Try harder: Obama’s report cards do not convince

Proposal for scorecard system for US institutions ‘doomed to failure’

March 20, 2014

Source: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/Shutterstock.com

President Barack Obama’s proposal to create a scorecard that will rate colleges on affordability, graduation rates and the earnings of graduates is doomed to failure, according to the president of a prestigious US college.

Kim Cassidy, the president of Bryn Mawr College, a women’s liberal arts college in Pennsylvania, told Times Higher Education that it was an “extraordinarily difficult task” to produce a metric that would be fair to all institutions, and that there was “too much opposition” for the government to make progress with the plans. “My worry is that you’ll end up either compromising so much, to get everybody happy, that the measures on the card will be meaningless, or you will put a stake in the ground that will grossly penalise somebody,” she said, pointing out that community colleges that serve poorer communities might sacrifice academic rigour in order to ensure that their graduation rates improve.

“You risk giving people really perverse incentives,” she said. “Some students [at community colleges] might not be completing because they are going on to get a four-year degree [elsewhere]. ‘So what’ that they didn’t get their associate degree – are they a failure?”

Further opposition to the scorecard was revealed last month when the White House published the formal comments that it had received from the higher education sector in response to the proposal.

Among those commenting was Rudy Fichtenbaum, president of the American Association of University Professors, who said that the plan would “likely result in a decline in the quality of education” offered to students from poorer backgrounds.

“The creation of so-called report cards…will result in a race to the bottom, driving public universities and non-elite private universities to standardize their curricula to ensure they get a passing grade,” Professor Fichtenbaum wrote.

Meanwhile, David Warren, president of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, wrote: “Private, independent college leaders do not believe it is possible to create a single metric that can successfully compare the broad array of American higher education institutions without creating serious unintended consequences.”

chris.parr@tsleducation.com

Times Higher Education free 30-day trial

You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Post-doctoral Research Associate in Chemistry

University Of Western Australia

PACE Data Support Officer

Macquarie University - Sydney Australia

Associate Lecturer in Nursing

Central Queensland University
See all jobs

Most Commented

women leapfrog. Vintage

Robert MacIntosh and Kevin O’Gorman offer advice on climbing the career ladder

Mitch Blunt illustration (23 March 2017)

Without more conservative perspectives in the academy, lawmakers will increasingly ignore and potentially defund social science, says Musa al-Gharbi

Michael Parkin illustration (9 March 2017)

Cramming study into the shortest possible time will impoverish the student experience and drive an even greater wedge between research-enabled permanent staff and the growing underclass of flexible teaching staff, says Tom Cutterham

The University of Aberdeen

Tim Ingold and colleagues at the University of Aberdeen have created a manifesto that they hope will preserve higher education's true values

Interactive app at natural history museum

If the outcomes of ‘active learning’ are so much better than those for traditional lectures, why stick with the old format? asks Simone Buitendijk