College tuition is on the rise, with no end in sight. As such, the demand for accountability and transparency has become even greater than ever before.

In his 2013 State of the Union address, President Obama announced the launch of the College Scoreboard, a transparency tool designed to help students and their families make informed decisions in higher education.

The interactive tool, released by the U.S. Department of Education, incorporates five data points about a given college:

  • Costs;
  • Graduation rate;
  • Loan default rate;
  • Average amount borrowed; and
  • Employment.

Users can search through all U.S. colleges – public and private – by name, or by any number of criteria, including geographic location, size, degree/major, and even type of setting (urban vs. rural).

Students and families familiar with the college search process will likely welcome this new tool with open arms, as it is easy to use, comprehensive, and presumably, quite reliable. In addition, it blends the interactive college selection factors (“I am interested in a mid-size school in Ohio, offering a major in civil engineering, etc.”) with the pragmatic facts and figures, from graduation rates to employment data.

The tool also shows changes over time – e.g., “the average net price to attend this university has increased by 29% between 2007 to 2009 – Miami University – Oxford, Ohio.

While designed for students and their families, the College Scoreboard has many practical applications for the research, academic, public policy, and municipal investment communities as well. This tool earns an A+ for usability, innovation, usefulness, comprehensiveness, and for providing accountability and transparency among our nation’s institutions of higher education.