New data to help families plan for college

To help students and parents make more informed decisions when selecting a college, the federal government updated its College Scorecard last week, a resource full of financial data on 7,000 colleges and universities nationwide. Families can now access previously unreleased information about almost any college in the country, and use the data to make their own decisions about each college's affordability and value.

For each school, the Scorecard displays:

    • The average annual cost paid by a student (after financial aid has been applied) based on family income

    • The graduation rate (based on six years or less of school) for full-time students

    • The median salary of alumni 10 years after graduation

    • Student debt information, including the percentage of students receiving federal loans, the median federal debt and loan payment, and the percentage of students actively paying down their debt

    • Additional school information, including student body demographic data, typical standardized test scores for admitted students, and available academic programs

Each college's information can be found by simply typing in the school's name, but users can also use search filters to narrow down a list of schools based on type of degree, academic programs, location, student body size, and school type or affiliation.

A few caveats:

    • The majority of the data represents only those students who received federal financial aid, which accounts for just 70 percent of total students

    • Debt information only includes federal loan data, not private

    • The data isn't subdivided based on different student characteristics, such as age or major, so only one average or median figure is provided for each statistic

    • The Scorecard doesn't provide any data on student satisfaction or long-term success (including graduation rates longer than six years or career-high alumni salaries)

    • Several community colleges are missing from the Scorecard, as any schools that award a greater number of certificates than degrees were excluded from the list

Though it does not cover every data point, the College Scorecard gives families a place to begin collecting information about colleges and learning the differences among the many options available for higher education. If you or someone in your family is applying to college in the near future, start your research by visiting And if you have questions, let us know. You can reach us at (800) 449-MEFA (6332) or