Obama Pushing Rating System for Colleges, Universities

Article excerpt

President Obama unveiled a plan Thursday for the federal government to establish a rating system for colleges and universities that will ultimately link federal aid to performance.

The rating system is intended to encourage institutions to help more students graduate on time, provide opportunities to more disadvantaged students, and make college more affordable. College students now graduate with an average of nearly $26,000 in debt.

"The president believes we have to fundamentally rethink how higher education is paid for in this country," said Cecilia Munoz, director of the Domestic Policy Council. "These are bold reforms. They're not going to be popular with everyone, especially those who benefit from the status quo."

The Obama administration plans to spend more than a year developing the rating system, with input from students, college presidents, experts and others, two White House representatives said this morning in a conference call with reporters.

The idea is to provide prospective college students and their families with information so that they can make informed choices.

"The idea is to give students some guidance as to which colleges are creating value and which are not," said James Kvaal, deputy director of the Domestic Policy Council. "Not just to reward colleges for spending more if that spending is not helping students learn."

Generally, the intent is to base college ratings on factors that will include the percentage of low-income students at a college, as measured by the number receiving Pell grants; affordability, as measured by tuition and average debt; and outcomes, measured by graduation and transfer rates, graduate earnings and advanced degrees of graduates. …