Experts See Challenges Ahead In Creating College-Rating System

Career College Central summary:

  • President Obama has called for a new college-rating system to provide the public with information about value and affordability in higher education, but it's not clear yet how those concepts will be measured. Yet, the administration wants to have a draft of the system completed by the fall of 2014.
  • That will make for a challenging and controversial year ahead, according to higher education experts gathered for a panel at a conference sponsored by the Education Writers Association.
  • "This is something we will be wrestling with for the rest of this administration," said Terry Hartle, senior vice president of the American Council of Education. "They have the authority to do this. You should bet your bottom dollar that they will do this. You don't have the President of the United States give three speeches and suddenly decide it's too hard to do. They will do it. The extent to which it will be done well is very much an open question."
  • Initially, the administration suggested the rating system would be based on access, such as percentage of students receiving Pell grants; affordability, such as average tuition, scholarships, and loan debt; and outcomes, such as graduation and transfer rates, graduate earnings, and advanced degrees of college graduates.
  • How those criteria will be defined is open for discussion. The administration unveiled the idea in broad terms and said it would welcome feedback from the higher education community.
  • Zakiya Smith, a strategy director at the Lumina Foundation, said it is good that the metrics were not hammered out by policymakers and just announced, but that experts from colleges and universities are being asked for their input.
  • "I'm cautiously optimistic," she said. "I think it's important to give students some context about choosing college and give an authoritative source, which the government has the potential to do."

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