During President Obama’s fourth State of the Union address Feb. 12, one of the improvements he announced for the education system was the College Scorecard website, which officially launched the following day. In his address he explained that the goal of the service was to provide soon-to-be college students and their parents with concise, pertinent information on schools to help families choose schools that offer “the most bang for your buck.”
The College Scorecard currently provides four statistics for every college: net price, graduation rate, loan default rate and median borrowing. By now, most of us are aware of how Drexel fares in these categories, but we thought it would be interesting to look up Drexel’s scorecard and see how we fared against other schools in the area and other respected co-op schools. We did some research and found out how each statistic is measured.
Net price is calculated by subtracting the average amount of grant and scholarship funding received by students at each school from the school’s average annual tuition, fees and related expenses. The U.S. Department of Education ranked Drexel’s $33,495 net price in the 2009-10 school year the 21st-highest in the country among private nonprofit universities. Drexel’s net cost for the following year, for which rankings were not compiled, was $34,660. Elsewhere on the scorecard, Drexel’s graduation rate was reported as 68.1 percent, its loan default rate was reported as 3.6 percent (compared to a national average of 13.4 percent), and the median amount of federal student loans was reported as $233.15 per month.
Although Drexel has a reputation for being one of the highest net-price schools locally and nationally, it was not ranked as the most expensive school in the Philadelphia area. That designation went to St. Joseph’s University, which had a 2009-10 net price of $34,894. Still, it is regrettable that Drexel’s net price is so much higher than that of other local private schools. In comparison, the University of Pennsylvania’s 2010-11 net cost was reported as $20,592 per year, and La Salle University’s was reported as $23,418 per year.
We weren’t surprised by how Drexel fared when stacked against other Philadelphia schools, but comparing our University with schools nearby is still comparing apples to oranges — something the College Scorecard was created to fix. So we looked at how other co-op institutions were rated in the report.
We chose to compare Drexel to the well-known co-op schools Rochester Institute of Technology and Northeastern University. When looking at the colleges’ six-year graduation rate, Drexel was in the middle, coming in under Northeastern’s 76.8 percent. Interestingly, while Drexel had the highest net price (after grants and scholarships) of the three and highest percentage of tuition increase between 2007 and 2009, Drexel also had the lowest monthly payment and the least amount of federal loan money borrowed per month throughout a student’s undergraduate career. All three schools had similar federal loan default rates, well below the national average.
All this is to say that while our University is still fairly expensive and has work to do in certain categories, namely our six-year graduation rate, our score wasn’t uniformly terrible when pitted against other comparable schools.
And there’s still a major category of the College Scorecard that has yet to be filled out by DOE. There is a section of the scorecard dedicated to analyzing the kinds of jobs alumni are hired into after graduation, but these statistics haven’t been generated yet. Surely it will take some time and some creative loopholes for DOE to acquire this information. After all, the site has been up for under a week. But until then, none of these numbers mean much, especially because such a large portion of Drexel students, and students of co-op schools everywhere, invest the extra time, money and effort into work and school with the hope of being rewarded fruitfully for their more robust body of experiences.
So the answer to the question “Is the Scorecard representing Drexel fairly?” is a wholehearted “no.” These kinds of assessments have always failed to recognize the obvious benefits of attending a co-op school, and the College Scorecard is thus far no different. We won’t hold our breaths to see the alumni employment analysis that the website comes up with, but when it is posted we will surely have something to say about it.