Which colleges offer biggest bang for the buck? Check the White House's College Scorecard

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 27 2013 7:00 a.m. MST

The College Scorecard website compares costs between colleges and gauges employment potential for graduates of various schools. The Obama White House created the Scorecard to increase transparency around the cost, and value, of college degrees.

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Deciding which colleges and universities offer the biggest bang per tuition buck just got easier.

The White House has released its College Scorecard, a project of the U.S. Department of Education's College Affordability and Transparency Center. The online site allows students to compare costs between colleges, and search for information about degree programs by college location, type of college or area of interest. Scorecards for each institution include information about annual costs; rates of graduation, loan defaults and median borrowing; and employment information about graduates.

The Politix interactive blog noted that "even critics of government intervention can concede that the state may occasionally act as a useful information clearinghouse."

Walter Russell Mead's American Interest blog cited the importance of holding 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," Mead wrote. "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."

A new study from Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce weighed in the debate about what college degrees are really worth, noting that "college graduates with bachelor's degrees in arts, humanities and architecture experienced significantly higher rates of unemployment," said a story in The Washington Post. The highest unemployment rates — between 9 and 11 percent — were found among those with undergraduate degrees in architecture, the arts and the humanities. Lowest unemployment rates — between 5 and 7 percent — were found among those holding undergraduate degrees in health, education, and agriculture and natural resources, the story said. Those with degrees in business and engineering also did relatively well.

CNN's website noted that boiling down the many factors of college experience and assigning value is a process fraught with difficulties, but is still worthwhile, CNN's Schools of Thought blog said. Quoting former college admission officer Elizabeth Heaton, the post said, "It's very hard to quantify a 'good' education — what makes one program better than another. The more resources that can help people understand what they should be looking for, how to evaluate, and whether it makes sense for the student, the better."

EMAIL: cbaker@deseretnews.com

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