Federal Database Now Shows Expected Wages, Debt for College Programs

November 22, 2019 Updated: November 22, 2019

After a major overhaul, the Education Department’s online database now includes potential wages, graduation rates, and student loan debt of colleges across the country at program level, in an effort to combat false advertising and help students and families make informed choices about higher education.

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced Wednesday that College Scorecard, an online database operated by the Department of Education since 2015, has gone through an upgrade to include key metrics on the economic outcomes of students after leaving specific colleges, including program-level debt and earnings, graduation rates, and apprenticeship opportunities. She says the redesigned Scorecard will ensure students make “apples-to-apples comparisons” between all of the programs they might be considering without regard to the type of school.

“Every student is unique,” DeVos said in a statement. “What they study, as well as when, where, and how they chose to pursue their education will impact their future. Students know this instinctively. That’s why we worked to deliver a product that is customizable and transparent—a tool that provides real information students need to make informed, personalized decisions about their education.”

The statement says students can now use the Scorecard to learn the rate at which they repay their loans and how much they earn after graduation base on the major they study. For example, a student interested in studying engineering can now compare first-year earnings and student loan debt among engineering programs offered by a variety of schools.

The previous version of Scorecard only allows users to compare expected debt and earnings at the school level, which is “fairly meaningless,” according to the statement, given the diversity of programs and outcomes of any given single school.

In addition, Scorecard users can now calculate graduation rates whether they are full-time, part-time, first-time, or transfer students on graduate and professional degree programs. Prior to the upgrade, this function was only available to full-time undergraduate students.

DeVos says the Scorecard is redesigned according to an executive order signed by President Donald Trump this March. The order directs federal agencies to “take appropriate steps” to ensure that colleges receiving federal funds uphold First Amendment rights. It also ordered program-level economic outcome data to be added to the Scorecard, and a report analyzing “policy options” for the idea of risk sharing on Federal student loan debt.

“Rising student loan debt, coupled with low repayment rates, threatens the financial health of both individuals and families as well as of Federal student loan programs,” reads the order. “Selecting an institution and course of study are important decisions for prospective students and significantly affect long-term earnings. Institutions should be transparent about the average earnings and loan repayment rates of former students who received Federal student aid.”