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My Thoughts on the College Ratings Framework

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The Obama administration has unveiled the long-awaited first draft of its plan to rate the country's colleges and universities.

Beginning next year, the nation's 6,000-plus colleges and universities will no longer be given specific scores and rankings in the style of U.S. News, but instead they will be judged on a sliding scale based on three criteria: access, affordability, and student outcomes. The third category will measure how many students graduate and how those students succeed in landing jobs.

The criteria concentrate on utilitarian factors such as post-college earnings, yet ignore factors like staff quality, class size and campus amenities.

While the plan is still in its early stages, Obama's overall vision is to shift the public's evaluation of colleges away from the quality of facilities and professors, and toward a greater focus on affordability and career outcomes. He hopes to halt tuition costs that have been rising at a rate that is much faster than inflation.

Prior to the release of its final version, the government is seeking input from policy experts, educators and any stakeholders in the nation's education sector.

The measure that was left off the list is one that is the heart of accountability for the K-12 system: a measure of student learning.

The Education Department explained that there isn't a good measure, "Learning outcomes...are central to understanding the value of an education but vary widely across programs and institutions and are communicated in many different ways."

While it sounds like the college ratings framework is coming along well, I'm curious to see what changes are made once public input is taken into account. I really would like to see ranking criteria based on value added; it is too important to omit from the rating system.

If you would like to invite Dr. Lynch to speak or serve as a panelist at an upcoming event, please email him at [email protected].

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