More than a year after its initial announcement and after multiple delays, the Obama administration on Friday finally unveiled the first draft of its plan to rate the country’s 6,000-plus colleges and universities.
It could herald a major shift in how the federal government interacts with American colleges — if Republicans don’t halt it before it begins.
“In today’s world, college is not a luxury that only some Americans can afford to enjoy; it is an economic and social necessity for all Americans,” the Department of Education said in its announcement.
The rating plan reflects that sentiment, proposing a system that will focus almost exclusively on a college’s price and the job outcomes of its graduates, while ignoring its scholarly attributes.
Despite the long wait for its release, the proposed plan unveiled Friday is more of a rough draft, less ambitious and less detailed than what might have been. Rather than giving specific scores and rankings in the style of U.S. News, the government instead plans to slot colleges into a handful of broad quality categories that will merely identify the pretty good and the not-so-good.
In addition, the government hasn't finalized what factors will be used to create its ratings, instead proposing an array of possible factors that are grouped into the three broad categories of access (how many poor and first-generation students are able to attend a school), affordability (a school’s actual price), and performance (how many students graduate and what their job outcomes are).