The College Scoreboard website that President Barack Obama mentioned in his State of the Union speech Tuesday lists Iowa's three public universities as having comparatively low to medium average costs. That's the good news.
The bad news is that the average graduate's monthly student loan payback over 10 years is $235 to $254 a month, which is comparatively high, according to the website. That's not new information, but it is presented in a helpful way to consumers on the website.
Further, students can quickly and easily compare yearly cost for a bachelor's degree at Simpson College ($19,044), Drake University ($23,670), or Kaplan University in Urbandale ($23,944) and how those price tags compare with those for similar institutions. Their ratings were medium, high, and high, respectively.
Reaction to the website from education experts was tepid, reports The New York Times.
Some of the data is outdated, and at least one anticipated component - how much money recent graduates are making in their fields - is not yet live, and critics said it may require a change in federal law to implement.
Heather Doe, associate director of marketing and communication at the Iowa College Student Aid Commission, said the website is a good place for prospective college students and their parents to start.
"I like it in that it's very easy to navigate and it's really easy and visually appealing," said Doe, whose state agency helps Iowa students plan, prepare and pay for college.
But, she said, students will want to check other websites to continue their research.
For example, the average monthly student loan payment of about $236 at University of Iowa would be hard for most 18-year-olds to put in perspective unless they know the average salary they can expect to make in their field upon graduation.
In that case, they might want to use the "slope" (student loans over projected earnings) calculator on the Ihaveaplaniowa.gov website, she said. The calculator will compare the student's projected loan repayment costs against the average salary in his or her field of study.