What is a College Scorecard? Everything You Need to Know

The U.S. Department of Education has updated its College Scorecard, a trove of college-based performance data meant to help prospective students choose the best school for them.

College Scorecard

The College Scorecard is a new consumer tool that provides key measures of institutional performance in a clear, concise format that is easy to access on mobile devices.

While some data has been collected and provided for years through the National Center for Education Statistics College Navigator website and other means, other data, such as loan repayment rates and income data pulled from the IRS for former students, are new.

Notably, much of the data pertains only to students receiving federal aid—those who received federal loans or a federal Pell Grant—rather than to the entire student population.

What is the College Scorecard?

The College Scorecard is a government-created online tool that allows consumers to compare the cost and value of higher education institutions in the United States.

The Scorecard’s main goal is to give prospective postsecondary students the information they need to make well-informed enrollment decisions.

Data files on institutions as a whole and data files of particular academic programs within institutions are both provided by College Scorecard.

This document aims to elucidate the methodology used to generate the data and the constraints placed on the data items broken down per research area. For

See the technical documentation for comprehensive data documentation outlining the current institution-level data measures documentation for data files at the institutional level.

Data users are also encouraged to review the dictionary, which details every metric in the downloadable data files and application programming interface (API).

These details include the variable’s name from the data files, a more descriptive name, the location of the API and developer-friendly metric name, the data source, values and labels for the metrics, and high-level notes for each metric.

A cohort map in the data dictionary shows which student group each statistic in the data files refers to.

College Scorecard Data

However, the administration recently made a wealth of previously unobtainable college-related data online, adhering to the original aim.

The average family income of students, the typical student’s ZIP code features, improved measures for completion, debt, transfer, and loan payments, and—possibly most importantly—student earnings data for thousands of universities are among the new metrics.

This is a significant advancement in higher education’s transparency. As a result of recent developments, thousands of U.S. post-secondary schools can now be more objectively assessed by parents, students, college administrators, media, legislators, and researchers in terms of how well they support students’ economic success.

For each institution, three key measures are highlighted:

Average Annual Cost

This is stated as “the average annual net price for federal financial aid recipients after school, state, and federal government assistance.

This is only the average cost for in-state students at public schools.”

Unlike the College Navigator website, the Scorecard does not explain that this figure is based on the net cost of attendance for full-time beginning undergraduates (tuition, fees, books and supplies, room, board, and other expenses).

Graduation Rate

This standard federal rate only considers first-time, full-time students four years after entering two-year schools and six years after entering four-year schools.

The national average incorporates both.

Salary After Attending

This metric is defined as “the 10-year median earnings of former students who received federal financial aid.” Students who finished and did not finish their degrees are both included.

Users of the Scorecard can view additional information in seven categories: costs, financial aid and debt, graduation and retention, earnings after school, student body, SAT/ACT scores, and academic programs.

US Department of Education College Scorecard

College Scorecard

It’s no secret that many US university graduates have debt repayment obligations that far outweigh their employment and income prospects.

While it is common knowledge that graduates from elite colleges earn more than graduates from less prestigious universities, the finer relationships between future earnings and university attendance are murky.

The College Scorecard dataset was created by matching information from the student financial aid system with federal tax returns to make educational investments less speculative.

Currenschoolnews is hosting the College Scorecard dataset to facilitate collaborative and shared learning. This dataset’s insights can help make the returns on higher education more transparent and, as a result, more equitable.

Data Description of US Department of Education College Scorecard

Here’s a script showing an exploratory overview of some of the data. It consists of three components:

  • All the raw data files released in version 1.40 of the college scorecard data
  • Scorecard.csv is a single CSV file with a combined year’s data. In it, we’ve converted categorical variables represented by integer keys in the original data to their labels and added a Year column.
  • Database containing a single Scorecard table that contains the same information as Scorecard.

Nonetheless, the Scorecard is similar to a shopping mall in that it has many doors. The “Search” button in the upper right corner is probably the easiest.

When you click it, you’ll be taken to a massive list of every school that has students who receive federal student aid.

By default, these schools are now ranked based on the median earnings of students ten years after they enrolled – not just graduates but all former students who received federal aid.

