The White House's new scoring system for the cost of going to college shows great disparities among Tucson-area schools, although some are questioning the accuracy of the data.
Making good on his State of the Union speech, President Obama on Wednesday launched a website where users can compare tuition, borrowing costs, graduation rates and loan default rates at colleges and universities around the country.
The University of Arizona ranks relatively well on several measures.
UA's annual net cost of tuition - the amount a typical undergraduate pays after grants and scholarships are subtracted - is deemed low at $12,185 a year and its six-year graduation rate is high at 61.4 percent, the site says.
J.C. Mutchler, executive director of the UA President's Office, said UA's actual cost of attendance is about $1,000 lower than what's shown on the federal website - $11,270 rather than $12,185.
UA's graduation rate is the highest in the state, Mutchler said.
The vast majority of UA students who take out federal student loans repay them, the data also show. Only 6 percent default within three years of starting repayment - less than half the national default rate of 13.4 percent.
At Pima Community College, the school's net tuition of $2,971 a year is low, but so are its graduation rates, the website says.
Less than 12 percent of PCC students graduate, and its default rate for federal student loans is 23.4 percent, 10 points higher than the national average, the website says.
Paul Schwalbach, a PCC spokesman, said the tuition figure on the federal site seems about $1,000 too high. He said PCC's tuition is $1,905 for a full-time student, defined as one taking 30 credit-hours a year.
The Art Institute of Tucson, with about 500 students, stacks up as one of the city's most expensive, according to the federal website.
The site says it costs $27,598 a year to attend the institute. It also says the school's graduation rate is zero, when, in fact, the federal government's own source data for the website say at least 50 percent of students have graduated within four years.
"It's very disappointing that the information is so inaccurate, said Art Institute spokeswoman Natalia Derevyanny.
Contact reporter Carol Ann Alaimo at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 573-4138.
College score card for arizona
The College Affordability and Transparency Center has rated the tuition cost as relatively "low" compared with the national average for the following state schools:
Institution Enrollment Cost per year* Graduation rate Loan default rate**
Arizona State University 58,404 $10,599 57.5% 5.9%
Northern Arizona University 20,746 $13,131 51.8% 7.4%
University of Arizona 30,665 $12,185 61.4% 6%
Pima Community College 36,969 $2,971 11.9% 23.4%
* Cost per year based on net price or what undergrad students pay after grants and scholarships are subtracted from institution's cost. ** Percent of borrowers who defaulted on federal student loans within three years of entering repayment. The national average is 13.4%.
Source: College Affordability and Transparency Center
Check out the colleges
College score card was designed by the U.S. Department of Education. The interactive website offers different ways of searching for schools including location, ZIP code, enrollment, degrees offered and types of colleges. The score card can be accessed from www.whitehouse.gov or the U.S. Department of Education's website at www.ed.gov