By Jamie Gumbrecht, CNN
(CNN) - After President Barack Obama announced last week the release of a "College Scorecard," there was a small explosion on Twitter and perhaps in the minds of college applicants deep in the weeds of school selection.
Isn't there enough of this already?
Is this going to do anything better?
Is this scorecard even a good idea?
The College Scorecard is not the same as U.S. News and World Report, Kiplingers, Fiske or most other college rankings and guides out there. It's not going to say if a school is among the 10 best anything, whether the students are cute or brilliant, if the dorms are swanky or if a school's mascot would win in a wrestling match - if you even believe rankings can reflect that.
During the State of the Union address, Obama said the College Scorecard would show "where you can get the most bang for your educational buck." It's a nod toward how tough it is to find a school and figure out how to pay for it. Its creators say it was built to reveal value, to show whether a school is worth the money - if you even believe numbers can reflect that.
It pulls together data already sprinkled around government reports and individual schools’ websites. It answers questions like, how much do students and their families pay? How much do students borrow? After all that, do students actually get degrees, and jobs?
Go to whitehouse.gov/scorecard, and type in the name of a school. Or scout one by location, area of interest or type of college, like distance education, campus setting or size. Click to choose one, and what comes back are graphics that depict the average net price: an estimate of the average amount it actually costs to attend, minus scholarships and grants.
Consider Occidental College in Los Angeles, the college young Obama attended after graduating high school in Hawaii. The College Scorecard says it costs $27,846 per year on average, which puts Oxy in the high-cost range. Families of its 2,125 students typically borrow $18,020 in federal loans for an undergrad to attend, and the loan payment would be about $207.37 per month over 10 years. The scorecard also says that about 83.5% of full-time Oxy students earned a bachelor’s degree within six years, and 12.8% transferred to another institution, like Obama, who went on to graduate from Columbia University in New York. There's a space on the scorecard to explain what types of jobs students get after graduation, but nothing is listed there. Sara Gast, a U.S. Department of Education press officer, said they expect to add the info within a year.
Any Oxy applicant is likely to notice the price. It's about $30,000 less than the price listed on Oxy’s website: $57,028 per year for tuition, room and board and fees. That "sticker price" could make potential students cross Oxy off the list immediately, even if they might qualify for tens of thousands in financial aid, even if the true, typical price is far lower. There's a sticker price, and then there's the price paid after deals are offered, negotiations attempted, loans approved and rewards claimed.
San Jose, California (CNN) - At 17 years old, Jessica Perez is an honor student who aspires to be the first member of her family to graduate from college.
But when it came to the application process, she felt lost, alone and ill-prepared.
"I didn't really know where to start," said Perez, who wants to be an astrophysicist. "There wasn't really anybody at home that could help me figure out how I could reach my dream."
Perez's grandparents, who raise Perez and her two siblings, both work long hours to make ends meet. And neither continued their education beyond elementary school.
Fortunately for Perez, she was directed by her school guidance counselor to a nonprofit called Strive for College.
"It helps students who don't really know anything about the college process," she said. "College students come to you and they tell you how to do it because they've been through it also."
Strive for College pairs high-school students with college students for free, one-on-one consultation over a yearlong period. Each pair works together through the application process for colleges, scholarships and financial aid.
Michael Carter's nonprofit has already helped 600 low-income students enter four-year colleges and universities.
"We take them through every little step of the process, because, frankly, it's a pretty detailed process - and if you miss one step, you could ruin all your chances," said Michael Carter, who founded the nonprofit in 2007 while he was a college freshman.
So far, Strive for College has already helped 600 low-income students across the country enter four-year colleges and universities. And it expects to help an additional 900 this year.
(CNN) - A kid raised in a middle-class Boston suburb, Michael Bloomberg took out loans to pay for his tuition at Johns Hopkins University and worked as a parking lot attendant.He learned early to pay it forward.
Bloomberg's first gift to his alma mater was a whopping $5 in 1965, a year after he graduated with a bachelor's degree in engineering.
Fast forward to Saturday, when the Baltimore university announced Bloomberg has now given a total of $1.1 billion. The latest commitment came in the form of a cool $350 million toward a "transformational" initiative aimed at cross-discipline solutions to societal problems.
In a statement, Johns Hopkins said Bloomberg, a former trustee, is believed to be the first person to ever reach the $1 billion level of giving to a single U.S. institution of higher education.
The university's Twitter feed was aglow with information on the gift. One tweet heralded the announcement with the words, "Big News," which might have been an understatement.
Among other things, the donation will fund 2,600 Bloomberg Scholarships over 10 years and 50 distinguished scholars.
Of the $350 million, $100 million will go toward "need-based financial aid" for undergraduate students.
"Johns Hopkins University has been an important part of my life since I first set foot on campus more than five decades ago," Bloomberg said in the press release. "Each dollar I have given has been well-spent improving the institution and, just as importantly, making its education available to students who might otherwise not be able to afford it."
