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ACE, Higher Education Groups: Administration’s College Ratings Plan Framework Is Not Feasible

February 18, 2015

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Urges Using Other Routes to Achieve Goals of Better Consumer Information, Stronger Accountability

ACE and 25 other higher education associations today submitted comments to the Department of Education (ED) on the Obama administration’s Postsecondary Institution Ratings System (PIRS), saying that while the system’s goals are laudable, the framework for implementing the plan is not feasible and could have serious unintended consequences.

President Obama first announced the plan in August 2013, and ED has said PIRS will be implemented before the 2015-15 academic year. To that end, the department released a draft framework for PIRS Dec. 19 and invited public comment.

The higher education groups called the framework “incomplete, tentative, and amorphous” and said that it does not clarify “the difficulty of developing a system that will serve the two distinct purposes articulated by the president and reiterated by the department equally well: consumer information and accountability.”

“There is a fundamental distinction between these two objectives. Consumer information needs to be accurate, timely, actionable, and easily accessible to help individuals make a decision about which institution to attend,” they wrote in their comments. “Accountability, on the other hand, requires making normative judgments about the purposes of higher education. Neither goal is well served by the production of a federal ratings system.”

The comments also outline concerns with the accuracy of the data that ED will use to construct PIRS and the value of comparing colleges with similar missions, which ignores how the overwhelming majority of students approach higher education.

The groups urged ED to work with the higher education community on consumer disclosure and accountability without pursuing the federal ratings system, and at minimum, to offer more detail about its plans well before publishing any ratings. 

Click here to read the comments in full.

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