Misleading or useful?
That's the question surrounding the updated College Scorecard website published by the U.S. Department of Education. (See collegescorecard.ed.gov)
A look at the University of Mississippi and Mississippi State University data shows the following.
University of Mississippi -- The average annual cost to attend was $13,848. The average graduation rate was 58%. The average salary earned 10 years after attending was $40,600. The percentage of students enrolled who received federal student loans was 46%. The average student debt upon graduation was $21,500.
Mississippi State University -- Annual cost $15,983; graduation rate 60%; average salary $39,600; loan percentage 50%; average debt $23,250.
A look at two nearby major institutions shows the following.
University of Alabama (Tuscaloosa) -- Annual cost $20,916; graduation rate 67%; average salary $42,400; loan percentage 41%; average debt $24,000.
University of Tennessee (Knoxville) -- Annual cost $14,162; graduation rate 67%; average salary $42,300; loan percentage 44%; average debt $20,339.
Okay. How reliable is this information?
"The information they have access to makes it impossible for them to provide a totally complete and fully accurate picture," Terry Hartle, a senior vice president at the American Council on Education, told Education Week.
Data is limited because it only considers students who received federal financial aid and does not consider those who borrow privately or pay their own way," wrote reporter Caralee Jones in Education Week, adding the scorecard calculates six-year university graduation rates only for first-time, full-time students.
"With high school students, it's been a real eye opener," one counselor told Education Week. He said students primarily focused on graduation rates and average annual costs.
Here is data for other Mississippi universities.
University of Southern Mississippi -- Annual cost $12,423; graduation rate 47%; average salary $36,200; loan percentage 69%; average debt $25,000.
Jackson State University -- Annual cost $13,690; graduation rate 42%; average salary $29,500; loan percentage 76%; average debt $31,000.
Alcorn State University -- Annual cost $13,360; graduation rate 33%; average salary $30,600; loan percentage 89%; average debt $27,941.
Delta State University -- Annual cost $13,696; graduation rate 36%; average salary $33,800; loan percentage 56%; average debt $21,300.
Mississippi University for Women -- Annual cost $9,964; graduation rate 37%; average salary $34,800; loan percentage 62%; average debt $16,473.
Mississippi Valley State University -- Annual cost $10,132; graduation rate 24%; average salary $22,400; loan percentage 77%; average debt $29,038.
As you look at costs versus debt versus earnings 10 years after attending, here are three more sets of numbers representing Mississippi community colleges that you might want to consider.
Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College -- Cost $7,116; graduation rate 29%; average salary $28,400; loan percentage 24%; average debt $9,000.
Holmes Community College -- Cost $5,330; graduation rate 30%; average salary $28,300; loan percentage 25%; average debt $6,369.
Northeast Mississippi Community College -- Cost $5,884; graduation rate 28%; average salary $29,300; loan percentage 26%; average debt $8,000.
So how useful is all this? As another counselor told Education Week, it's "a piece of the puzzle, but just a piece."
Write Bill Crawford, a columnist from Meridian, at firstname.lastname@example.org