Obama to rank colleges. So can you, with no wait. Here's where to look.
President Obama aims to have a new federal database, by 2015, that ranks colleges for the value they provide to students. But plenty of online sites that aim to do the same are up and running now.
(Page 2 of 2)
Once the new government rating system is developed, through discussions with stakeholders to be led by Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Obama proposes that Congress should grant more financial aid to students at the colleges that rank well – to encourage colleges to compete to offer the best value.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
“It is time to stop subsidizing schools that are not producing good results and reward schools that deliver for American students and our future,” he said Thursday morning.
Obama launched his tour at a place that would do well in such a competition: The University of Buffalo ranked 23rd on College Factual’s list of Best Nationwide Colleges For Your Money, which looked at 1,288 schools.
It will be difficult, however, for one system to adequately measure the diverse set of higher education institutions in the US. Work is under way to improve, for instance, how college graduation rates are calculated.
All six higher education associations in Washington, D.C., are collaborating on the Student Achievement Measure (SAM), a way to track more than just whether full-time students graduate from the same college at which they start (the current federal measure). SAM shows whether they transfer and earn a degree somewhere else, for instance, or attend part time and earn a degree over a longer period.
“It’s a more comprehensive and realistic picture of how students move through college,” says Christine Keller, who is overseeing SAM and is an associate vice president at the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities in Washington.
Currently the federal government is not allowed to use student-level data that way, but some members of Congress are considering whether the law should allow it for tracking college graduation rates, while also protecting individual privacy, Ms. Keller says.
More than 200 institutions will be participating in SAM when the first data set goes up by November, and that number is expected to grow over time.
College associations have also created voluntary accountability systems in recent years to try to respond to the growing concerns about affordability. Students and parents can find valuable tools at sites such as www.collegeportraits.org, which compares public four-year institutions, and www.ucan-network.org, which compares private and nonprofit institutions.
The federal government also offers college scorecards and net price calculators at www.collegecost.ed.gov.
Among the president’s other proposals to boost affordability:
- Use $1 billion to create a Race to the Top for Higher Education to encourage states to fund colleges on the basis of performance and to smooth transitions from high school to college and from two-year to four-year institutions.
- Offer colleges a Pell Grant bonus on the basis of the number of low- and moderate-income students who graduate.
- Require students to complete a certain percentage of classes before receiving continued federal aid.
- Encourage innovations that can improve learning and cut costs, such as using online education and offering credit for mastery of content rather than seat-time. (See the Monitor story "A faster, cheaper way to go through college and emerge 'competent'.) This would be done by reducing regulatory barriers so schools could pilot new programs and through a proposed $260 million innovation fund.
- Expand income-based repayment of student loans to all borrowers, allowing them to cap repayment at 10 percent of their monthly income, and make it easier for students to know about that option.
RECOMMENDED: Student loans and college finance: Take our quiz!