President Sean Decatur said he was “disappointed” in the institutional data the U.S. Department of Education chose to highlight in the national College Scorecard, an Obama administration project designed to provide comprehensive information about colleges. The information, released on Saturday, provides a “pretty incomplete story,” Decatur said.
A White House statement released on Saturday described the intent of the website, reading, “This new College Scorecard can empower Americans to rate colleges based on what matters most to them; to highlight colleges that are serving students of all backgrounds well; and to focus on making a quality, affordable education within reach.”
The initiative’s website, collegescorecard.ed.gov, includes downloadable copies of the data sets on which the scorecard is based, as well as explanatory policy and technical papers.
Based on data collected from federal financial aid recipients from 1996 to 2013, the scorecard put Kenyon’s average annual cost at 67 percent above average and its median postgraduate salary at 27 percent above average. Nine of Kenyon’s top 10 overlap schools, as published by the College, bested Kenyon in postgraduate earnings, with Oberlin College as the lone exception.
“I think the measure is an interesting one and not one that we should completely ignore, but it doesn’t fundamentally capture what we do here,” Decatur said. He noted that the earnings are based on graduates’ income 10 years after enrollment, a time when many may still be in graduate school.
Himmelright Professor of Economics Kathy Krynski stressed the importance of graduation rates in evaluating educational results. According to the scorecard, Kenyon graduates 90 percent of its students after six years (the national average is 44 percent).
Kenyon students who receive federal loans also graduate with an average of $18,305 worth of debt on those loans, according to the scorecard. This figure lands Kenyon directly in the middle of the College’s top 10 overlap schools in terms of accumulated debt at the time of graduation.
Williams College, one of the 10 overlapping schools, sought to minimize debt incurred by its students when it implemented a no-loan policy in 2008. It repealed the policy two years later. “They decided they couldn’t afford it,” according to Krynski, who has taught courses on the economics of education and has a daughter who attended Williams. She suggested Kenyon would probably not institute such a policy given its relatively modest endowment.
While he commended the Department of Education for making more information abwout college outcomes available to the public, Decatur said the scorecard contained “no statistics or information about what students actually learn in college.”