New federal website shows universities are a risky bet
Ken Braum –
Pretend you’re a recent high school graduate holding onto $13,000, and you must bet the money on one of two risky propositions.
First, there is the Alabama Crimson Tide football team, winners of three of the last six national championships. At 9-1 odds, they’re the third-best bet to do it again. So plunk down $13,000 on old reliable Alabama and you may wake up on the morning of Jan. 12 and be able to claim $130,000.
The second option is tuition at Northern Michigan University. Put the $13,000 down on that, and College Scorecard — a new U.S. Department of Education database — says you have bought yourself just one year of full-time classes (room and board is extra).
But unlike your high school classmate putting money on Alabama, you’ll need to wait many years to find out if the bet pays off, and need to make the same $13,000 bet three or more times. College Scorecard says the waiting won’t be easy.
To begin with, your chance of returning for a second year is just 72 percent (which, remarkably, is above the national average). Pick out three friends on your first day, and one of you won’t return.
Then there’s going the distance. College Scorecard says the graduation rate at NMU six years after new student entry is 46 percent (again, what the government says is about the national average). So look at your freshman roommate and assume one of you — and possibly both — won’t be snagging a diploma by June 2022.
Ten years after arrival at NMU, College Scorecard says, you have just a 53 percent chance of earning more than an average kid whose formal education ended in high school. Out of 7,959 undergraduate students at NMU placing this bet, 3,740 will be on the losing end. Lake Superior State University (54 percent) and Wayne State (59 percent) are just slightly better.