Federal College Ratings: Overview and Concluding Remarks

Over the past few posts I have argued that those of us in higher education research and practice should see President Obama’s initiative to create a Federal rating system for colleges and universities as a potential opportunity as opposed to a threat. At its core, any such system is an attempt to objectively evaluate the impact education spending is having on individuals and populations. The simple question they hope to answer (I suspect) is “what exactly are we purchasing with all this money?” I do not think that many of my colleagues would take issue with this question. What does send shivers down our metaphorical spine is the potential for this system to be too simple for the reality of our industry and result in less than fair judgments about our performance.

Further, I have offered my own list of features that a truly fair and effective rating system should include:

I know change is difficult and I know that this system has the potential to create “winners and losers.” It seems easy to forget that the current, less than transparent systems already do this and they are only problematic if one suddenly finds themselves on the wrong end of that spectrum.  The fact remains that change is coming. It has been for many years. Not only has public perception of the value of higher education shifted dramatically, but increasingly we find ourselves competing for every dollar of funding with a myriad of other important state and national priorities. Couple this with the unprecedented access to information available to the people we serve and we can rest assured that changes like this will continue to surface. We can resist the change and find them implemented without our input, or we can add our expertise to make sure the end result is positive for all of us.

While we can seldom resist the calls for change, we have a voice with which to make the change a positive one.

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