Barack Obama's College Rating Plan Could Hurt Low-Income Students

The new study from a Washington, D.C. based higher education association concludes that it is misplaced for the federal college ratings plan, announced last year by President Barack Obama, to try to improve consumer access and institutional accountability throughout one tool.

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Calling the plan well-intentioned but poorly devised, the study's authors, Jennifer R. Crandall, Lorelle L. Espinosa and Malika Tukibayeva all from the American Council on Education, presented their findings in an issue brief from the council's Center for Policy, Research and Strategy called "Rankings, Institutional Behaviour and College and University Choice- Framing the National Dialogue on Obama's Ratings Plan."

The study is the newest in a quickly expanding body of academic literature that takes a scholarly, analytical approach to study of academic rankings and their collision on higher education and broader society.

The principle of the paper, according to a release from the organization, was to supply analysis that could be part of the ongoing discussions and debate about administration's proposed college ratings.

Espinosa, the report's lead author and assistant vice president for policy research and plan at the association said, "The purpose of this paper is to show, throughout data and years of research, how this plan could impact institutional behaviour although at the similar time doing little to inform students and families about their college options. We consider the unintentional consequences of such a system could prevail over the potential gains, particularly for low-income students."

Some other main points in the paper include the following:

>> That college rankings similar to the U.S. News Best Colleges have become influential in university decision-making. It also concludes, based on the most recent research from the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA that rankings are not a driving force in student decisions on which institutions to attend, as we have also pointed out and is even less influential for students from lower income backgrounds.

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>> The study states that in spite of assurances from the administration, a lot of in the higher education community suppose that the ratings "will nonetheless become a de facto ranking, with negative consequences for the very low-income and other underrepresented students whom the administration is looking to serve."

>>The study authors also bring to a close, "There is a difference between World Report & U.S. News making a judgment on what students and families have to be concerned with and what the federal government deems important, for the most part while federal funds are tied to such judgment, as has been proposed by the administration."

>> The study also says that the U.S. Department of Education, as it seeks to form a rating system that informs student choices and policymaking, "is at once trying to serve two competing masters. Different stakeholders have different uses of data and are driven by different incentives and needs. Measures of fiscal accountability must be different from measure for student choice."

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