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Department of Education Releases Finalized College 'Scorecard'

Harvard topped many of its peer institutions on key metrics like affordability, graduation rates, and alumni salaries detailed on the U.S. Department of Education’s new college scorecard, officially released this weekend.

The final version of the scorecard departs from previous Obama Administration plans, which called for explicit rating of colleges against one another, and instead provides school-specific data for students to compare colleges.

Obama Comes to Boston
President Barack Obama on his visit to Boston last week.

Harvard’s scorecard highlights a graduation rate of 97 percent and an average salary 10 years after graduating of $87,200—the highest in the Ivy League. The national post-graduation salary for college students is $34,343, which is almost $10,000 more than the national average earnings of high school graduates, six years after enrolling, according to a White House fact sheet.

Though the cost of Harvard College’s tuition, including room and board without financial aid is $60,659, Harvard offers significant aid for students from low-income backgrounds, making its average annual cost $14,049, as calculated on the scorecard. Harvard had better overall ratings than its West Coast competitor Stanford, which had an average cost of $15,713, a 95 percent graduation rate, and a $80,900 post-graduation salary.

The scorecard also breaks down several other metrics including student body demographics, average SAT and ACT scores, and financial aid.

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Two years ago, in light of increasing price tags for a college education President Barack Obama first unveiled his plan to create a centralized government site that would stack schools up against one another. From the beginning, the planned rating system was met with criticism from many higher education leaders, including University President Drew G. Faust, who sounded off about Obama’s proposal in interviews with The Crimson and letters to national newspapers.

“Making college more affordable for students and families is a fundamental goal that we in higher education are dedicated to support,” Faust wrote in a letter to the editor published in The New York Times in February 2013.

And though Harvard graduates’ salaries grossly exceed the average, Faust criticized scoring colleges based on the wages of their alumni. “When we decide what to measure, we signal what counts. Equating the value of education with the size of a first paycheck badly distorts broader principles and commitments essential to our society and our future,” she wrote in 2013.

On Saturday during his weekly address, more than two years after Faust’s op-ed, Obama praised the Education Department’s scorecard in remarks, arguing that it focuses on college affordability more than other popular college rankings.

“Right now, however, many existing college rankings reward schools for spending more money and rejecting more students–at a time when America needs our colleges to focus on affordability and supporting all students who enroll,” Obama said Saturday. “That doesn’t make sense, and it has to change.”

Harvard, however, is waiting to judge. “We are still assessing the new College Scorecard and the wide array of data released by the Department of Education yesterday,” University spokesperson Jeff Neal wrote in an email. “We appreciate the rich dialogue with the administration over the last months and share their deep interest in improving access, affordability, and success in higher education.”

The release of the scorecard preceded by one day new plans for FAFSA applications, which allow students to begin applying for financial aid starting Oct. 1 instead of in January.

—Staff writer Theodore R. Delwiche can be reached at theodore.delwiche@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @trdelwic.

—Staff writer Mariel A. Klein can be reached at mariel.klein@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter@mariel_klein.

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