- Prospective students using Google to search for information about colleges will now find details for two-year institutions and popular certificates and associate degrees at four-year colleges, the company announced.
- The update augments the search engine's year-old feature offering details such as tuition and acceptance and graduation rates for four-year colleges. Also new is the ability to generate lists of colleges based on searchable factors such as field of study and location.
- Google's expanded features arrive as college application season gets underway and students turn to consumer tools and rankings to inform their selections — behavior higher ed experts have long cautioned may not result in the best college pairing for students.
Research shows they can be powerful resources for students evaluating where to apply and, eventually, enroll. But the recent college admissions scandal, which involved several top-ranked schools, highlights the risk associated with the hyper-focus on exclusivity that those lists tend to breed.
"Exclusivity begets panic begets big donations so Junior can get in — or even criminal conduct," wrote Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin shortly after the scandal broke.
Some elite colleges are rethinking the importance they place on selectivity metrics such as acceptance rates and test scores. This comes as their acceptance rates continue to drop well into the single digits.
For its part, the U.S. News ranking last year tweaked its formula to stop counting acceptance rates, reduce the weight of test scores and add social mobility indicators. The College Board, which administers the SAT, is hoping to help level the playing field for standardized testing by providing a composite "adversity score" for test takers that considers their socioeconomic situation.
Offering students information about a wider range of colleges and programs could also help. The sole focus on four-year institutions in the first iteration of Google's search tool created "a major blind spot," wrote the American Enterprise Institute's Jason Delisle and Cody Christensen in a blog post last month. Community colleges and for-profit colleges should have been included, they argued.
"Google's search-display magic is reserved for students interested in just one part of our higher education sector — the one that mostly caters to traditional, full-time students seeking academic credentials who are often from upper-income households," they wrote.
Better data has also been called for in order to give students a more accurate view of their college options. Google is pulling information from the U.S. Department of Education's College Scorecard and Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), which have both been criticized for providing a restricted view of colleges' student bodies.
Preliminary program-level data was added to the Scorecard earlier this year and recent bipartisan legislation asks for more data to be collected on graduates' earnings, employment and additional education based on their program of study.