NAICU Washington Update

Administration Continues Exploring Approaches For Rating Colleges

February 18, 2014

The Obama Administration is continuing its efforts to develop a college ratings system, including providing two recent public opportunities to garner feedback from colleges and universities, and others within higher education. Such a system is the centerpiece of the higher education reform proposal announced by President Obama in August. (See September 5, 2013 Washington Update).

Recent activities have focused on the metric or metrics that might be used in such a system and how the components of any rating might be weighted. In December, the Department of Education issued a “request for information” related to the development of a Postsecondary Institution Ratings System (PIRS). A request for information is not an invitation to provide a full-blown college ratings proposal. Rather, it is a first step by the Department to collect ideas regarding the metrics that might be included in a ratings system, how those metrics might be weighted and presented, and how institutions might be grouped for comparison purposes.

NAICU was among the 125 organizations and individuals that submitted comments to the Department of Education prior to the January 31 deadline. The NAICU response suggested that a single rating metric would be harmful to U.S. higher education and that consumers would be better served by having a sufficient range of both quantitative and qualitative information to allow them to find their “best-fit” institution.

The Department also sponsored a day-long symposium on February 6, where researchers were invited to speak to the technical aspects of developing a rating. It was clear from the presentations that the research community is a long way from arriving at a consensus regarding either the purpose or the design of any system to rate the diverse range of U.S. higher education institutions.

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