College Affordability and Transparency List

7-10-2013 5-31-22 PM.pngIs your institution on “the list”? 

In June, the U.S. Department of Education released the 2013 College Affordability and Transparency List. The list features institutions with the highest and lowest tuitions and net prices in the U.S. and highlights increases in college costs. The data include “full-time beginning students” and are available to the public for free. Users can explore the information by sector, browse lists of institutions with increases and decreases in the cost of attendance, and learn about the cost of vocational programs.  

In a recent AIR survey, 48% of respondents noted that they are very or somewhat familiar with the College Affordability and Transparency List, 33% are not familiar with it, and 20% have never heard of it. 

In terms of usefulness for students and families:

  • 4% of respondents think the data are very useful,
  • 38% think they are moderately or somewhat useful,
  • 27% think they are not useful, and
  • 31% do not know. 

When asked about the list’s impact on decisions at their institutions:

  • 24% of respondents think it has high or some impact,
  • 38% think it has no impact, and
  • 31% are unsure. 

Respondents who offered comments about the list expressed frustration with it. Of particular concern is that the list features tuition figures without relevant contexts, such as the complex ways in which institutions are funded. Also, the list is not paired with information about the value of higher education. Furthermore, respondents explained that many public consumers of these data may not understand that the list reflects only first-time full-time students and what that means in terms of definition and applicability. Concern about an institution’s presence on the list varies—it is not desirable to be on the list, but the one-size-fits-all approach leads some higher education professionals to question its value.    

The list is housed in the College Affordability and Transparency Center, which also includes the College Scorecard, College Navigator, and information about proprietary schools, net price calculators, and state spending on higher education.  

What is your experience with the College Affordability and Transparency List? Share thoughts and questions below, and view the full survey results.



To add a comment, Sign In
Total Comments: 5
Terry posted on 7/11/2013 8:01 AM
I can see the impact being the greatest for those schools showing up on the list. If you are not deemed one of the highest or lowest I think other factors will be a larger influence on a student's college decision.
Evelina posted on 7/11/2013 8:36 AM
The furstration of users coming as a result of the one-size-fits-all approach is a cause of concern. A lot of institutions ranking top as "highest increase" in tuition "make" it on the list because of very low starting/base tuition levels. I see how this can me difficult to interpret and not very useful to consumers of this information.
Angel posted on 7/11/2013 10:16 AM
I agree with Evelina. Making it onto the list for highest increase can be misleading, especially when the cost of tuition is still one of the lowest in the state in which an institution is located. All the facts behind the data are not communicated, simply a percentage increase.
Randy posted on 7/11/2013 1:54 PM
The mini survey results are really striking for me. First, I could see any AIR member being asked to explain what this list means to a president/provost/board member who saw this in a some news report. That so many respondents couldn't report familiarity shows both the need for always learning and working to stay up to date and how hard it is to do that when the workload is large and growing.

Secondly, the fact that only 4% of very informed members think these data have merit should tell news reporters why they shouldn't make the list "headline" news. It is amazing to me that AIR members have been pretty vocal about the weaknesses of the various commercial rating systems and yet have been mostly silent about this one.

There is a doctoral dissertation just waiting to be written using these data and the "real story" behind them.
Eric posted on 7/15/2013 1:00 PM
This reminds me of some re-occurring conversations I have had with my institution's administration. We submit and receive data on the national level, state level, and internally, and depending on the topic there might be different answers to the same question. For example, many people are concerned, and rightfully so, about enrollment and retention. If I respond with IPEDS/College Navigator data, then that information will be different from the state level data or the internal data because they measure slightly different variables. I am glad that there is concern about transparency in higher education, and one excellent way to promote transparency is through publicly accessible data. However, not everybody who uses the Scorecard, Navigator, and other national data sources really understands what the numbers represent.