The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
Feds Turn up the Heat on Expensive Colleges

Delivering on one of President Obama’s State of the Union promises, the Department of Education recently unveiled the “College Scorecard,” which conveys information on average student debt, graduation rates and loan defaults at nearly 3,500 schools. Yes, much of the data is a few years old, and it doesn’t yet include graduates’ average starting salaries, but schools are already feeling the heat. NYU, which has the highest median debt among students at large universities, was defensive when its data was published, as the WSJ reports:

“Excellence in higher education is costly,” particularly in a big city like New York, an NYU spokesman said in a statement, adding that NYU doesn’t benefit from a large per student endowment or state funding and is “upfront” about costs. The federal data “seems to be dated” and doesn’t take into account a recent decline in median borrowing, he added.

Some of these complaints may have merit—the system is still very new, and raw data doesn’t tell the whole story. But it’s important to hold schools accountable for their costs. For years, schools have been able to raise tuition while expecting students to take on more and more loans, and hard facts about the value of various degrees were difficult to come by. The Scorecard should help prospective students weigh the merits of various schools, and put more pressure on schools to compete on the price of their degrees.

[Image courtesy of Shutterstock.com]

Published on February 19, 2013 3:00 pm