President Obama introduced the White House’s College Scorecard, a compilation
of federal data including student debt and attendance cost for over 7,000
colleges and universities, last Saturday. While the scorecards aren’t an outright
ranking, they are intended as a means of comparison for prospective students
and families choosing between schools. In some data categories, Bowdoin scored
predictably high. With a graduation rate of 94 percent and a first-year retention
rate of 97 percent, the College far surpasses the respective national averages.
Bowdoin’s average annual cost for students receiving federal aid, $18,613,
is only $1,824 greater than the national average and is the smallest such figure
in the NESCAC. This relative affordability speaks well of the College’s financial
aid packages.

One statistic the scorecard highlights is average salary after attending, which
considers the income of alumni who received federal student aid ten years after
they entered school. For Bowdoin graduates, that number is $54,800. That is a
significant step above the national average of $34,343 and the sixth highest in the
NESCAC. However, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education, Bowdoin
alums’ median annual earnings are fourth-lowest among colleges whose students
averaged scores of at least 1400 on their SATs. Considering their alma mater’s
prestige, Bowdoin graduates are earning relatively little. Many students and families
in the throes of the college search will find this information useful as return
on investment is an important factor to consider when choosing a school.
But attending Bowdoin is more than just a means to an end. We think of college
not only as a financial investment, but as an experience that can fulfill us in
other ways, too. It’s impossible for any data-based scorecard or rating system to
measure the relationships, values and skills we develop. There’s no way to quantify
these aspects of life at Bowdoin, but they shape our lives here and beyond in
significant ways.

Still, initiatives like the College Scorecard show that statistical comparisons do
have a role in helping people approach a large investment like a college education.
One number that doesn’t appear in the College Scorecard, but that we find
significant, is the alumni giving rate. A U.S. News article from December 2014
listed Bowdoin as one of ten schools where the highest proportion of alumni
donate. As the Orient reports this week, over 61 percent of alums donated to the
College last year
, an all time high.

This statistic represents a group of people who have had time to reflect on
their experience at Bowdoin and everything it did for them—whether intellectually,
socially, emotionally or financially. And remember, this statistic measures
breadth, not depth of giving. It does not speak to the raw amount of money the
College receives, but it is significant because it shows many Bowdoin graduates
are still dedicated to the institution. In giving money to the College, alums are
expressing satisfaction with their Bowdoin education. Regardless of the numbers
that come out, most are willing to put something back in.

This editorial represents the majority view of the Bowdoin Orient’s editorial
board, which is comprised of John Branch, Sam Chase, Matthew Gutschenritter,
Emma Peters and Nicole Wetsman.