LOS ANGELES TIMES: White House’s college ratings system controversial even before completion

Career College Central Summary:

  • The Obama administration is developing a national rating system for colleges and universities to provide more transparency and give students and taxpayers a better sense of where to spend their education funds.
  • But even before it is released, it has triggered an avalanche of protests and nitpicking from many of those institutions as well as much lobbying in Washington and the opposition of Republicans in Congress.
  • After 15 months of discussion, many details remain either closely held or undecided, and federal officials say that only a general conceptual framework is expected to be released by Dec. 21.
  • So far, the administration has said it will use tuition, financial aid, loan debt, graduation data and alumni earnings, among other factors, as measurements in the system.
  • Some critics predict it will be unworkable since other important data are not easily available, such as the graduation rates of transfer students. They also say it could hurt schools that serve large numbers of low-income and minority students and those that tend to produce more teachers and police officers than investment bankers and doctors.
  • "Most college and university presidents think the likelihood of producing a meaningful, useful and accurate rating system is very low but the risk for their institutions of being harmed by an inaccurate rating is pretty high," said Terry W. Hartle, the American Council on Education's senior vice president for government and public affairs.
  • Jamienne S. Studley, a U.S. Department of Education deputy undersecretary who has been a point person on the plan, acknowledged that the mystery and delays have added to the sensitivity.
  • "We invited not just speculation but caused some anxiety. And for that we apologize," she said in a recent speech to the American Assn. of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers in Los Angeles. But she said that the White House's goal remains to have the full effort in place by September 2015.

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