In his weekly address on September 12, President Obama touted the Department of Education’s new “College Scorecard,” the latest, greatest tool to help high school students and their families make informed (dare we say educated?) decisions when picking a college. The website offers students a means of comparing schools—by graduation rates, cost of attendance after financial aid, and the average salaries earned by graduates.
“Americans will now have access to reliable data on every institution of higher education,” said the president in his address.
Further examination of the site shows the veracity of that statement might depend on what your definition of “every” is. Several schools, including Hillsdale College in Michigan, Christendom College in Virginia, and Grove City College in Pennsylvania, were excluded from the listing.
The schools were understandably shocked by their exclusion. Grove City’s president, Paul J. McNulty, released a statement calling the scorecard “incomplete,” and saying that Grove City graduates “enjoy a well-recognized return on an affordable investment that exceeds national averages in all of the Scorecard categories.”
In a statement posted on its website, Hillsdale College noted that it “is recognized consistently by independent organizations . . . as one of the best liberal arts colleges in the country.”
As the schools sought to learn more about why they weren’t included, things became more murky. When Grove City contacted the Department of Education for an explanation, they were told that “the site is limited only to Title IV [federal financial aid] participating institutions.”
But that wasn’t what Vivian Hughbanks, a reporter from the Collegian, Hillsdale’s student newspaper, was told when she called the department.
“Hillsdale does offer bachelor’s degrees,” Denise Horn, assistant press secretary for the Department of Education, told the paper. “However, because the plurality of degrees it awards are certificates, not two-year or four-year degrees, it was not included on the Scorecard at launch.”
A quick search of Hillsdale’s home-page shows that the school awards not only B.A. and B.S. degrees but also master’s degrees and Ph.D.s.
The real reason behind the exclusion might be what wasn’t in Horn’s statement to the Collegian. Both Hillsdale and Grove City refuse federal funding and have made such refusal part of their mission statements. It seems that with the College Scorecard, the federal education bureaucracy may be striking back, trying in however petty a fashion to make it marginally more difficult for these schools to operate.
The Scrapbook shares the confidence of Hillsdale president Larry Arnn that students looking for “a rigorous, classical liberal arts education will find [it] without the federal government’s help.”