By Trina R. Shanks, Special to CNN
Editor's note: Trina R. Shanks is an associate professor of social work at the University of Michigan and a Rhodes Scholar. She was appointed to serve as a member of Michigan's Commission on Community Action and Economic Opportunity from 2010 to 2012. This essay was written in association with The Op-ed Project.
(CNN) - I am the granddaughter of an elementary school cook and a woman who cleaned other people's homes. Both my grandmothers worked hard and didn't earn much money, but they encouraged their children to get an education.
Although starting from limited economic circumstances, my parents both earned a college education and were able to attain a middle-class lifestyle to raise me and my siblings. I, their daughter, went on to receive a Ph.D. Unfortunately, this type of upward mobility is much less likely for the children of maids and school cooks today.
A decent job and a decent life should be a possibility for anyone who makes an effort. As a nation, this was more likely in our past than in the present. A college education should be affordable to anyone who is willing to do the work, but that is no longer our reality. As the likelihood of a college degree and economic security becomes less attainable for a significant portion of the population, the future of the United States will be in jeopardy.
Late last month, Congress passed a bill that will keep student-loan interest rates from doubling, just days before the deadline. It's an important step in keeping college affordable, but student-loan interest rates are only one piece in a complex puzzle that shapes how income level and educational opportunity are linked - and the effects begin years before a student might apply for loans.
A new program at Chicago's Dominican University uses private funds to pay for the education of 17 undocumented immigrant students.
The university's president calls the program a "moral responsibility." An Illinois state representative says it's illegal.
What do you think? Tell us in the comments: Should a private university take students' immigration status into account when offering scholarships?
By Donna Rosato, @Money
(MONEY Magazine) - Raising three daughters born within a five-year span, the Fuccis knew they'd face steep tuition bills one day. But saving was tough.
The family lives in high-cost Westchester County, where their property taxes have tripled over the past decade.
For many years Stefanie worked part-time as a personal trainer. Now Kimberlee, 17, plans to go to James Madison University in Virginia this fall, where costs top $30,000 a year; high school sophomore Celine, 16, has pinned her hopes on going out of state too.
The Fuccis have already co-signed $14,000 worth of private loans to pay for 21-year-old Brittany to attend New York's Fashion Institute of Technology (she also has $14,000 in federal Stafford loans). Still, they are determined to let their kids go to their dream schools.
"Out of state goes against our plans, but it's the right fit for Kimberlee," says Stefanie.
How can this family afford to pay for college?
By Ted Barrett and Deirdre Walsh, CNN
(CNN) - House GOP leaders are expected to discuss whether or not to extend a rate cut on student loans at a meeting Wednesday morning.
On Tuesday, top Senate leaders from each party indicated they had reached an agreement but were waiting to hear whether House Republicans would accept the deal.
The White House issued a statement praising the Senate deal and pressed House Republicans to accept it.
"We're pleased that the Senate has reached a deal to keep rates low and continue offering hardworking students a fair shot at an affordable education," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said in a statement. "We hope Congress will complete the legislative process and send a bill to the president as soon as possible."
House GOP leaders were still looking at the details, said Michael Steel, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner. He also declined to say whether they would bring the deal up for a vote in the House.FULL STORY
Here's what the editors of Schools of Thought are reading today:
New York Times: Amid Million Dollar PTAs, a School Fights to Keep Its Library
In response to an article on New York City PTAs that raise a million dollars, KJ Dell'Antonia says that one city school had trouble raising $40,000 to save its library. The school doesn't quite make the cut for Title I funds which would have saved the library outright, and Dell'Antonia wonders why parents should have to shoulder that financial burden.
U.S. News: College Financial Aid Packages May Become Clearer in 2013
Ten colleges and universities have pledged to release more detailed information about financial aid offers to prospective students. Students will be given financial information that includes how much the school will cost per year, the differences in the type of aid offered, and how much a monthly loan payment could be.
Food Safety News: Nearly Every State Opts Out of 'Pink Slime' for School Lunch
The U.S. Department of Agriculture says that only three states have ordered Lean Finely Textured Beef (LFTB), which critics call "pink slime," for their school lunch programs. Ground beef without LFTB costs about 3% more. The USDA and the beef industry say that LFTB is safe, but one beef producer isn't surprised that states have cut their orders for the product.
Justin Combs worked hard in high school to improve his football game and earn a 3.75 GPA . He recently received a $54,000 merit-based scholarship to UCLA, where he'll play football.
In April, Forbes named Justin Combs' dad, Sean "P. Diddy" Combs, the wealthiest artist in hip-hop. Some say the family should return Justin's scholarship, arguing that Combs should pay for his son's education and taxpayer money should go to students with greater financial need. Other say Justin Combs earned the scholarship through his grades and athletic ability, and deserves to keep it.
What do you think? Should the Combs family keep, return or donate the money? Should students with wealthy parents have access to merit-based scholarships and financial aid?