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U.S. Education Dept. Requests Ideas for Planned College-Rating System

The Obama administration said it wanted feedback to help develop a college rating system. Now, it's request is official in the Federal Register.

On Tuesday, a notice was published asking for technical expertise as the U.S. Department of Education comes up with a Postsecondary Institution Ratings System (PIRS).

To assess the performance of colleges, the National Center for Education Statistics is inviting ideas about data elements and metrics to be included, methods of data collection, and ways to weigh the factors in the ratings. The request includes several questions to help frame the input, including questions about how to best share the ratings with the public and how to define peer groups of colleges. The intent of the system is to advance institutional accountability and provide families with information to better assess college value.

President Obama first introduced the idea of a rating system in August as part of a college affordability agenda.  The administration would like the new system to be available to students by the 2015 academic year. Officials have said it could provide an informational-based rating without any legislation. However, linking college-performance outcomes to federal financial aid would require congressional approval, which could be considered as part of the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.
Experts have already been weighing in on the details of how to construct such a system, voicing concern about what data would be used and how to best offer fair comparisons among colleges.
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