I’m less-than-enthused about this year’s college Bowl Championship Series. (Admittedly, some of that stems from the fact that my beloved Buckeyes are ineligible this season despite their undefeated record). So reviving the College Cost BCS, now in its second year, brings a little excitement to an otherwise-predictable bowl season. We can guess that Stanford will run all over Wisconsin, Louisville will cower to Florida, and Northern Illinois … well, they’re just happy to get a bowl invite. But how do these colleges fare when they go head-to-head on issues of college affordability? Yikes. That’s a different ball game. Admittedly, the BCS isn’t a representative sample of higher education in America (nor is it an accurate gauge of the best teams in college sports, but that’s a story for another day); the BCS teams do, however, represent a wide swath of geographic areas and student populations. So it’ll be interesting to see how Kansas State and Oregon, for example, compare when it comes to tuition increases and net prices, rather than running games and quarterback accuracy. And that makes me just a tad more excited for this season’s matchups.
Here’s a detailed breakdown of how teams will compete in each quarter:
1st quarter: Student loan default rate
If an institution has a high percentage of students who default on their loans two or three years after leaving school, it suggests that those students are having trouble finding suitable work that will allow them to repay those loans. In the extreme, it calls into question the marketability of the degree and the quality of education provided. The U.S. Department of Education collects this information every year and punishes schools with ridiculously high default rates (so high that only two institutions fell under this category this year). We’ll consider three-year cohort default rates, giving a field goal (3 points) to institutions that keep rates under the average (7.9 percent for public, four-year schools and 7.3 percent for private, four years). We’ll award a touchdown and PAT (7 points), however, to those institutions that have rates lower than national bank card default average, 3.58 percent.
2nd quarter: Tuition increase
College tuition is the bane of everyone’s existence right now—students, who have to pay for it; lawmakers, who face public heat for letting it run rampant; and institution leaders, who keep looking for ways to do more with less. And while the College Board’s annual Trends in College Pricing report would lead you to believe that college tuition increases really aren’t all that bad (public, four-year universities increased fees by 4.8 percent this year), these increases were still more than double the rate of inflation. For institutions that kept their increases below inflation, we applaud you and give you a touchdown. And those who kept them in line with (or better than) College Board averages will earn a fair field goal. (We used historical data to accurately cross-compare institutional data from College Navigator; those averages are 8.3 percent for public, four-year institutions and 4.5 percent for private, four-years.)
3rd quarter: Net price
Tuition, of course, isn’t the price students actually pay. After grants and scholarships are awarded, the actual sticker price drops—and for that, we give BCS teams an opportunity to put points on the board. Those institutions with net prices lower than the national average are awarded a field goal. (Again, we use historical data to cross-compare: $10,080 for public, four-year universities and $21,020 for private, four-years.) If the net price, however, is lower than the first-year Stafford loan limit of $5,500, the school is more accessible to low- and moderate-income students. This deserves a touchdown.
4th quarter: Debt-to-credential ratio
Education Sector developed this ratio to measure how well institutions are doing by graduating their students—and more importantly, graduating them with less debt. The ratio divides the total number of degrees awarded at an institution into the total amount of money borrowed by undergraduates. The lower the ratio, the better an institution is doing at graduating its students, and doing so with less debt. Teams go head-to-head here: A touchdown goes to the team with the lowest ratio. The other team drops their heads on the sidelines in defeat.
Who will win now? Tune in Jan. 1, when bowl games start, and root for your favorite team. (Or consider re-adjusting your alliances, given the circumstances. We won’t tell.)
Links to the games are added as they are published. Click on them below:
Photo credit: BCSfootball.org