ValuED News Roundup: New Ratings System Could Affect Your College Choices

Rating College Choices

Often citing his own experience paying back student loans, President Obama has made college affordability a key focus since taking office. One of his most wide-reaching initiatives to date is the proposal to introduce college ratings system in an attempt to help students make better college choices and hold institutions more accountable for student debt and student success.

Based on affordability, student completion rates, and graduates’ earnings, the ratings would determine the amount of federal financial aid dollars colleges receive. Originally intended to be begin in the 2014-2015 academic year, the Education Department recently announced that the new rating system will not be ready until 2015-2016. That announcement, however, has not quieted debate over the initiative, which has been the subject of controversy since it was proposed last fall. Here’s the latest:

Criticisms Abound
Several presidents of major U.S. colleges have expressed concerns that a rating system like the one being considered would elevate financial interests above academics. They also worry that institutions serving minority and low-income students would rank lowest in the rating system, hurting the very populations the president says he wants to help.
[New York Times]

Different Colleges, Different Concerns
While the proposed ratings system has been met with broad criticism, colleges don’t necessarily agree on how the federal government should instead hold institutions accountable. The Association of Public and Land-grant Universities supports the idea of the government coming up with a new way to distribute money based institutional performance, but instead proposes linking institutions’ receipt of federal student aid to how well they graduate students who can successfully repay their loans and find employment. But for-profit colleges are concerned with the gainful employment regulations. Community colleges worry the ratings system would curtail access to higher education for underprivileged populations, and private colleges are urging congress to stop the ratings system altogether.
[Inside Higher Ed]

Obama Defends Against the Backlash
Earlier this month, a bipartisan pair of Congressional representatives introduced a resolution opposing the college ratings system, warning that the government’s oversimplified ratings would mislead prospective students. President Obama, meanwhile, argued that it the ratings system is essential for students. He explained that the goal is to make sure students have enough information going into college so they can identify good values versus bad deals, and avoid schools that cost a lot and don’t deliver return on investment.
[Inside Higher Ed]

Choosing the right college is an important decision. Would a rating that compared the cost of a university to the success of its graduates help you ensure you are getting a good deal? Please share your thoughts!

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