New College Rating System Faces Awareness Hurdles

obama

After first announcing the program in 2013, President Barack Obama has proposed a new college rating system that would impact parents, students and universities.

There are currently a number of college rating systems, including the Princeton Review, College Board and Forbes Magazine.  However, the new system proposed by Obama would be federally mandated.

The system would grade universities on a number of levels, which include tuition rate, accumulated debt by students, and money made after graduation, writes Carmen Chau for Your4State.

“One of the things that need to be made clear is that the extent in which the institutions serve at-risk students, low-income students is doing to depress graduation rates and that stuff needs to be taken into account,” said Christopher Ames, Shepherd University Vice Pesident of Academic Affairs.

Obama believes the new system could help parents and students find the right school for their financial needs, in addition to making the most use of a student’s federal aid at college.

Not everyone supports the idea.  Shenandoah University feels the idea would not give students much opportunity for choice.

“I don’t think the rating systems will help students or their parents at all. Most likely, it confuses them. That’s because it’s not the job of the federal government to tell students and their parents how to choose a college,” said Tracy Fitzsimmons, Shenandoah University President.

While there are plans to release the ratings criteria by the summer of 2015, the new system is facing a number of technical and political obstacles.

A top Education Department official recently suggested that the administration may not be considering legislation that would tie a school’s eligibility for federal dollars to the ratings.

Undersecretary of Education Ted Mitchell said the legislation would be sought only if a ratings plan is thought of that the administration is comfortable with, writes Josh Mitchell for The Wall Street Journal.

“This is not aimed to be a punitive rating system,” Mr. Mitchell said at an event hosted by the two main lobbying groups for community colleges. “We hope that we will have a ratings system that is also not a ranking system and whose chief goal it is to shine a spotlight on the highest-performing institutions.”

One of the major concerns, according to Mitchell, is how to ensure colleges do not begin to only offer programs that result in high-paying jobs without spurning arts and humanities courses.  Another concern would be making sure that colleges do not begin to only accept students from high-income families who they feel may be more likely to graduate.

However, very few high school or college students even know of the plan’s existence.  A new survey performed by online textbook rental company Chegg has found that only 11% of high school students and 13% of college students are aware of the new college ratings system.

While over half reported that they would make use of the system, they had suggestions concerning other items to include, such as a school’s ability to provide academic support, career guidance, and the offering of internships.