If you’re interested in finding out some basic facts about a particular college or university, the graphics-heavy and user-friendly College Scorecard has always been one of my go-tos*. Now there’s more of it.
The U.S. Department of Education announced a week ago that it has expanded the Scorecard. Now listed are 2,100 schools that award certificates but not degrees. Think barber and beauty schools and some schools that train health care workers.
There’s more data, too. For the first time, the Scorecard reports separate graduation rates for each school for students who started as freshmen and those who transferred in later.
A lot of folks in the higher ed world seem most excited by a new set of data — program-level debt, or debt by field of study. If you want to know the average debt of UNCG students who graduated in 2015-16 and 2016-17 with a bachelor’s in sociology ($24,251) and the median debt of N.C. A&T students who got a bachelor’s in those same two years in business in management ($31,000), a separate spreadsheet has you covered. (Note that program-level debt is an add-on and not included in the actual Scoreboard; you can download the debt data here.)
The program-level debt spreadsheet also will tell you the percentage of students in each program who borrowed money for school In the examples above, 73 percent of UNCG sociology graduates in 2015-16 and 2016-17 took out loans to attend college, and 67 percent of A&T’s management grads borrowed in those same years.
There’s also data for master’s and doctoral programs, too, and some of those debt numbers are eye-popping. All of the A&T doctoral data and most of the UNCG doctoral data were redacted because the programs aren't big enough. But the average debt load for new UNCG Ph.Ds in English language and literature was close to $70,000; for new doctorates in education, the average debt was nearly $62,500. If you weren't already clear on this particular concept, the spreadsheet will hammer home the point that people carrying the largest debt loads almost always have grad school in their past.
And as the Chronicle pointed out, 70 percent of these high-debt ($100,000+) programs are health-related — med school, dental school, veterinary medicine, chiropractic college, allied health and the like. My eyeballing of the list suggests that law schools make up most of the remaining 30 percent.
The next avalanche of data will come in the fall, according to the Chronicle, when the Education Department releases program-level earnings numbers. Already, as this other Chronicle story notes, some researchers are already attempting to put together debt-to-earnings ratios for schools and programs. Look for that game to begin in earnest in the fall.
* Note: I actually prefer the graphics-lite and hard-to-navigate College Navigator, mostly because there’s more data. Numbers don’t have to be pretty; just present.