Postscript on College Scorecard, OPMs, and Simmons University
In last week’s post I shared a view of Simmons University’s master’s programs, showing two-year cohort size for July 2015 – June 2017 as well as median student debt levels, with the new program-level data available in the College Scorecard. I do not think we have enough information or analysis to extrapolate and make broad conclusions, but I do think we have new data that is worth exploring.
Before moving onto other topics in the blog, I would like to share some additional data visualizations that address some of the commentary on the Simmons post. None of which proves particular conclusions, but all of which can be illuminating and worth considering. As a reminder, here is the graphic in question:
Below I paraphrase two of the points made on Twitter or in blog comments and then share additional data to address those points. For now I am using 2U OPM 1 data for three reasons: 1) the company is the OPM partner for Simmons and the original post, 2) they have a market niche for elite programs with higher tuitions and higher potential student debt levels, and 3) the company is the most transparent vendor in sharing their data.
Update: The student count is the number of borrowers in the cohort, not the total number of students. Students who were enrolled during that cohort period but took out no Title IV-based student loans would not be included. For example, Simmons’ master’s of social work has a Count (shown below) of 440 but an IPEDS-derived cohort enrollment of 534, and master’s of nursing has a Count of 532 but an IPEDS-derived cohort enrollment of 684. The Median and Mean data goes across the borrower count.
Do OPM-enabled programs lead to higher student debt than others?
This is probably easier to look at within a specific discipline and within a specific non-Simmons school. When looking at Social Work programs, it is not obvious from initial views of the data that the OPM-based nursing programs have higher student debt than others.
Let’s look at another school that uses 2U as an OPM partner, such as their largest client the University of Southern California. Again, it is not obvious from initial views of the data that the OPM-based nursing programs have higher student debt than others.
I think this question is worth further study, but Jeff Selingo made a good point about the more-general nature of these high debt levels.
Do Nursing and Social Work Programs Lead to Higher Debt Levels in General?
By ranking the master’s level programs across the full data set of roughly 230 disciplines, we get a better general sense of the average debt levels for social work and nursing programs (median by school averaged across all schools with data available for this discipline). Both disciplines appear to be middle of the pack in terms of student debt levels.
Social Work is ranked 122 out of 230 with median student debt of $39,622, and Registered Nursing is ranked 73 and $46,859.
Be Careful with Extrapolation
Sorry to pull a Mueller on you (if there had been enough analysis to say there is no correlation I would have said so), but there are not further conclusions to be made yet beyond a specific university or a specific program. I think the data will support further analysis and are valuable additions to the College Scorecard, but it’s safer now just to make observations and pose questions that can be studied in more detail over time. I also look forward to reading further analysis from other people exploring the new data.
Disclosure: 2U is a past client of MindWires and a subscriber to our LMS Market Analysis service.
Update 6/10: See in-line notes clarifying how the College Scorecard defines Count.
1 Disclosure: 2U is a past client of MindWires and a subscriber to our LMS Market Analysis service.
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