Magazine article University Business

And Rankings for a LI: Questioning National College Rating Framework

Magazine article University Business

And Rankings for a LI: Questioning National College Rating Framework

Article excerpt

College ranking systems are typically viewed as unreliable metrics, often accused of practicing favoritism based on questionable criteria that varies by publisher. In an attempt to provide an unbiased and informed resource for prospective students and their families, the Obama administration has formulated its own version of a college ranking system. Based on three areas--access, affordability and outcome--the initial rating system has been presented as a "framework" that's still being crafted, with comments requested from academia and the general public. It is scheduled for debut before the beginning of the 2015-16 academic year.

According to a press release from the U.S. Department of Education, the federal system will:

* Offer U.S. colleges and universities a set of benchmarks in which to mark progress and identify areas for improvement.

* Give students and families reliable information about college costs and selection.

* Generate data that will guide how the government spends $ 150 billion on financial aid each year.

The rating system continues to generate controversy, with several Republicans--including Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee), Virginia Foxx (R-North Carolina) and John Kline (R-Minnesota)--as well as some for-profit universities, among those finding fault with the initial proposal.

Much of the criticism revolves around the systems standards. "The essence of a college education is directly connected to the quality of its academic programs," says Molly Corbett Broad, president of the American Council of Education. "The third component, outcome, relates more to earnings downstream and does not act as an assessment of the overall quality of the program. …

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