President Obama’s college rating system has “rattled” college presidents, reports the New York Times. They were “appalled” when a top education official said it would be as easy as evaluating a kitchen appliance.
“It’s like rating a blender,” Jamienne Studley, a deputy under secretary at the Education Department, said to the college presidents after a meeting in the department’s Washington headquarters in November, according to several who were present. “This is not so hard to get your mind around.”
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.
The “entire higher education system from elite private institutions to large state universities to community colleges” is worried the ratings will be simplistic and misleading, reports the Times. President Obama wants Congress to use the ratings to allocate the billions in federal student loans and grants.
Community colleges, which admit many poorly prepared students, are very afraid their challenges will be ignored. Federal data doesn’t track part-time and returning students. Students who transfer to a university before earning an associate degree may be counted as dropouts. College leaders “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,” reports the Times.
“Applying a sledgehammer to the whole system isn’t going to work,” said Robert G. Templin Jr., the president of Northern Virginia Community College. “They think their vision of higher education is the only one.”
Colleges and universities will be rated based on factors such as “how many of their students graduate, how much debt their students accumulate and how much money their students earn after graduating.”
Liberal arts colleges may do poorly compared with engineering schools. Colleges with “large numbers of students who major in programs like theater arts, social work or education, disciplines that do not typically lead to lucrative jobs” may rate poorly.
The system will “thoughtfully measure indicators like earnings, to avoid overemphasizing income or first jobs, penalizing relatively lower paid and public service careers, or minimizing the less tangible benefits of a college education,” wrote Studley in blog post on the Education Department website.