College Scorecard Rankings

You can browse the full list of America’s first 100 colleges and universities using this sortable table. Find your school by searching for the name of the institution.

Sort institutions by median earnings, expected earnings, and adjusted over-under differences.

 RankInstitutionStateMedian EarningsExpected EarningsOver/Under
11,236Alabama A & M UniversityAL$31,400$36,900-$5,500
21,168University of Alabama at BirminghamAL$40,300$44,700-$4,400
363Amridge UniversityAL$38,100$29,200$8,900
41,304University of Alabama in HuntsvilleAL$46,600$54,100-$7,500
5957Alabama State UniversityAL$27,800$29,900-$2,100
61,223The University of AlabamaAL$42,400$47,800-$5,400
71,283Auburn University at MontgomeryAL$34,800$41,500-$6,700
81,279Auburn UniversityAL$45,400$52,000-$6,600
91,085Birmingham Southern CollegeAL$41,900$45,200-$3,300
101,341Concordia College AlabamaAL$21,300$30,000-$8,700
111,284Faulkner UniversityAL$37,600$44,300-$6,700
121,230Huntingdon CollegeAL$37,100$42,600-$5,500
13771Jacksonville State UniversityAL$35,100$35,400-$300
14724Judson CollegeAL$30,700$30,700$0
151,037University of West AlabamaAL$33,800$36,600-$2,800
161,299Miles CollegeAL$27,200$34,400-$7,200
17469University of MobileAL$37,800$35,500$2,300
18787University of MontevalloAL$35,100$35,500-$400
19597University of North AlabamaAL$36,300$35,100$1,200
201,073Oakwood UniversityAL$33,700$36,900-$3,200
21747Samford UniversityAL$45,800$45,900-$100
221,015University of South AlabamaAL$38,300$40,800-$2,500
23850Spring Hill CollegeAL$43,800$44,900-$1,100
241,383Stillman CollegeAL$24,700$37,900-$13,200
251,351Talladega CollegeAL$25,600$35,000-$9,400
26719Troy UniversityAL$36,600$36,500$100
271,301Tuskegee UniversityAL$37,100$44,400-$7,300
28612University of Alaska AnchorageAK$42,000$40,900$1,100
29754University of Alaska FairbanksAK$38,200$38,400-$200
30886University of Alaska SoutheastAK$39,500$40,900-$1,400
3154Alaska Pacific UniversityAK$47,400$38,200$9,200
32776Arizona State University-TempeAZ$45,200$45,500-$300
331,008University of ArizonaAZ$44,400$46,900-$2,500
341,360Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University-PrescottAZ$60,900$71,200-$10,300
351,101Northern Arizona UniversityAZ$38,800$42,200-$3,400
361,212Prescott CollegeAZ$35,200$40,400-$5,200
371,143Arizona Christian UniversityAZ$31,000$35,000-$4,000
381,189University of Arkansas at Little RockAR$34,800$39,500-$4,700
39936Lyon CollegeAR$37,200$39,100-$1,900
401,113University of ArkansasAR$43,600$47,100-$3,500
41858University of Arkansas at Pine BluffAR$27,400$28,500-$1,100
421,013Arkansas State University-Main CampusAR$32,700$35,200-$2,500
43233Arkansas Tech UniversityAR$35,000$30,000$5,000
44615University of Central ArkansasAR$37,100$36,000$1,100
45431Central Baptist CollegeAR$35,700$33,000$2,700
46853Harding UniversityAR$38,600$39,700-$1,100
47590Henderson State UniversityAR$35,200$34,000$1,200
481,273Hendrix CollegeAR$40,500$47,000-$6,500
49459John Brown UniversityAR$46,200$43,800$2,400
50710Ouachita Baptist UniversityAR$37,500$37,300$200
511,274University of the OzarksAR$31,100$37,600-$6,500
521,378Philander Smith CollegeAR$26,200$38,900-$12,700
53403Williams Baptist CollegeAR$32,300$29,300$3,000
54232Southern Arkansas University Main CampusAR$35,900$30,800$5,100
5567Azusa Pacific UniversityCA$49,000$40,200$8,800
56588Biola UniversityCA$40,700$39,500$1,200
57389California Baptist UniversityCA$41,800$38,600$3,200
581,129California Institute of TechnologyCA$74,000$77,800-$3,800
59135California Lutheran UniversityCA$52,900$46,200$6,700
60593California Polytechnic State University-San Luis ObispoCA$60,900$59,700$1,200
616California State University-BakersfieldCA$48,100$31,700$16,400
