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Statement on United States Department of Education Announcement of New Direction for Proposed Ratings System

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Carol Geary Schneider, President, Association of American Colleges and Universities 

The Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) welcomes today’s announcement that the U.S. Department of Education will shift its focus on what had been the proposed framework for “rating” higher education institutions. 

Going forward, the Department proposes to increase the accessibility of information that will help students and families with the college selection process.  Building from their analysis since August 2013 of data both available and needed about different aspects of college, the Department now seeks to use available data sets to “help families choose a college that works for them—and that they can afford—and create a user-friendly tool that supports that selection and comparison process.”  It is also committing itself to work with others to improve the quality and usefulness of college-related data. 

AAC&U supports this effort to increase access to quality information and data that will help students and their families make crucial decisions about pursuing postsecondary degrees.  As AAC&U’s board of directors noted in its February 17, 2015 statement, it is especially important to “steer students away from institutions that have demonstrably bad records in serving low-income students who most need the added advantage of an opportunity-expanding college education.”

AAC&U also is committed to ensuring that every student seeking a college degree has access to engaging curricular pathways—including transfer pathways—that are rich in high-impact educational practices and well-designed to help students achieve the college learning outcomes most important to their long-term flourishing and success.  We are heartened to learn that the Department of Education welcomes suggestions for the new web “tool” that will help institutions highlight their educational strengths and approaches, and not just their rate of persistence, loan default, or post-graduation employment outcomes.

The Department is to be commended for listening carefully to the higher education community and its concerns about the ways that the previously proposed ratings system might mislead students and their families.  The US Department of Education has made a wise decision to abandon efforts to “rate” individual colleges and universities against one another based on limited data sets. 

We look forward to working with the Department and with the higher education community on ways to provide a fuller picture of how we are serving our students and our society, with new attention to the quality, intentionality, and effectiveness of core educational programs.

Other AAC&U Statements on Proposed US Department of Education College Ratings System

Feedback on US Department of Education College Ratings Framework
February 17, 2015

Taking the Lead on Evidence
May 30, 2014

AAC&U Responds to President Obama's Proposed College Ratings System
November 11, 2013

Ensuring the Value of US Higher Education
August 28, 2013

Carol Geary Schneider