As Education Department officials fan out across the country to hear feedback on the administration’s proposed college rating system, the associations that represent colleges are starting to stake out firmer stances against some parts of the plan, reports InsideHigherEd
“After offering a relatively restrained response early on, higher education associations are beginning to more clearly articulate their concerns about the administration’s ratings plan, even
though it’s still not clear what such a ratings system will look like. President Obama in August proposed that colleges be rated based on metrics measuring their affordability, accessibility to low-income students, and student outcomes. The administration plans to publish those college ratings by the 2015 academic year and eventually persuade Congress to allocate federal student aid based on how institutions perform.
“The department holds the last of its four public hearings Thursday at Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge. But officials have been meeting privately with student advocates, college presidents and other stakeholders.
“The leaders of private nonprofit colleges gathered in here last week, in part, to map out their response to the proposed ratings system and meet with department officials.
“David Warren, president of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, said the college presidents on his board were in agreement in principle with the administration’s goals but took exception to a federal ratings system.
“We are strongly requesting that the president and department rethink having a federal value metric,” Warren said in an interview. “We’re encouraging them to see if there isn’t another way to get after these shared values of affordability, completion, and accountability.” Warren said that private college leaders would be willing to work with the department to find ways to provide better information to students choosing colleges, citing NAICU’s U-CAN database as a model. But, he said, they would be opposed to the government emphasizing some pieces of information over others or combining data points into a single rating in an attempt to identify colleges that offer better “value.”
“Value ought not be determined by the department,” Warren said. David Maxwell, the president of Drake University, who sits on the NAICU board and attended a meeting with Education Department officials last week, said it’s legitimate for the government to ask what it’s getting for its $150 billion investment, through loans and grants, in higher education each year. But, Maxwell said, a federal rating system wouldn’t provide that type of accountability and would instead impede student choice.”