A student messaged me on my Facebook page the other day with an article on college rating systems. Along with messaging her back my response, I thought to share my opinion here with you.
Hi President Krise,
I’m eager to hear your thoughts on this issue: The Obama Administration Finally Has An Answer to Student Debt — And Colleges Hate It
Thanks, Heather. I share the opinion of most college presidents that this proposed rating system is as bad an idea as all the other rating systems that have been tried so far (US News, Washington Monthly, Princeton Review, etc). I love to look at rankings, but I am always aware that they are wildly subjective and deeply flawed.
What makes the US Dept of Education’s proposed ranking system especially worrisome is the proposal to tie Federal support for students to the ratings. Given the un-nuanced proposals coming out of the US Dept of Ed so far, it looks like the proposals will do great harm to colleges that try to provide access to low income students, or have programs in areas like social work, education, social entrepreneurship, and counseling that tend not to lead to high-paying jobs.
College is not just a job skills factory. The fact that this proposed ranking system is opposed by presidents and faculty members from the full range of colleges–from most famous to the most focused on local needs–indicates that this is a risky proposal. America has the world’s finest system of higher education–no one else comes close. Imposing a rankings system tied to funding is almost certain to weaken one of our strongest sectors of society.
Two books that are worth reading to understand why highly trained personal services like higher education, health care, legal services, and live performances cost what they cost are: The Cost Disease by William Baumol, and Why Does College Cost So Much? by Archibald and Feldman.