College comparison can change the market. The Department of Education's College Scorecard will make an impact on the market simply by the way in which data is presented and offered. Informational is powerful because it becomes a way we think about the world through impacting our mental structures and models. College Scorecard will not only change the way we think about college but also which get the best advertising through the site.
Let us first cover the idea of mental structures and models. The ways we think about the world are socially constructed so a large website that contains lots of interesting data will naturally change the way we think about higher education. By relaying information by cost, graduation rate and wages we begin to view these things as most important. Right or wrong it will not make a difference.
No doubt they are important but those universities that rely heavily on subsidies, endowments, taxpayer dollars, and legacies are likely to rank higher. Land grant universities and those with taxpayer dollars will come out with the best rates. If given a choice of one school or another you might just chose that ranks the best. Who wouldn't want to go to a prestigious land grant university?
Costs are skewed based on whether someone is in or outside a state. For example, if I attend an out of state school I could be paying a much larger rate when compared to in-state students. Most public universities are going to have a higher local rate based simply on that cost. The information only applies to local candidates and isn't a true reflection of all the costs.
It is also possible that elitist schools that are highly selective and restrictive to those with all the right financial and social connections will rank the best in terms of graduation rates and employment income. It is the same process with public high schools and how the neighborhood demographics influence school success rates. Those without the right backgrounds will be pushed into lower quality schools with lower graduation rates.
The website is beneficial but it should be seen with a grain of salt as no data can perfectly capture and reflect what is going on in the market. The data gives a hint at what is happening but won't truly show the whole situation without additional research. Most of us are not going to do that research so we will take what the site says at face value. When it impacts hiring decisions and college placement we may have a future problem leaving out those who appreciate the word "opportunity" the most.