by Larry Blumenstyk, J.D., IECA (New Jersey)
The Chronicle of Higher Education has released its initial publicly available version of its College Reality Check tool. Although I never tried to use the College Scorecard released by the White House, I have now used College Reality Check and would like to share my experience.
Like many of our members, even as I write this on April 23, we have client families struggling to make final decisions and ruminating over whether to pursue waitlist schools or just go out and buy the sweatshirt for one of the schools that have sent unqualified acceptance letters. I found College Reality Check to be useful to me in providing consultative guidance to these struggling clients; relying on information of a different sort than our office was considering with clients throughout the admissions process.
One family is deciding among acceptances to University of Delaware, University of New Hampshire, Loyola of Maryland, and Ithaca College. In a recent meeting we reviewed data available about professors, student teacher ratios, retention, graduation rates, and other factors. On that basis, two of the schools were eliminated. Now I have run a comparison of the two remaining schools through College Reality Check. The site permits a side-by-side comparison of up to five colleges, and when I ran the comparison there was a clearly available option to email the results directly to the client.
Another student was accepted at several colleges but waitlisted at two of his highest preferences, the most selective colleges on his list. He will deposit at his favorite among the acceptances but is confused about the two waitlists. The two waitlist colleges are Wake Forest and Babson, very close to one another in the academic profile of their students but very different in spirit. I ran the College Reality Check comparison of all three colleges and sent it to the family so they could have additional information while considering their plans to advocate for admission off the waitlists.
One young woman was enjoying accepted student visits at both SMU and Furman over the past week. By purely statistical measures of selectivity, SMU is the “better” outcome. However, Furman has offered this young woman a significant tuition discount. Running the comparison was quite a revelation.
I also couldn’t resist the temptation of checking out the college where our own daughter is a junior, as against its peers. The information was interesting, but unfortunately it did not assure me she would be able to support us in our dotage.
I can report a little information about the origin of this site and its projections for the future. The initial project was a Chronicle venture undertaken in cooperation with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Its initial iteration was a less sophisticated tool, undertaken before the White House initiative (The College Scorecard). The Foundation then decided to fund a more sophisticated tool—the one now available. Earnings data for this tool is mined from “Payscale,” a private company which produces a giant crowdsourced database of earnings. College Reality Check provides four-year, five-year, and six-year graduation rates for the colleges in its database and for its comparisons. We should find the College Reality Check tool further improved and enriched as time goes on.
Right now it has some advantages over the Scorecard: It has a user friendly search function; it allows easy direct comparison of up to five colleges; and it is very simple to print, download, or share (via email or otherwise) the results. We can expect ongoing improvements and enhancements (this is a “soft launch”). The Chronicle is anxious to get comments—and IECA members might be among the best for providing input. A feedback link is provided on the Web site.