525742850_d93f3b87fd_oFor many high school seniors in Illinois, it’s a nervous time of waiting to hear which colleges and universities they’ve been accepted into. While they may be logging into websites or checking their e-mail rather than looking for that “fat envelope” that their parents did, making the final choice of where to go can still be a tough one for families. The US Department of Education has created the College Scorecard to help families with that difficult decision.

The College Scorecard provides families with information on

  • Costs: The average net annual cost after financial aid of attending each college is provided, along with a breakdown of the net average cost by income bracket. There is also a link to the college or university’s cost calculator so you can estimate what your family would pay.
  • Financial Aid & Debt: This section provides information on the percent of students receiving federal loans, the typical total debt from federal loans that students graduate with, and the typical monthly loan payment. There is also a link to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
  • Graduation & Retention: The graduation rate provides the percentage of students receiving their degree after six years for schools that predominately give four-year degrees and after four years for all other schools. The retention rate is the percentage of students who return to the college or university after their first year.
  • Earnings After School: This section provides information on the percentage of students earning more than $25,000 (about average for workers aged 25-34 with only a high school degree) six years after enrolling in the college and university. The median salary of students who received federal financial aid ten years after enrolling is provided as well.
  • Student Body: This section provides a breakdown between full-time and part-time students, the socio-economic diversity of the school based on the percentage of students receiving Pell grants, and the racial and ethnic breakdown of the student population.
  • SAT/ACT Scores: Here you’ll find the range of SAT Critical Reading, Math, and Writing scores and ACT composite scores of the students who were admitted and enrolled in the school.
  • Academic Programs: This section identifies the top five degree programs from the school, as well as a list of all available areas of study.

The scorecard also has links to helpful lists of schools pulled from the data, such as schools with low costs that lead to high incomes, schools with high graduation rates and low costs, and public four-year colleges with high graduation rates leading to high incomes. There are also links to information on paying for college.

The Department of Education has a blog post on their four key things to consider when choosing a college, based on the College Scorecard. Whether your family has a high school senior making a final decision or a younger student just starting to think about life after high school, be sure to use the College Scorecard to identify the right college or university for your child and your family.

Photo © 2007 by Andrew Schwegler under Creative Commons license.