U.S. News College Ranker Poses Questions About Federal College Ratings

Career College Central summary:

  • Robert Morse, director of data research for U.S. News & World Report and leader of its famous annual college rankings, wonders exactly how the government plans to meet what appears to be a September 2015 launch date for a new federal system to rate colleges on measures of value and access. So far, the system is still under development. No draft plan has been released for implementing the initiative that Obama launched with a speech in August. Yet there are some 5,000 degree-granting institutions in the United States, and if they are all to be rated credibly and effectively, time is growing short.
  • “Nobody should doubt at all that this is a big, big, big, big data project,” Morse said Thursday at a federal symposium to examine the technical details of what is known as the Postsecondary Institution Ratings System, or PIRS. Morse knows whereof he speaks. He has been tilling these fields for decades.
  • More questions from Morse: Exactly who is in charge of the ratings? Who will decide if the methodology, the weighting of factors in formulas and the categories of institutions all make sense? How will those decisions be reviewed? The administration appears to be seeking to group and compare schools with “similar missions.” Why would it not use the well-vetted Carnegie classification of colleges that is the standard for higher education?
  • And another big question: What will the government do to ensure colleges do not misreport the raw data that feeds into the ratings? Will it be a surprise, Morse wondered, when the Department of Education digs into its own data for analysis “and quickly finds out that it is not the gold standard?” After all, Morse pointed out, in those well-publicized instances in recent years when colleges have submitted erroneous data to the U.S. News rankers, they have generally submitted the same bad numbers to the federal government.

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