Disunited Front

Career College Central summary:

  • Hardly anybody in higher education seems to like the Obama administration's proposed ratings system. But college leaders are certainly not united in their views about the appropriate role for the federal government in holding institutions accountable. In the eight months since the president first announced his ratings idea, colleges of all sorts have questioned — if not blasted — the proposal. Private colleges have strongly urged the administration to reconsider its plan and are rallying members of Congress to stop it. The president’s own former homeland security secretary, Janet Napolitano, now the president of the University of California system, has criticized the ratings proposal. For-profit colleges, whose more immediate concerns lie with the administration’s gainful employment regulations, have also criticized the plan. And community colleges have said they’re concerned a ratings system could curtail access to higher education for underprivileged populations.
  • As administration officials prepare for a fall release of a ratings framework, few college leaders are cheering them on. But for all that apparent unity, the various sectors of higher education have taken sometimes strikingly different positions on some of the questions raised by the plan, in ways that are likely to put them at odds with each other in the coming months.
  • One such contrast between different types of institutions is over the question of whether the federal government should change how it doles out roughly $150 billion each year in federal loans and grants for college, directly linking it to how well institutions perform on a set of criteria.
  • Some public universities have said that while they’re concerned that a ratings system would be the wrong mechanism for allocating federal loans and grants, they do support the government's coming up with a new way to distribute that money based on how well institutions perform.
  • The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities earlier this year proposed an “alternative plan” to the Obama ratings proposal that calls for linking institutions’ receipt of federal student aid to how well they graduate students who can successfully repay their loans and find employment (or enroll in advanced education) — as long as those calculations are adjusted based on the relative levels of preparedness of a college’s student body.

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