US Government to introduce a College Rating System

The New York Times has an interesting article about how colleges in the US are rattled as President Obama Seeks a Rating System for Colleges in the US. The basic idea is that colleges and universities receive about $150 billion in loans and grants from the government, and the government wants to see what all that money is buying.

What is this rating system?

The rating system is in fact a radical new effort by the federal government to hold America’s 7,000 colleges and universities accountable by injecting the executive branch into the business of helping prospective students weigh collegiate pros and cons. For years that task has been dominated by private companies like Barron’s and U.S. News & World Report.

How would this rating system work?

The rating system, which the president called for in a speech last year and is under development, would compare schools on factors like how many of their students graduate, how much debt their students accumulate and how much money their students earn after graduating. Ultimately, Mr. Obama wants Congress to agree to use the ratings to allocate the billions in federal student loans and grants. Schools that earn a high rating on the government’s list would be able to offer more student aid than schools at the bottom.

Of course there are problems, and lots of the colleges are complaining:

Many college presidents said a rating system like the one being considered at the White House would elevate financial concerns above academic ones and would punish schools with liberal arts programs and large numbers of students who major in programs like theater arts, social work or education, disciplines that do not typically lead to lucrative jobs.They also predicted that institutions that serve minority and low-income students, many of whom come from underfunded schools and have had less college preparation, would rank lowest in a new rating system, hurting the very populations the president says he wants to help.

Overall:

“As with many things, the desire to solve a complicated problem in what feels like a simple way can capture people’s imagination,” said Adam F. Falk, the president of Williams College in Massachusetts. Dr. Falk said the danger of a rating system is that information about the colleges is likely to be “oversimplified to the point that it actually misleads.”

Read the full article

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