The new online federal college comparison system, College Scorecard, was touted as a resource for students considering colleges, offering information such as the average income earned by alumni, graduation rates and the cost after financial aid kicks in.
“Americans will now have access to reliable data on every institution of higher education,” President Obama said in his weekly address when he announced the interactive Web site on Sept. 12.
Some college officials questioned that claim this week because their institutions were not included in the comparison tool.
“Grove City College is noticeably absent from the U.S. Department of Education’s recently released College Scorecard,” its president, Paul J. McNulty, said in a statement Tuesday.
Some advocates quickly noted that the omissions seemed to be from among the nation’s conservative-leaning schools, such as Grove City College, Christendom College and Hillsdale College, which since the mid-1980s has refused to accept money from state or federal government, including grants or loans to students, and which does not report racial demographics to the federal government as required under the Title IV federal financial aid program.
“In response to our inquiry, the Department informed us that the site is limited only to Title IV participating institutions,” McNulty, of Grove City, said. “Our graduates enjoy a well-recognized return on an affordable investment that exceeds national averages in all of the Scorecard categories.”
They are concerned, he said: “However well-intentioned, the Scorecard as it exists now is incomplete and does not fully disclose comprehensive data that families need to make informed decisions. For now, the Department should, at the very least, include a disclaimer that the Scorecard is not comprehensive or reflective of all college and universities.”
Denise Horn, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Education, responded in an e-mail:
“With the College Scorecard, the Department is committed to doing what the president asked us to do: provide information to families and consumers to help them make a college choice that’s smart for them. As of now, institutions that do not participate in Title IV federal financial aid are not included on the site because they are not required to send us data. The Department is listening closely to concerns from users and other stakeholders and will work to address those concerns in future updates to the tool.”
Some colleges known for their conservative Christian founding principles, such as Liberty University in Virginia, are included on the College Scorecard.
One college president said he expected his institution to be omitted.
“We were not surprised to be left off the list as Christendom receives no federal money, and as a consequence, files no data under Title IV; without this data, it is impossible for the Scorecard to include Christendom,” Timothy O’Donnell, president of Christendom College in Virginia, said in a statement. “We are, however, as a fully-accredited, four-year national liberal arts college ranked highly in Newsmax’s Top Colleges for American Values, Barron’s Best Buys, Kiplinger’s Best Value Colleges, and Peterson’s Competitive Colleges, because of our high-caliber and time-tested education.”
Hillsdale College released a statement Monday, concerned that when their campus student newspaper asked why the college was not included in the Scorecard they were told it was because “‘the plurality of degrees it awards are certificates, not two-year or four-year degrees, it was not included on the Scorecard at launch.’ This statement is false. … Contrary to the Department of Education’s spokeswoman, Hillsdale issues only four-year undergraduate degrees as well as master’s degrees, and does not issue certificates of any kind for academic credit.”
The liberal arts college is well-regarded in national rankings lists, such U.S. News & World Report, Forbes and the Princeton Review. (It was listed as #67 in the U.S. News list of top liberal arts colleges, for example.)
“In fact, only those schools that participate in Title IV federal financial aid programs and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System … which requires institutions to track and report racial demographics, were included on the ‘College Scorecard.’ This is why Hillsdale College was not included,” according to the college statement.
The school was founded in 1844 by Free Will Baptists and its charter prohibited any discrimination based on “nationality, color or sex,” the statement explained. “Hillsdale is proud of its heritage and has remained true to it, despite attempts by both federal and state bureaucrats to force it to count its students by race.”