TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Google Now Displays Acceptance, Cost And Graduation Data In College Search Results

MontanaChronicle of Higher Education, Google Wants to Play a Bigger Role in Your College Search. Here’s What You Need to Know.:

Google waded into the college-search process on Tuesday, announcing that it would elevate certain statistics about four-year colleges when people use the ubiquitous search engine to seek out information.

Here’s what that will look like in practice, Google says: Enter “University of Montana” into the search bar, and a prominent result will be a selection of statistics about the institution — its graduation rate and average cost after financial aid, among other things.

To get those stats, Google will draw from two favorite data troves of higher-ed researchers: the College Scorecard and the Education Department’s Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, known as Ipeds.

On a search-by-search basis, the change might seem relatively minor. Searches already amplify information on colleges’ acceptance rates and material drawn from their Wikipedia pages. But Google’s immense power means the shift could have real-world ripple effects for students and the colleges recruiting them.

“Colleges should realize that the first thing students see now when they search for a college is some data on outcomes, pricing, test scores,” said Robert Kelchen, a professor of higher education at Seton Hall University. “If students and families want the data, they can get it quickly.”

That doesn’t mean the federal data being scraped by Google is bulletproof, Kelchen said. Some institutions’ habits for reporting data to Ipeds are already sloppy, and Google could provide an extra incentive to “colleges maybe trying to fudge their numbers a bit.”

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