Can Obama Beat The College Rankings Game?

Career College Central summary:

  • With a new ratings system to be rolled out by the Department of Education before the 2015 school year, colleges will be assessed first and foremost on performance metrics. The proposal might sound like common sense, but compared to how most rankings are done it’s somewhat radical.
  • For example, U.S. News & World Report calculates its well-known national university rankings based on “widely accepted indicators of excellence.” These indicators include “undergraduate academic reputation,” “retention,” “faculty resources” and “student selectivity.” The emphasis President Obama's plan is on reputation: standardized test scores of admitted students and prestige of faculty members.
  • Obama is proposing a switch from inputs to outputs. Rather than examine what it takes for students to get into a school, the president would like to see ratings focus on what those students can get out of their education.
  • Though he knows it might not be popular, the president is also prepared to give the proposal teeth. With the help of Congress, Obama hopes to have legislation passed by 2018 that would tie the federal aid colleges receive to the government’s rating system. High-performing colleges could be awarded more federal funding, while underperformers could get less.
  • Could such an overhaul work? Ideologically, the focus on value seems like a step in the right direction, but on a practical level the implementation of such a system is questionable. As pundits have noted, if it were easy to devise an outcomes-based way of evaluating colleges, it would have happened already.

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