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Business and Policy Areas
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College Search Sites Speak to Calls for Accountability

October 2, 2007

The Spellings Commission’s calls to the higher education community to provide more consumer-friendly information for prospective students and their parents have resulted in the launch of two online college-search databases. The sites, independent of one another, are designed to guide students in comparing colleges in a variety of ways and in making more informed choices when selecting an institution.

The U.S. Department of Education’s new college search site, College Navigator, replaces the previous College Opportunities Online Locator.  Though College Navigator does not provide additional information to that offered in the COOL site, its search engine is more robust and allows students and families to compare side by side the data from as many as four institutions. The public is able to search for colleges based on such characteristics as geographic location, athletic teams, and specialized mission (such as that of an institution for women only).

In addition, the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities (NAICU) released its searchable college Web site, the University and College Accountability Network.  U-CAN contains profiles of more than 600 independent institutions, representing 42 states, and is available free of charge.  Users are able to gather in-depth information in 42 quantitative areas, such as class size, the average loan at graduation, the price of attendance, and net tuition. Furthermore, the site offers 25 different hyperlinks to college Web pages, which allow users to see what makes that particular independent institution distinctive from another.

Despite the recommendation from the Spellings Commission to make available data on learning outcomes, the two new sites have not gone that far.  The department’s College Navigator does not include information on student learning outcomes. Although NAICU’s U-CAN site does not include specific learning outcomes within the templates, institutions may include such information in their profiles and provide hyperlinks to their Web sites for information on learning outcomes, such as the results of their National Survey of Student Engagement.