POLITICO: GOP gives feds’ college rating plan an F

Career College Central Summary:

  • The Obama administration will soon publish its plan to rate more than 6,000 colleges nationwide based on the value they provide to students and to society.
  • The goal is to steer billions in federal financial aid toward the colleges that rate highly — and to yank funds from those that fail to meet administration standards on yardsticks such as the graduation rate, the cost of tuition or the percentage of low-income students on campus.
  • Congressional Republicans, outraged, are already going on the attack.
  • “They’re getting involved in something they have no business getting involved with,” said Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), a former college administrator. “Absolutely, it’s overreach.”
  • Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) plans to lead an effort to cut off funding for the ratings initiative. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) has said he’ll do the same in the Senate. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) is among many prominent voices denouncing the concept as profoundly flawed.
  • Education Secretary Arne Duncan has said he sees rating colleges as “a financial and moral obligation,” meant to help families make wise choices and to ensure taxpayers’ $150 billion annual investment in student aid isn’t squandered.
  • But GOP critics frame the rating plan — expected Friday — as yet another example of arrogance and imperialism from the White House. They argue that it’s not just presumptuous, but logistically impossible for the Education Department to assess the quality of so many institutions, ranging from Harvard to Honolulu Community College.
  • And they have some powerful allies in their corner, including several higher education trade associations and numerous college presidents, some of whom have been quietly lobbying their representatives for months — not that it took a lot of lobbying to rouse opposition to the ratings. Republicans on the Hill were already up in arms over the administration’s proposed crackdown on for-profit career-training colleges, calling it an unwarranted intrusion into the free market.
  • “To a lot of Republicans, this Department of Education has been characterized by mission creep, and [the rating plan] is simply another manifestation of that,” said Terry Hartle, senior vice president of government and public affairs at the American Council on Education.
  • The higher ed lobby argues that the ratings could do more harm than good, by purporting to capture the value of a huge and complex institution like a university with a single grade.

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POLITICO

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