How Do We Grade Higher Education?

February 4, 2014

Share on Facebook Tweet this

Last week, we talked briefly about how the President wants to shake up the higher education system by holding them accountable for both performance and how they help to reign in soaring tuition costs. This week we’re going to get into it a bit more by giving you a basic understanding on how this new system will work and how exactly it will do what it aims to do. We’ll mercifully do so without having to constantly wait for the applause to die down from half the room, while the other side sits on their hands. More proof that the State of the Union should probably go back to its roots of having the President just write a letter to Congress about what’s going on.

At any rate, here’s how the new system could help you.

What is the Ratings System?university-ratings-obama

By the 2015 school year, the Obama administration will begin evaluating colleges on the following measures:

  • Average tuition they charge.
  • The share of low-income students they enroll.
  • Effectiveness in ensuring students graduate without too much debt.

The president will also seek congressional approval to give more federal student aid to colleges that score highly in theses ratings. A student in financial need at such schools might qualify for a larger Pell grant or a better interest rate on a federal loan. Average tuition and fees topped $8,600 last year at public four-year colleges and $29,000 at private and nonprofit schools. This means that the total bill when you count room and board exceeds $50,000 at many elite schools. So this rating system could directly affect your own student loan debt.

How Will It Be Implemented?

In part, on the President’s executive power to collect, manage and publish data. He’ll need congressional approval on many of his proposals, and they will likely draw significant criticism from not only a divided Congress, but also colleges intent on protecting their market share. Any plan that requires legislation will be met with immediate obstacles. But that doesn’t mean parts of the system won’t be implemented soon, and the administration will keep up its sales pitch.

“Colleges that keep their tuition down and are providing high-quality education are the ones that are going to see their taxpayer money going up,” Obama said.

Which is more incentive to keep costs down.

What Are the Drawbacks?grading higher education

College leaders say rising tuition is a result of rising labor costs and, in the case of public institutions, declining state financial support. They also note that affluent students who pay full price often subsidize lower income students, who already receive discounts. Though they support giving consumers more information and choices, they signaled that Obama might face a fight over attempts to enlarge the federal role in the college market.

“We will be vigilant in working to prevent tying the receipt of aid to metrics, which could have a profoundly negative impact on the very students and families the administration is trying to help,” said Molly Corbett Broad, president of the American Council on Education, which represents colleges and universities.

And colleges that oppose the rating system could also find allies on Capitol Hill. Such as Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who said,

“This is a slippery slope, and one that ends with the private sector inevitably giving up more of its freedom to innovate and take risks. The U.S. did not create the best higher education system in the world by using standards set by Washington bureaucrats.”

Not to mention comparing vastly different colleges and judging outcomes is a matter of fierce debate within academia. There is simply no set standard and, thus, there are many more details that still need to be worked out on both sides before anything becomes reality.

Despite all off this one thing remains clear: relief of student loans is a priority, and that’s certainly an A+ for current students and recent grads alike. Keep an eye on the headlines.

Apply Now