Education officials should make sure the information included in the scorecard is given to every high school student, she said. That presents a problem, she said, since administration officials likely couldn't take that step without a law requiring it.
While the tool doesn't provide an outright ranking of schools, it allows the user to see an average net price for each school along with a rough estimate of how that school's rates compare with similar institutions.
For example, the University of Oklahoma's net price is listed as $15,289 per year. According to the tool, that cost is low to medium compared to its peer institutions.
Oklahoma State University shows an average net price of $12,990, which places the university at the low end of its peer group.
The tool doesn't specify which institutions are considered for comparison. That could present a problem for parents and students who are trying to get a clearer picture of the cost of college, Fishman said.
Although showing how each institution compares to other similar schools gives context to the numbers, families may be considering different factors when considering colleges. As a result, the other universities the U.S. Department of Education counts as peer institutions may not be relevant to a family's decision.
“They don't really show what the similar institutions are,” Fishman said. “A little transparency can go a long way.”
To learn more
For more information on the College Scorecard, go to www.