Obama scorecards aim to end ‘trust us, we’re worth it’ era

Louisiana State University president says some US institutions fear new ratings system because they have been misleading students

August 7, 2014

Source: Louisiana State University

Top cat: schoolchildren are keen to visit Louisiana State to see its mascot, Mike VI

President Barack Obama’s proposal to create a scorecard to rate colleges on graduation rates, affordability and graduate earnings will bring an end to the practice of mis-selling the benefits of higher education to students and parents.

This is according to F. King Alexander, president and chancellor of Louisiana State University, who, in a Times Higher Education podcast, said that some institutions fear the new ratings system because they have been misleading prospective students and charging tuition fees that are too high.

“The era of universities saying ‘trust us, we’re worth it’, is over,” Dr Alexander said. “I hear concern from my colleagues at many institutions that really do not want to provide this information to parents, because they are concerned they have overcharged.”

But given the cost of higher education in the US, he said, it was right that such information was shared.

“We are saying look at what our graduates can do, look at what they are doing. We want your sons, daughters and adult learners to be a part of what we believe will get you to the next career or the next step in economic stability,” he said.

When it comes to tempting new students to Louisiana State University, strong graduate outcomes are not the only trick the institution has up its sleeve.

It also has Mike, or more accurately Mike VI – a 600lb (2kg) Bengal-Siberian tiger. He is the sixth incarnation of the university’s sports mascot, and lives in a $3 million (£1.78 million) enclosure near the Louisiana State football stadium.

“[Many] schoolchildren come to the university…because they want to see Mike and get their pictures taken near him,” explained Dr Alexander. On home match days – if willing – Mike is wheeled around the ground in a cage, with cheerleaders perched on top.

The first “Mike” was purchased in 1936 when Louisiana State students each chipped in 25 cents to raise $750 to buy a tiger from the local zoo.

“Mike is the third largest tourist attraction in the state of Louisiana,” Dr Alexander said. “He comes out about every third game and enjoys the spectacle,” he added.

chris.parr@tsleducation.com

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