed interest in College Scorecard a searchable online database that allows students to compare schools from across the country based on more than just tuition. Combining the impact of financial aid, repayment rates and more, College Scorecard is a great tool for students looking to research their options for continuing their education after college.

But in the weeks after the release of the updated service, College Scorecard has faced criticism that reflects the need for a broader approach to helping students with college “fit,” finding the college that is right for their needs, both academically and financially. From concerns about how colleges report loan repayment rates to claims that community colleges are being given a lesser presence in the College Scorecard system, a reinvigorated interest in providing information to make better informed students has highlighted not only the cracks in College Scorecard, but also major issues in higher education that have long needed national conversation.

A recent report by Priceonomics reflects another issue: dealing with the tendency of College Scorecard to highlight highly-selective schools for lower-income students. In “Ranking the Best (and Worst) Colleges for Low Income Students,” the group not only addresses the political nature of the recent changes to College Scorecard (and where they feel changes were made that benefit colleges over students) it discusses the reality of facing low income students who choose a school without factoring in elements such as “cost” over “tuition” and low-income graduation rates.

By creating a new formula, Pricenomics creates a significantly different list of schools that are the best economic fit for low-income students. The University of Iowa lands at number 12 among their top 25 schools, where it does not crack the list in College Scoreboard’s. The report does go on to suggest the obvious impact of public schools in their list, writing that they did not factor in the difference between in-state and out-of-state tuition which likely impacted the list.

However, when applying the same formula to private colleges and universities, the list again skews significantly from College Scorecard, with only two of College Scorecard’s top schools for low-income students (University of Pennsylvania and Duke University) making the list, at numbers 1 and 3.

The end result of such work being done in light of the increased presence of College Scorecard shouldn’t be seen as a condemnation of the federal website. Rather it should be celebrated as organizations expand information and address the issues that many students face as post-secondary education becomes increasingly vital both on state and national levels.

Read the complete report here.

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