President Barack Obama has called for a federal government rating of the colleges and universities in the country, according to The New York Times.
“It’s like rating a blender,” Jamienne Studley, a deputy under secretary at the Education Department, said. “This is not so hard to get your mind around.”
The system will help prospective college students choose which school to attend once done high school. Right now, the ratings are done by private companies like U.S. News & World Report and Barron’s. There are some 7,000 universities and colleges in the country.
Obama said that schools receiving $150 billion or more annually in federal grants and loans should have to prove that they are worth that money. The administration said that the issues are acute; tuition continues to rise, graduation rates are dropping and students exit school with too much debt.
“Applying a sledgehammer to the whole system isn’t going to work,” said Robert G. Templin Jr., the president of Northern Virginia Community College. “They think their vision of higher education is the only one.”
The rating system is currently being developed, but was introduced by Obama during a speech last year. Schools will be compared on the number of students who graduate, how much debt students accumulate while in school, and how much the school’s students earn upon graduation. Obama wants to use the system to determine which schools receive the billions in grant and loan money.
The chancellor of the University System of Maryland, William E. Kirwan, said, “It’s hard for me to imagine how that can work.”
Arne Duncan is the secretary of education. Duncan, in an interview, said, “We have a financial and moral obligation to be good stewards of these dollars. To defend the status quo, for me, you can’t do that.”
Officials from the White House said that the system will offer incentives to schools that can hold down costs and offer broader access to a more diverse student body. The system would rate schools using adjectives such as ‘excellent,’ ‘good,’ ‘fair’ and ‘poor’ instead of using a numerical ranking system.
“He is not interested in driving anybody out of business, unless they are poorly serving the American people,” said Cecilia Muñoz, the director of the White House Domestic Policy Council. “In which case, I think he’s probably pretty comfortable with that.”
Adam F. Falk is the president of Williams College in Massachusetts. Falk said, “As with many things, the desire to solve a complicated problem in what feels like a simple way can capture people’s imagination.”