Obama college rating plans ‘should be ditched’

An organisation with more than 200 US university members has formally urged the federal government to ditch plans for a college ratings system

February 15, 2015

The Association of Public and Land Grant Universities wants President Barack Obama’s administration to instead embrace a more “practical plan for transparency and accountability reform”, describing current proposals – which would see universities rated on tuition fee rates, the amount of debt students accumulate, and the amount of money they are paid post-graduation – as “complex… with numerous technical challenges and near certain inaccuracies”.

A counter-proposal by the APLU would see institutions rated on what it calls a more accurate measure of student progress known as the Student Achievement Measure, the net price of courses allowing for available grants and loans, employment rates post-graduation, and the number of students re-paying student loans.

“We agree with the administration’s broad goals, but fear that its focus on a college ratings system threatens to undermine a much-needed opportunity to improve transparency and accountability in a meaningful way,” said APLU president Peter McPherson. “APLU’s plan provides an effective path forward that would ensure students and their families as well as the general public have greater access to key, accurate data about institutions.”

The Obama administration has previously indicated that the ratings system would commence at the start of the 2015-16 academic year, but the first versions could be available by late spring or early summer, it has been reported.

Critics have raised concerns that the ratings could penalise institutions with lower graduation rates, including those which serve poorer communities.   

“Institutional outcomes cannot be evaluated without taking into consideration the level of preparation and entering characteristics of an institution’s student body,” an APLU statement said.

“In order to fairly compare all institutions, APLU recommends the creation of a student readiness adjustment, which would account for various factors of an institution’s student body.”

Such an adjustment method would, the organisation says, enable policymakers to judge institutions on a more equal playing field. 

chris.parr@tesglobal.com

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