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Department of Edu­cation. Wiki­media Commons

The U.S. Department of Edu­cation acknowl­edged on Monday its error last year in calling Hillsdale College a “pre­dom­i­nantly cer­tificate degree-granting insti­tution” rather than a four-year insti­tution that offers bachelor’s degrees as well as master’s and doc­toral degrees.

The erro­neous statement came in Sep­tember 2015, when The Col­legian asked an Edu­cation Department spokes­woman why Hillsdale College was excluded from the department’s new College Scorecard, which Pres­ident Barack Obama said pro­vides a “com­pre­hensive” look at infor­mation of all four-year col­leges.

“The department’s first dis­cussion with Hillsdale included an incorrect expla­nation of Hillsdale College’s not appearing on the scorecard; that expla­nation, related to cer­tificate-granting schools, applied to another Hillsdale,” the Edu­cation Department said in a statement to The Col­legian.

The original comment from Denise Horn, now-former Edu­cation Department assistant press sec­retary, drew con­cerns from parents, prospective stu­dents, high school coun­selors, and college sup­porters at the time, Senior Director of Admis­sions Zack Miller and Provost David Whalen said.

“We’re pleased the Department of Edu­cation under­stands the degree-granting nature of the college,” Whalen said. “Its error about that created some confusion…However, it would still be preferable, if the scorecard approached more nearly its stated infor­ma­tional purpose and included so ven­erable and aca­d­e­m­i­cally strong an insti­tution like Hillsdale.”

The reason for Hillsdale’s exclusion, despite Pres­ident Barack Obama calling the scorecard “com­pre­hensive” for its Sep­tember 2015 launch, was made more evident in January, when the department added 700 cer­tificate degree-granting insti­tu­tions to the score­board but not Hillsdale. Monday’s statement reaf­firmed that the Edu­cation Department excluded Hillsdale from the College Scorecard because it is not a Title IV insti­tution, meaning it doesn’t accept federal funds.

“Hillsdale College…does not, and is not required to, report to the department the student-level data that the Edu­cation Department uses to cal­culate federal debt, repayment rate, and median earnings data,” the statement said. “In fact, the department is by law per­mitted only to collect student-level infor­mation for federal financial aid recip­ients, so we would not be per­mitted to collect data on other, non-recip­ients of federal financial aid. Because those insti­tu­tions would lack many of the key data points the Scorecard pub­lishes and pro­motes, the site does not include insti­tu­tions that do not par­tic­ipate in the federal financial aid pro­grams, including Hillsdale.”

While the Edu­cation Department cannot demand student-level infor­mation from non-Title IV insti­tu­tions, Hillsdale College is already sub­mitting such data to the department’s National Center for Edu­cation Sta­tistics for the Inte­grated Post­sec­ondary Edu­cation Data System, though that infor­mation doesn’t include student loan repayment to the college. The College Scorecard obtains infor­mation on federal loan repayment from the Internal Revenue Service.

Reg­istrar Douglas McArthur said Hillsdale offers bac­calau­reate, master’s, and doc­toral degrees.

Pres­ident Larry Arnn said he was happy that the Edu­cation Department does rec­ognize that Hillsdale isn’t a cer­tificate degree-granting insti­tution.

“The college is an excellent college and widely known to be an excellent college,” Arnn said. “It is serious about its mission…The college has these pur­poses, and it announces them, and it pursues them, and it pursues them objec­tively at a high level. In the end, that will determine our rep­u­tation and not what people say who don’t know who we are. Those people are pow­erful, but that doesn’t mean they have cred­i­bility. It depends on their excel­lence. And I don’t have any­thing to say about that.”

The department wouldn’t specify the insti­tution it men­tioned as being mis­taken for Hillsdale College in Monday’s statement, though Hillsdale Beauty College is clas­sified as a “cer­tificate” insti­tution in the College Nav­i­gator, a platform of the Edu­cation Department’s National Center for Edu­cation Sta­tistics. The infor­mation dis­played in the College Nav­i­gator is sup­plied by IPEDS, which also pro­vides some of the College Scorecard’s data. At that time, Hillsdale College was sub­mitting infor­mation to NCES for inclusion in IPEDS, but the agency didn’t accept the data, Whalen said. The college, therefore, would have appeared in neither IPEDS nor the College Nav­i­gator.

“Hillsdale is a pre­dom­i­nantly cer­tificate degree-granting insti­tution,” Horn said in Sep­tember 2015. “Hillsdale does offer bachelor’s degrees. However, because the plu­rality of degrees it awards are cer­tifi­cates, not two-year or four-year degrees, it was not included on the scorecard at launch.”

Hillsdale College is now listed as a four-year insti­tution, offering bachelor’s and “advanced” degrees and not cer­tificate awards, in the College Nav­i­gator. The NCES added Hillsdale, after the college received notice it could vol­un­tarily submit infor­mation to IPEDS without ethnic or racial data of stu­dents on Oct. 8, 2015, Director of Insti­tu­tional Research George Allen said. Hillsdale sub­mitted the fall 2015 survey Oct. 9, 2015, to be included in the database. It, however, didn’t add Hillsdale to the College Scorecard.

Whalen said there is no ini­tiative the college is pur­suing to have Hillsdale added to the scorecard, though the issue is fre­quently dis­cussed.

“The college would happily coop­erate with any plan from the Department of Edu­cation to reform the College Scorecard,” he said. “But it could become a project for Hillsdale at some point.”

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Breana Noble
Breana Noble is The Collegian's Editor-in-Chief. She is a born and raised Michigander and studies politics and journalism. This summer, Breana interned in New York City at TheStreet, a business and finance news website. She has previously worked for The Detroit News, The American Spectator, and Newsmax Media. She eventually hopes to pursue a career in investigative journalism. email: bnoble1@hillsdale.edu | twitter: @RightandNoble