The Bottom Line on College

Help in evaluating the real costs, for parents and kids

What is a college degree worth?

The new College Scorecard tool attempts to help families understand just that.

Released by the Department of Education, the College Scorecard is an interactive online tool that provides previously unavailable financial data from more than 7,000 colleges and universities in the U.S., such as the cost of earning a degree and what salary a graduate can expect to have 6 to 10 years after earning a diploma.

The tool allows users to choose colleges and universities based on a number of preferences — location, size, campus setting, and degree and major programs.

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Let’s say, for example, that a high school senior in Indiana is interested in studying engineering at a big college near home. He would enter “engineering” in the degrees section and “Great Lakes” in the location section. In the “size” box, he would enter “large,” meaning more than 15,000 undergraduates. The scorecard then sifts through all the available options and presents him with 94 possible choices.

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The scorecard gives the student access to previously unavailable federal data on the 94 colleges that fit his criteria. He can learn the average student debt; how much it costs to attend per year; the school’s graduation rate; the loan default rate of its students; and the average salaries after graduation. He can also sort colleges by any of these criteria, or alphabetically.

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On the site, students and parents can also find tools for calculating financial aid and GI benefits.

The Education Department says it will update the tool periodically, including publishing information on earnings potential next year.

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