Commentary: Recent changes to Education Department data tool help veterans compare schools

Military Times

by Diane Auer Jones

Student veterans are proving that they are at the top of the class on campus. According to Student Veterans of America’s National Veteran Education Success Tracker, student veterans using the Post-9/11 GI Bill are more likely to graduate, to have a higher GPA, and to earn academically-rigorous degrees in fields of business, science, technology, math and engineering compared to their peers.

This is tremendous! And, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is committed to building on that success by making sure all students, including veterans who have sacrificed so much for our country, have access to accurate, accessible and relevant information when choosing the higher education option that will help them reach their goals.

That is what the most recent update to College Scorecard is all about. This important tool helps students compare schools and see how alumni are doing in their careers after graduation. If we want students to use this tool to its fullest potential, we must help students make appropriate comparisons that are relevant to them.

In the past, the College Scorecard has relied too much on national averages that are often misleading. If there’s anything we know about student veterans, they are anything but average; they represent the best of America. And they deserve a tool that helps them find the right school where their peers are succeeding.

In fact, most students when searching for a postsecondary educational opportunity begin by comparing specific institutions within their own region, within a particular price point, or within an admissions selectivity category that aligns with their own talents and prior academic performance. The information they receive should reflect as much.

It’s not hard to see how information on national averages, which includes earnings and graduation rates of Ivy League graduates in Massachusetts, would be irrelevant and misleading to a prospective student of a public university in Nebraska or a community college in Chicago.

A student veteran – or any student for that matter – could pass up a worthy educational opportunity as a result of this misleading data. This is unfair to students and institutions alike. Similarly, an employer could pass up a well-prepared and talented employee simply by misunderstanding how irrelevant a national median actually is.

That’s why Sec. DeVos believes students should be able to make apples-to-apples comparisons among the institutions available to them, which is precisely what the current Scorecard format enables. The College Scorecard allows a student to select among institutions he or she is considering, and view the outcomes achieved side-by-side, on the same screen.

Ultimately, student veterans deserve relevant information about options that are actually available to them. By presenting information tailored to comparisons they select, the Scorecard works for them and for all students.