Dear Commons Community,
College administrators have anxiously been awaiting the Obama administration’s new college ratings plan. They will have to wait a bit longer even though the USDOE released a “plan” yesterday that is more progress report than plan. As The Chronicle of Higher Education reports:
“The college-ratings plan that the Education Department is releasing today can best be described as incremental.
The plan, the product of more than a year of discussion and debate, is less a proposal than a progress report—an update on metrics the department is considering using in its system. It’s unlikely to assuage colleges’ concerns, but it’s unlikely to increase their anxiety, either.
Which measures might factor into the ratings? The list includes a number of expected metrics, like a college’s average net price, its students’ completion rates, and the percentage of its students receiving Pell Grants. It also includes labor-market outcomes and loan-repayment rates—measures that proved controversial during the protracted fight over the “gainful employment” rule.
But there’s a lot that the “framework,” as department officials are calling it, does not do. It doesn’t assign weights to each metric. Nor does it offer a plan for how similar institutions will be grouped.
It doesn’t say what format the ratings will take, and it doesn’t clarify whether the department will publish a single, composite rating, or a series of ratings.
Those gaps have left colleges “a little mystified,” said Sarah Flanagan, vice president for government relations and policy at the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, which has opposed the ratings…
Publication of the much-anticipated draft comes almost three years after President Obama used his State of the Union address to put colleges “on notice,” stating that his administration would not continue to subsidize rising tuition. He announced his plan to rate colleges the following year, during a three-campus “college cost” bus tour through New York and Pennsylvania.
Since then, the administration has proceeded cautiously, holding a series of public meetings and forums to solicit feedback from experts and advocates on how to construct the ratings. Mr. Mitchell estimated that the department has talked to 9,000 individuals about the plan.
The president’s goals are threefold: to help colleges improve, to help students make better decisions about which institutions to attend, and to allow policy makers and the public to hold institutions accountable for their outcomes. Ultimately, the administration wants Congress to tie some portion of federal student aid to the ratings.
But Republicans, who will control both chambers of Congress come January, aren’t likely to go along. They argue that the federal government has no business rating colleges and have threatened to cut off funding for the effort.”
Given the USDOE intrusion into K-12 education during the Obama adminsitration, American higher education is not putting out the welcome mat out for this plan.