By Senior Correspondent Desirée Taylor
A new federal website is designed to help families do their homework before choosing a college or university. The College Scorecard includes information about enrollment, graduation rates and the total cost. Darryl Greer, Senior Fellow at the Hughes Center for Public Policy at Richard Stockton College of New Jersey calls the website a useful tool, not a panacea.
“Families have to be careful looking at the Scorecard because it’s the net price, meaning the total cost of going to college …. subtracting grants,” said Greer.
When you consider factors such as scholarships, grants and other options for financial aid, the Scorecard shows that the typical family paid $18,813 at Princeton between 2007 and 2009, which is less than the College of New Jersey’s price tag of more than $19,000. Greer says that’s because Princeton can afford to offer many of its students scholarships.
Director of Media Relations for Montclair State University Suzanne Bronski says the website included inaccurate information about MSU. “Over the two-year period from 2008 to 2010, the cost of an education at Montclair State (including tuition, fees, room and board) increased by a modest 9.7 percent — not the 34.5 percent increase cited in the Scorecard,” said Bronski. But she added that “the university commends the U.S. Department of Education for providing a resource to help families make informed decisions when selecting colleges and universities.”
But even if you factor in scholarships, grants and other options for financial assistance, tuition is still too high for most families to pay for out of pocket. As a result, most students — about two-thirds in the U.S. — have to take out loans. In New Jersey, the average student loan debt was more than $27,000 for the graduating class of 2011. That’s $4,000 more than in 2010 according to a report by the Institute of College Access and Success, a public policy group.
Greer, of the Hughes Center for Public Policy, believes government will have to do more to make college more affordable.