Why the Obama administration should drop its plan to rate colleges

Nov 23, 2013 by

…it will give college and universities a rating based on metrics that could include the percentage of students

By Janet Riggs –

President Obama wants to use the power of the federal government to make choices for students and families about higher education. A proposed new rating system would use federal student aid as a means of pushing students towards certain institutions of higher learning and away from others. One might reasonably wonder what the government is trying to accomplish with such a strategy.

Last week I was among a small group of college presidents who were invited to discuss the proposed system with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Secretary Duncan said that the government wants to assure that families and students have accurate information about institutions of higher education as they make their college choices. This is a goal that I fully support. Colleges should be as transparent as possible about student outcomes. At my institution we share graduation rates, average loan debt, and career and graduate school placements with prospective students, and we would be willing to share more. During the meeting, our group agreed that sharing clear information was important and that we would be willing to develop new methods for sharing our data in ways that could be more easily understood.

So if we are so willing to be transparent, why are those of us in higher education concerned about this new ratings initiative? And why should the public be concerned as well?

The “twist” is that the proposed rating system will not just require colleges and universities to provide more information about their students’ outcomes. Rather, it will give college and universities a rating based on metrics that could include the percentage of students receiving Pell grants, average tuition and loan debt, graduation and transfer rates, graduate earnings, and advanced degrees. To encourage colleges and universities to improve on these metrics, the federal government will provide more student financial aid to institutions that rate more highly. That is, students will only be able to receive a full Pell grant if they decide to go to an institution that is government-approved.

via Why the Obama administration should drop its plan to rate colleges.

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