Education Dept Scraps College Rating System, Focuses on Research Tool


The US Department of Education has announced that they will no longer be releasing college evaluations, but rather focusing instead on the creation of a tool for consumers that allows access to multitudes of higher education data.

“The department is now promising to produce a customizable, consumer-oriented website that won’t include any evaluations of colleges but will contain what one official described as ‘more data than ever before,’” according to Chronicle of Higher Education reporter Goldie Blumenstyk. “In effect, it will be a ratings system without any ratings.”

According to Deputy Undersecretary of Education Jamienne S. Studley, the new tool will allow users to make use of “whatever measures are important to them” when looking at each school.

The original plan, created in an effort to hold schools accountable for the success of their students, was introduced by President Barack Obama almost two years ago, who said the plan would allow students to get more “bang for their buck” by being able to see schools rated by value.  In addition, he had hoped to tie each college’s ability to qualify for federal financial aid to their rating, requiring approval from Congress.

However, that plan began to change in December of 2014 when the Education Department announced it would begin sorting colleges in the country into three categories: high performing, low performing, and those who rank in the middle.

While that system would have been tied to federal aid, this is no longer the case, writes Peter Jacobs for Business Insider.

The new consumer data tool will be based on the 11 metrics for college evaluations suggested by the Education Department in December.  These include affordability, first-generation student enrollment, and graduation rate.  Department officials say the new tool should be released by the end of this summer.

“This college ratings tool will take a more consumer-driven approach than some have expected, providing information to help students to reach their own conclusions about a college’s value,” wrote Jamienne Studley, deputy undersecretary for postsecondary education. “And as part of this release, we will also provide open data to researchers, institutions and the higher education community to help others benchmark institutional performance.”

However, Allie Bidwell of US News and World Report writes that not everyone agrees with the move.  Molly Corbett Broad, president of the American Council on Education, called the data “imperfect and incomplete,” and said that it could potentially “create perverse incentives, mislead students and damage institutions.”

The tool will also be available for use by researchers, institutions and app developers.