By Troy Miller
Senior Researcher and Policy Analyst, Florida College Access Network

It can be tough to find the right college and even more challenging to figure out which one is the best value.  That’s why the U.S. Department of Education recently released the College Scorecard, an interactive website that allows students and their families to search colleges the same way they shop for books, cars, or music.  The scorecard allows families to zoom in on colleges by location, size, and major, while revealing the sticker price of what families actually pay, how much students borrow, and what percentage of students actually graduate on time.

Using the College Scorecard data file on the web, we placed all Florida colleges and universities listed and placed them on the map below to get a different perspective.  We also added a few side-by-side comparison items that The Scorecard currently doesn’t allow users to make such as county and college type to see some possible state-wide trends or to narrow in on a particular type of institution.

Be aware while viewing the Scorecard data that it has been subject to some warranted criticism.  There are some issues with comparing colleges to one another based solely on the cost and value indicators included on the Scorecard.  For example, information about student borrowing and default rates are potentially misleading.  Others point out problems with how federal graduation rates are calculated, counting only first-time, full-time students.  Julie M. Morgan from the Center for American Progress provides a succinct summary of public concerns about the College Scorecard, “There’s always going to be a tension here with coming up with data that correctly portrays the colleges and something that’s easily communicated to students.”

Despite mixed views on the College Scorecard, broad support remains for government making institutional data more accessible and useful to students and families.  Take a look at the Scorecard data made available for Florida colleges and universities below and let us know what you think?  Do you find the data useful?  What else would you like to see included?  Do you think students new to the college admissions process will be able to figure out where they can “get the most bang for their educational buck”?

Click here to view full-size interactive map in your browser.

For more information about the data sources and definitions, visit the official White House College Scorecard website here.

~Follow Troy Miller on Twitter @TroyMillerFCAN

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