Searching for Details on Obama’s College Ratings Plan
This week’s public forum on the Obama administration’s proposed college ratings system drew some big concerns about the types of outcomes officials want to use to judge colleges — as well as their capacity to collect and report these data. Some college representatives pointed to the Integrated Postsecondary Education System (IPEDS), which only reports data for first-time, full-time students, leaving out a huge swath of students particularly on community college campuses.
The forum included representatives from various organizations, but community colleges seemed to dominate the room. Most participants seemed supportive of the goals behind the ratings system, if only hesitant about what it will actually look like. During lunch with about a dozen undergraduate and graduate George Mason students, students told department officials that they wanted more accessible information about the net price of college, the average incomes of graduates in different fields, data on internship placement rates, and additional ratings related to campus culture. Even though they said they made their college decisions based on a variety of factors, they all agreed that they would benefit from more readily available information about outcomes and price.
Many students would benefit from a high-quality ratings system, but low-income students and students of color really stand to gain the most from a high-quality ratings system. As Ed Trust’s Michael Dannenberg explained in an earlier op-ed, low-income students and students of color are more likely to be burdened with student loans and less likely to graduate, so it is imperative that they find institutions that are serving students like themselves — and serving them well. The ratings system should help prospective students identify and compare institutions that are doing just that — like Ed Trust’s College Results Online. This online tool allows students to directly compare colleges based on a variety of factors, including graduation rates by race and gender and the percentage of Pell recipients among freshmen.
For more details on this week’s forum, check back to the department’s page, where officials plan to post the entire transcript.
This post is written by Abbie Lieberman, a legislative affairs intern at Ed Trust. She is currently pursuing her master’s degree in public policy at Georgetown University.