Turning open data into a scorecard for prospective college students

The Department of Education recently unveiled a set of new tools, including a redesigned College Scorecard and updated data on higher education institutions, to help students make better informed decisions about college.

The College Scorecard is a mobile-friendly website where college-bound students, parents and advisors can search for colleges based on programs and degrees, location and size, and get details on college costs, graduation rates, average student debt levels and post-college earnings.  The Scorecard also include links to two-year and four-year college lists and rankings, other statistics and financial aid information.

According to a post on the White House blog by Lisa Gelobter, the U.S. Digital Service’s chief digital service officer at the Department of Education, developers spoke to high school students, guidance counselors and parents to gather their top concerns and priorities, as well as to data journalists who use higher education open data. With this insight from users and the federal government’s data from more than 7,000 schools, the USDS was able to create an application programming interface for the College Scorecard data.

The API opens up the nearly 2,000 data points to software developers, researchers and policymakers to foster further analysis and the creation of more advanced tools to help college students.

According to Gelobter, this is the first time comprehensive data on post-college earnings from all types of undergraduate schools has been made available to the public. Specifically, the data includes students’ outcomes at specific colleges, former students’ earnings, graduates’ debts, financial aid eligibility information, the Department of Treasury's data on student loan repayment rates and the Internal Revenue Service’s data on post-college income. The dataset also provides institution-specific insight on the proportion of former students earning more than $25,000, and the median earnings of students 10 years after they enroll.

In fact, according to the post, 11 organizations are already using this data to create new tools that help students search and compare colleges, analyze various colleges’ return-on-investment and implement effective student-centered initiatives.

The new College Scorecard and open college data initiative were a combined effort from the Department of Education, the U.S. Digital Services, the Treasury Department, the White House Domestic Policy Council, the Council of Economic Advisors, the Office of Management and Budget and the General Services Administration’s 18F.

About the Author

Amanda Ziadeh is a former reporter/producer for GCN.


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