6219California State University-StanislausCA$44,900$32,900$12,000
6320California State University-San BernardinoCA$45,500$33,600$11,900
64293California State Polytechnic University-PomonaCA$52,000$47,700$4,300
65226California State University-ChicoCA$45,100$39,900$5,200
6640California State University-Dominguez HillsCA$42,800$32,500$10,300
6773California State University-FresnoCA$43,200$34,700$8,500
68130California State University-FullertonCA$46,500$39,600$6,900
6959California State University-East BayCA$51,300$42,200$9,100
7028California State University-Long BeachCA$46,900$35,600$11,300
7122California State University-Los AngelesCA$44,900$33,300$11,600
72190California State University-NorthridgeCA$44,200$38,400$5,800
73119California State University-SacramentoCA$46,500$39,200$7,300
7494University of California-BerkeleyCA$62,700$54,700$8,000
7575University of California-DavisCA$57,100$48,600$8,500
7666University of California-IrvineCA$55,800$47,000$8,800
7762University of California-Los AngelesCA$59,200$50,200$9,000
78151University of California-RiversideCA$48,700$42,300$6,400
79161University of California-San DiegoCA$59,600$53,200$6,400
80212University of California-Santa BarbaraCA$52,000$46,500$5,500
81714University of California-Santa CruzCA$44,600$44,500$100
8227California Maritime AcademyCA$81,100$69,800$11,300
8317Chapman UniversityCA$51,800$39,600$12,200
84931Concordia University-IrvineCA$42,100$43,900-$1,800
85846San Diego Christian CollegeCA$34,400$35,400-$1,000
86307Claremont McKenna CollegeCA$63,600$59,500$4,100
87120Dominican University of CaliforniaCA$51,400$44,100$7,300
88184Fresno Pacific UniversityCA$39,700$33,800$5,900
89297Harvey Mudd CollegeCA$78,600$74,300$4,300
90110Holy Names UniversityCA$50,100$42,500$7,600
91562Humboldt State UniversityCA$36,200$34,700$1,500
921,093Humphreys College-Stockton and Modesto CampusesCA$31,300$34,600-$3,300
9323University of La VerneCA$52,700$41,200$11,500
94332La Sierra UniversityCA$41,300$37,500$3,800
95352The Master’s College and SeminaryCA$40,900$37,200$3,700
96215Loyola Marymount UniversityCA$55,600$50,200$5,400
97971Menlo CollegeCA$50,600$52,700-$2,100
981,264Mills CollegeCA$39,000$45,100-$6,100
9914Mount St Mary’s CollegeCA$50,200$37,200$13,000
10015National UniversityCA$54,800$42,200$12,600

Pros and Cons of the Earnings Data in College Scorecard


Since earnings are provided after a longer time period—six to ten years—rather than a single quarter, the College Scorecard data are superior to the state data in this regard.

They also include revenues from students who leave the state for more thorough coverage.

Positively, the College Scorecard data covers an extra 4000 colleges, including many community colleges that do not have Payscale data, and a sample size around ten times larger.

As a result, the scorecard closes significant coverage gaps and is probably more accurate than Payscale.


However, there is a serious flaw in the College Scorecard earnings data: it is limited to students who have received federal aid. Compared to their peers, those pupils face greater economic disadvantages.

46 percent of undergraduate students received student aid in 2003–2004, according to the U.S. Department of Education—a highly exceptional sample size that is unmatched by any other data.

Nonetheless, the likelihood of students receiving federal help is more than twice as high for those in the lowest quartile of family income as for those in the highest quartile.

This biases the statistics because family earnings largely predict what students will earn after graduation.

CSN Team.

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