A College Rankings System Tied to Federal Funding

In an effort to get feedback on President Obama’s plans to develop a federal college ratings system, the Education Department hosted the first in a series of public forums yesterday at California State University Dominguez Hills.

I first heard about this proposed federal college ratings system during my daily “yell at the radio while I eat toast” routine yesterday morning, and I have very mixed feelings about it! The White House has a handy factsheet on the matter if you’re similarly uninformed.

In short, the administration wants to give U.S. News ratings a run for their money by 2015, rating colleges based on students’ academic performance and, more crucially, their earnings after graduation. Plus, and this is where it gets complicated, they want to tie federal funding to said ratings by 2018. So if a school has historically underperformed (students get bad grades, don’t get jobs, can’t pay back their loans), and has given the government a poor return on its federal student loan investment, the government would limit students’ access to loan money.

As Inside Higher Ed reports, the primary concern at the public forum yesterday was that many students, especially the people who need financial aid the most, choose schools based on convenience and proximity to their homes. If these schools receive less federal aid, will those students no longer be able to afford to go to school? Not cool.

As much as I agree that we are in nothing short of a student loan crisis, and as much as I’m in favor of better educating students about the debt they are taking on, and what money actually is, and what paying off loans for the next 10 years will really feel like, this whole thing makes me nervous.

Though, would having all of the facts have stopped my financially naive 18-year-old self from taking on $30K in loans to study English at a private university instead of taking a full-ride in my home state? Would I have told myself that I’d be the exception? Or just told myself that I’d deal with after I graduated, and ignored the whole thing (yes, probably)? I’m still not sure I wish the government would have stepped in to stop me from signing on the dotted line, though.

Not to troll-bait some of you, but instead of this middle ground paternalism, let’s just go full on socialism and make all education free, am I right? HAPPY FRIDAY!

Photo: Jason Bache

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