College Comparisons

The article “Is College Worth the Cost?” discusses in general terms whether the academic degree is worth the debt. This article identifies tools that can help students and their families compare individual colleges.

College Measures, a company run by Mark Schneider, who previously served as commissioner of education statistics at the U.S. Department of Education, works with states to create systems for comparing outcomes for different colleges. These systems provide information about graduation rates, income after graduation, average debt and unemployment rates for each college and academic major in the state. Examples are the CompareCollegeTX and MyFutureTX web sites for Texas. Other participating states include Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Tennessee and Virginia.

The College Affordability and Transparency Center, operated by the U.S. Department of Education, includes links to all college net price calculators. The accuracy of these calculators may vary, but the intention is to provide personalized estimates of the discounted sticker price at the colleges after subtracting grants, scholarships and other gift aid (money that does not need to be repaid) from the full cost of attendance. The U.S. Department of Education’s College Navigator web site provides information about each college’s net price for each of the last three years. In addition, it shows the average net price in five income bands, enabling students and parents to get a sense for the affordability of each college. has a tool that provides an estimate of the lifetime earnings for a set of academic majors at some of the nation’s leading colleges.

There are also popular college rankings, such as those published by U.S. News & World Report, Money Magazine, Kiplinger’s Personal Finance Magazine, Forbes Magazine, Princeton Review, Times Higher Education World University Rankings, Niche (College Prowler), Academic Ranking of World Universities and the Washington Monthly. It is unclear whether the differences in rankings are meaningful, since none of the rankings disclose the statistical significance of variations in a college's ranking. There are also tools that provide detailed profiles of individual colleges, such as College Navigator, College Scorecard and UCAN.