Should the federal government be in the business of rating colleges? And can it do them right?
That’s been a question ever since the summer of 2013, when President Obama announced the Department of Education’s new plan to score American colleges—a source of intense controversy in the world of higher ed that could explode again in the days ahead, as the department gets set to release a draft of the metrics that will be used to calculate federal college ratings.
A poll released by Gallup and Inside Higher Ed last year found that only 16 percent of 675 surveyed college presidents said the Postsecondary Institution Ratings System (PIRS), as it’s called, is a good idea, compared to 65 percent who said it is not. The powerful American Council on Education, a professional association representing much of the nonprofit higher education community, said in a statement earlier this year that “many question whether rating colleges is an appropriate role for the federal government to play, and most believe it is nearly impossible for the federal government to do such a thing with any degree of reliability or validity.” And members of Congress on both sides of the political aisle have expressed concerns about the ratings’ goals.