QUAD CITIES ONLINE: Government rating colleges, bad idea that’s likely to happen

Career College Central Summary:

  • In August 2013, the Obama administration announced that they planned to publish their ratings of college and universities by the 2015-2016 academic year, which is only a few short months away.  The details of what they intend to do remain sketchy.  Nevertheless it seems likely that they intend to push forward with this ill-advised endeavor.
  • But, you might ask, why is the Obama administration taking it upon itself to become the Consumer Reports of higher education? That's a good question.
  • Some of the proposed criteria the Department of Education intends to use in the ratings are not particularly controversial, among them the percentage of first-generation college students who enroll and the percentage of students from low-income families. However, efforts to measure the outcomes of the educational experiences of students are another matter, particularly if average or median income of graduates is a factor in this assessment.
  • Many leaders in higher education, including Augustana President Steve Bahls, have expressed concern about this. In comments submitted to the U.S. Department of Education, President Bahls asked rhetorically, "Is a college that prepares teachers and clergy less worthy than a college that prepares investment bankers? He added that in his experience "there is little correlation between a job's earnings and its inherent value to society." I share his concerns.
  • Undersecretary of Education Ted Mitchell has responded to this criticism by saying that the Department of Education is thinking about setting a threshold by rating colleges on the percentage of graduates who earn salaries that exceed some multiple of the minimum wage or poverty line in the short term.
  • However, when interviewed for an article published in Inside Higher Education, he also said that the Department of Education might use graduates' average or median salaries as a long-term metric to assess outcomes 10 years after enrollment or six years after completion of a degree. In short, the problem is not going to go away.

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