By SHERRY VAN ARSDALL
THE GOSHEN NEWS
Searching for a college?
Finding the right college can be a daunting task for a prospective student and parents if they aren’t sure where to begin in their search for a school that meets the best cost, value and quality for them.
President Barack Obama’s administration recently launched a College Scorecard to help students and families with more information about college costs and outcomes.
Henry Stewart looked at that college scorecard for Goshen College. He is a senior at the college and is majoring in music and biochemistry.
“It’s not a bad idea. It could have more information on it,” Stewart, of Pennsylvania, said. “I’m aware of the White House monitoring the costs of colleges. It (the scorecard) is a very skeletal bit of information. What are the intentions? It’s more like a public service announcement.”
There are five areas on the scorecard beginning with costs, graduation rate, student loan default rate and median borrowing and employment prospects after graduation.
“The amount on the costs is a little bit more than what is shown on there,” Stewart said.
According to the scorecard for Goshen College on costs, the average net price for undergraduate students is $18,760 per year. The average net price has decreased 2.8 percent from 2007 to 2009.
GC president likes it
Goshen College President Jim Brenneman had positive things to say about the White House’s college scorecard.
“It’s a great thing,” Brenneman said. “It is helpful in the world we are living in now and for the 31 private colleges in Indiana. It is to our benefit.
“The contrast between conceptions of our schools are reflected in the scorecard. Here at Goshen College our students graduate with less debt and... is quite positive. Our loan default rate is lower than the national rate.”
Brenneman said the scorecard helps level the playing field in perceptions of private colleges over public institutions.
“Some things are overlooked (like student loans) and (people) don’t realize the private colleges have many scholarships available, so students don’t need as many student loans,” he said. “We have a huge scholarship program at Goshen College.”
According to the scorecard, 72.7 percent of full-time students at GC receive their bachelor’s degree within six years.
“We do a lot that is comparable to the public institutions and our students can graduate at a much higher rate,” Brenneman said. “It’s a benefit to the parent as a consumer. It’s an equalizer in some positive ways. We are proud to provide education that is affordable.”
The president hasn’t heard prospective students or parents make mention of looking at the college as a result of the scorecard.
“This is pretty new (the college scorecard). It’s still under construction,” he said.
Overall, he says it will help people make good decisions.
“My supposition — it will help (in the future) as a parent and child begin the search for going to college,” Brenneman said. “It will help with assessing myths out there between private and public colleges and universities.”
Some of the scorecard data on the graduation rates varied from high to low for local colleges.
Ivy Tech Community College-Northcentral in South Bend shows a 4.9 percent graduation rate of full-time students and Bethel College in Mishawaka ranks in the middle with 49.4 percent. Grace College and Seminary in Winona Lake has a 56. 3 percent graduation rate and Goshen College ranked the highest among local colleges at 72.7 percent.
The loan default rates for Bethel College show 9.4 percent and Grace College and Seminary has a 4.2 percent compared to the national average of 13.4 percent. The scorecard shows 4.9 percent of students at Goshen College defaulted on their federal student loans within three years of entering repayment.
Cindy Sisson, Vice President for enrollment management at Grace College and Seminary says she knows about the Whitehouse scorecard.
One of the details she noticed and pointed out while looking at the scorecard for her college — it’s not always using the most current information.
“For example, under the listing for costs it states: The average net price has increased 3.7 percent from 2007 to 2009. The average price for undergraduate students is $16,765 per year,” Sisson said.
She said their institution provides an annual submission to the U.S. Department of Education’s Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), so there’s more accurate data available that could be used on the White House scorecard.
“It will give them some information that is useful, including affordability but they (prospective students and parents) need to visit our college’s website,” Sisson said. “I’d add a link to the school’s page on the scorecard. By going to our website, it will be more current than what I find on this one.”
Sisson says if families don’t take the time then to look at a college’s page they might be interested in while looking at the scorecard, they may forget later.
“It’s human nature. It would be a nice addition to have a link to a college website,” she said. “I liked seeing this, though. Anytime a family investigates and looks at prices and sees our school finances are under average in tuition, that is good.”
Parents need to be aware of the fact that financial aid includes student loans.
“I didn’t see a lot of information on students loans as part of a financial aid package, but student loans have to be paid back and there is a difference between subsidized and unsubsidized loans,” Sisson said.
Has anyone seen the scorecard and mentioned it?
“Not so far. I’ve not heard anyone mention it,” she said. “It’s a good idea and anything that makes finding information about a school easier and finding financial information is a good thing.”