When the U.S. Department of Education released the College Scorecard earlier this year, it was the first salvo in a years-long effort to reform the way that students and families search for colleges. As we wrote earlier on the blog, the goal was the development of a ratings system and a transparent tool “that allows students and their families to search colleges the same way they shop for books, cars, or music.”

While we applaud their first efforts, like many others in the college access field, we knew that the tool and its complementary rankings system still needed some work to be truly effective. In April, we issued a helpful “Beware How You Compare” primer, cautioning Florida college-going students to look closely at the federal data to learn why graduation rates, loan defaults and median borrowing amounts at the state’s higher ed institutions need to be considered in light of the socioeconomic profiles of students’ families.

By the 2015-16 school year, the Department has the ambitious goal of rolling out a ratings system that will not only allow students to compare the value of colleges but encourage higher education institutions to improve. Now the agency wants public feedback to help develop the ratings systems. Here is where they most need input:

  • The characteristics individuals look for when choosing a college.
  • The information individuals must have to compare colleges.
  • The important factors to think about when considering the “value” of a college.
  • The ways that individuals weigh college price, quality, geography, program of study, or other factors when comparing colleges.
  • How individuals make a distinction between a high-performing college and a low-performing college.

To submit your comments on what the agency can do to help guide family choices by better ranking college affordability, value and performance , please email the Department at collegefeedback@ed.gov

The National College Access Network, which circulated this message to us, said its first priority was “to give students consumer-level information to help guide their choices about college-going, including the reporting of information that is currently not available such as graduation rates for Pell Grant recipients, ultimate outcomes for students that transferred to another institution or standard information on job placement and earnings.”

At Florida C.A.N.! we have made our own contribution to the debate by “remixing” the College Scorecard for Florida. Through an interactive web map, viewers can zoom in on colleges by location, size and major, revealing the sticker price of what families actually pay, how much students borrow and what percentage of students actually graduate on time. For more information about the tool, how to use it and why we developed it, please check out our  webinar on the remixed College Scorecard for Florida.

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