Higher education associations weigh in on proposed college rating system

February 19, 2014 02:33 am

A group of 26 higher education associations submitted comments on January 31 to the U.S. Department of Education regarding the President Obama’s proposed Postsecondary Institution Rating System (PIRS). The proposed system is part of the president’s agenda to make higher education more affordable for lower-income and middle-income students. If implemented, it would rate each institution’s performance using factors such as graduation rate, average tuition, student debt and graduate income, and potentially award more federal financial aid resources to those institutions with higher ratings.

The response, led by the American Council on Education, expressed opposition to the proposal and outlined specific concerns. "Throughout the extensive network of campus officials and research specialists with whom we have consulted," the letter said, "there is unanimous agreement that any tool designed to be useful to students and parents in their college search should be grounded in reliable and valid data, and presented with the appropriate context to accurately reflect institutional performance. Lacking such information, distorted results are inevitable and students and institutions will be harmed."

The Association of American Universities, which represents 62 top research universities including the University of Oregon, submitted its own detailed response to the Department of Education on the proposed college rating system on January 24.The association also opposed the plan and provided specific recommendations regarding the proposed data elements, metrics, and data collection.

The US Department of Education is expected to issue a final rule for further review and comment after evaluating comments received this month. The Administration has set fall 2015 as the target for implementing the ratings system.