How will the new federal college rating system affect higher education?

by Grace

Beginning next year, colleges and universities will be judged on three broad criteria when it comes to meting out federal financial aid: access, affordability and student outcomes, according to a new “framework” released by the Education Department.

Public input on the new framework will be accepted until February 17.

Schools could be rated on a sliding scale, from “high performers” to “in the middle” to “low performers,” based on such indicators as whether they meet a certain average net price, graduation and student loan repayment rates, and whether graduates get a job in the field they studied.

Measuring employment outcomes can be complicated.

One of the most controversial ideas that’s been debated is some kind of jobs measure. This framework includes two different examples: What percentage of students have a job, say, six months after graduation? And what are their median earnings long-term?

The administration says it will collect and present this labor market information in a way that is “sensitive to educational, career, work force and other variables.” In other words, a divinity school won’t be dinged because its graduates are pastors with low salaries.

Two other possibilities on the list for outcomes are grad-school attendance rates, and loan-repayment rates. That last metric has already been put into place as the “gainful employment rule” for for-profit colleges, which are suing to stop it.

What are the chances that once the metrics are in place, schools will try to find ways to game the system?  For example, will they push students to enroll in graduate school so they can be put into the “successful outcome” category?  Will standards for graduation decline?

Related:  ‘Gainful employment rules are applied unequally to colleges’

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Scott Neuman, “Education Dept. Issues Framework For New College Rating System”, NPR, December 19, 2014.

Anya Kamentz, “New Federal College Ratings Will Consider Aid, Total Cost, Employment”, NPR, December 19, 2014.

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5 Comments to “How will the new federal college rating system affect higher education?”

  1. Yes, it seems inevitable. Unfortunately.

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  2. I agree standards will drop, but that will affect the employment metrics. Employers don’t like to hire people who can’t write a complete sentence. And in my field, CS, students who can’t whiteboard a tree traversal or solve fizzbuzz are not going to get hired. I think that shoving everyone through while still making sure enough of them get hired is going to be a real challenge for many schools.

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  3. It seems the jobs trend is already well under way,with many people resigned to the fact that a college degree is needed for many more jobs than before.

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  4. Yes, but if we have to start lowering standards in order to shove more students through in 4 years, then employers are going to start demanding graduate degrees!!

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