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College of Saint Mary Releases Its Own Expanded Scorecard

After President Obama announced the release of his administration’s “College Scorecard,” in February, higher-education experts and administrators gave the tool mixed reviews, saying that some of the terms and data could be confusing for students, and that it did not provide enough options for comparisons between institutions.

Those sentiments prompted some colleges to create their own versions of the scorecard. One of those comes from the College of Saint Mary, in Omaha.

The college’s scorecard, which went live at the end of March, expands on data provided in the federal scorecard, in order to give students a more comprehensive picture of the costs and outcomes associated with attendance.

The college’s scorecard elaborates on such data as graduation rates, the average cost of attendance, and student-loan default rates. On the federal scorecard, graduation rates take into account only first-time, full-time freshmen, whereas the College of Saint Mary adjusted its scorecard to include transfer students. The change increased the college’s graduation rate from 30.4 percent on the federal scorecard to 56.2 percent on its own.

The federal scorecard shows the average cost of attendance at institutions; includes other expenses besides tuition, such as room and board and travel costs; and subtracts any financial aid a student may receive. The College of Saint Mary’s scorecard gives only the average tuition a student will pay, after financial aid is accounted for.

Christine Pharr, the college’s vice president for academic affairs, says administrators adjusted the cost in that way to give a clear picture of what students would pay above and beyond what they may already be paying in living expenses.

“We said, we’d like to give you a little more information and clarify some of the information that’s out there,” Ms. Pharr says.

The college’s scorecard also provides a brief explanation of employment outcomes for students after graduation—something that is missing from the federal scorecard and that has drawn accusations of “fuzzy data” on other campuses. The College of Saint Mary’s scorecard says that a “majority of students” (about 80 percent, according to Ms. Pharr) have jobs in their discipline within six months of graduating.

The college gets that information by issuing exit surveys to students, both online and in person when students pick up their caps and gowns for graduation. Six months later, officials in their respective disciplines follow up with students who may not have immediately found employment.

Though there is still room for improvement, Ms. Pharr says, the college is working diligently to be proactive in its response to the “national conversation about affordability and accountability.”

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