College Scorecard Is a Win for Consumers & Career Centers!

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New Consumer Protection Laws Increase the Importance of the Career Center and Ensure College Customers Can Make Informed Decisions

college scorecardI’m a fan of anything that will increase the focus on careers on college campuses.

I’m also a fan of the Career Center getting much needed resources. NACE research has shown for decades that career center directors have had to support an ever increasing student and alumni base on, in most cases, a frozen or decreasing budget, despite HERI research that has shown nearly 90 percent of incoming freshman say they are going to college to improve their chances of launching and leading successful careers. Furthermore, surveys like the Alumni Attitude Study show alumni are disappointed with the career support their alma maters provide.

Unfortunately the blame tends to fall to the career center and not on management, which is removed from the issues of the career center, and those that students, grads and alumni are facing.

So, when President Obama introduced the College Scorecard in February of 2013, I was interested to learn how the Career Center could use it as a way to increase the focus on careers, get more students to take ownership of their careers, and –along the way—how the Career Center could get the resources needed to be a change agent in the lives and careers of its students, grads and alumni.

Let’s look at how it came to be!

It’s important to understand the history behind the College Scorecard to understand the power it provides Career Center professionals to gain the attention of management and reboot the campus culture to focus on careers.

The College Scorecard is a recent incarnation of decades-old attempts by law makers to ensure college consumers have the information they need to make informed decisions, and get what they pay for. When it was being introduced two years ago, President Obama indicated that it had the potential to decrease the cost of a college education and create an environment where colleges are more focused on their customers’ needs.

You may not be familiar with the College Scorecard and its motto, to be an“Accountability and Transparency Center,” but that phrase will give you a hint about its mission.

The College Scorecard is here today because of legislation introduced in 1990. It all got started when Senator Bill Bradley introduced and pushed through Congress a bill called the Students Right to Know Act. The SRKA was added as an amendment to the Higher Education Act (HEA) of 1965 and required colleges participating/eligible for Title IV funding to track graduation rates of students in general, as well as in track niche areas like graduation rates of athletes, by race/ethnicity, and gender and sport. Colleges were required by 1995 to begin submitting annual reports to the Secretary of Education and disclose the same to students, parents, coaches, and prospective students.

The law passed despite college lobbyists’ claims the law would represent an invasion of privacy.

To show you the level of bipartisan support for greater accountability– and more importantly to find a way to control tax payers risk of 1.2 trillion dollars of student loans– just last year Senators Wyden and Rubio introduced a new amendment to the HEA called The Student Right to Know Before You Go Act which will require colleges to track:

  1. Post-graduation average annual earnings
  2. Additional data on graduation rates
  3. Average cost
  4. ROI of a college degree (I’m assuming by measuring “gainful employment”)

While some may think this is yet another way the government is prying into the lives of its citizens and putting unbearable pressure on the cost to do business, the 31 million Americans who started college and never finished will tell you “it’s about time!”

And, so will the:

  • Current crop of 20 million students in colleges
  • 40 million people with student loans, and the 7 million of them that have found themselves worse off from their college experience because they have defaulted on their student loans
  • The 40 percent of Millennial households who are dealing with student loans — some who are unable to move out of their family homes and take their part in today’s society

Today the average grad has DOUBLE the student loan debt of a graduate a decade ago, and the number of grads who are unemployed or underemployed has significantly increased. Worse, even if a grad gets a job, the average salary adjusted for inflation is the same as it was for a grad 10 years ago. More transparency is needed so that everyone has the data to work toward solutions, and it needs to happen immediately

It does look like the government is serious and pushing harder for change. Back in 2010, as congress was pummeling the for profit education industry for lack of transparency, aggressive recruiting, and broken promises to students, Arne Duncan, the Secretary of Education said:

While career colleges play a vital role in training our workforce to be globally competitive, some of them are saddling students with debt they cannot afford in exchange for degrees and certificates they cannot use. These schools–and their investors–benefit from billions of dollars in subsidies from taxpayers, and in return, taxpayers have a right to know that these programs are providing solid preparation for jobs. The rules we’ve proposed today will help ensure that career college and training programs use federal student aid to prepare students for success.

Most experts predicted, and college administrators could read the tea leaves, that congress was NOT going to limit reform to for-profits but would be aiming their sights next on non-profit colleges.

…and they were right!

When the College Scorecard and its requirements were first introduced, an article I read shared the negative reactions of a number of college Presidents. A member of the Secretary of Education’s staff was quoted as saying, “Colleges need to get on board with this because it’s going to happen.”

The College Scorecard is another step in this decade-old attempt to protect consumers. It’s no longer something colleges can ignore.

…and that is why it’s so important to your Career Center!

All this puts your Career Center in a VERY important position

What is at risk for all colleges is enrollment revenue and access to the 150 billion dollars in student loans awarded each year and provided by the wonderful tax payers!

Colleges that find themselves rated below their peer institutions on the College Scorecard will find it increasingly difficult to maintain enrollment and support the infrastructure of the college. When you think about the multimillions of dollars at stake, a few hundred thousand dollars redirected to the Career Center suddenly makes sense.

Your Career Center is at the heart of this storm. Your Career Center – rightly or wrongly will be held responsible for improving the ratings and collecting the data. You might as well get ahead of the storm and start a discussion on campus that gets everyone engaged and involved in student, grad and alumni career success.

So what can you do?

  1. Do some more research! Learn more about the College Scorecard and its requirements. Make sure you understand how this will affect enrollment. Then, dust off those dreams and strategies you’ve always wanted to implement and meet with your staff to bring them up to date.
  2. Next, start a “drip marketing” campaign. Send letters, emails, and stop in and visit those you report to – to share reports, strategies and ideas about how your college can change the culture on campus to increase the likelihood that your campus will get higher ratings than peer institutions on the College Scorecard.

If those to whom you report are not scared to death, and if they are not willing to listen, run for the hills! (just kidding)

A lot is at stake here.

Let me repeat. If your management doesn’t take advantage of this opportunity to change the culture on campus, if your management doesn’t change its focus, if your management ignores this, or thinks the College Scorecard is not going to affect the future health of your campus and the legacy it represents to alumni and supporters,it is your responsibility to do whatever it takes to help them “get it.”

When you do, you will be richly rewarded, students will be better prepared to land jobs in our globally competitive marketplace and your alumni will be better suited to support the financial needs of the college.

You will be a change agent that changes the trajectory of lives!

Are you interested in leading a discussion on your campus?


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Don Philabaum
Love to find ways to use technology help more grads and alumni develop successful career strategies.
Don Philabaum
Don Philabaum
Don Philabaum

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