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Byrne Opposes Obama Plan To Rate Colleges

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

On Friday, December 19, US Representative Bradley Byrne (R-Montrose), a member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, issued the following statement in response to the Obama administration’s release of the framework for their college rating system.

Congressman Byrne said: “Do we really want to set higher education policy, and have students and their parents make their college plans, based upon a rating system devised by the same people that gave us ObamaCare and Healthcare.gov? This is another part of American life which the federal government has no business meddling in.”

Rep. Byrne said, “I want higher education to be affordable and accessible for all Americans, but imposing subjective ratings on colleges is not a productive way to achieve that goal. I intend to use my position on the House Education and the Workforce Committee to fight this tooth and nail.”

US Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a statement about the ratings. “As a nation, we have to make college more accessible and affordable and ensure that all students graduate with an education of real value. Our students deserve to know, before they enroll, that the schools they’ve chosen will deliver this value.  With the guidance of thousands of wise voices, we can develop a useful ratings system that will help more Americans realize the dream of a degree that unleashes their potential and opens doors to a better life.”

US Department of Education Under Secretary Ted Mitchell wrote, “Designing a new college ratings system is an important step in improving transparency, accountability, and equity in higher education. The public should know how students fare at institutions receiving federal student aid, and this performance should be considered when we assess our investments and set priorities.  We also need to create incentives for schools to accelerate progress toward the most important goals, like graduating low-income students and holding down costs – and shine a spotlight on schools that are effective in improving student success.  We’re working with everyone – students, parents, states, the higher education community, researchers and experts – to make sure we do this well.”

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US Dept. of Ed. Deputy Under Secretary Jamienne Studley wrote, “In today’s world, college is not a luxury that only some Americans can afford to enjoy; it is an economic, civic and personal necessity for all Americans. Expanding opportunity for more students to enroll and succeed in college, especially low-income and underrepresented students, is vital to building a strong economy with a thriving middle class and critical to ensuring a strong democracy. That is why President Obama has set the course for the United States to once again lead the world in college attainment, as we did a generation ago.”

President Obama has directed the US Department of Education to develop and publish a new college ratings system by the 2015-16 school year. Schools will be rated on: how well they excel at enrolling students from all backgrounds, focus on maintaining affordability, and succeed at helping all students graduate.

According to the Dept. of Ed., the purposes of the ratings system are: to help colleges and universities measure, benchmark, and improve across shared principles of access, affordability, and outcomes, to provide better information about college value to students and families to support them as they search for select a college, to generate reliable, useful data that policymakers and the public can use to hold America’s colleges and universities accountable for key performance measures.

The first round of ratings will be limited to four year institutions. Predominantly two-year institutions like Junior Colleges and Community Colleges, and Graduate-degree-only and non-degree-granting institutions will not be included in the initial version of the ratings.

The President’s goal is to compare schools with similar missions, the Department will, at a minimum, have separate groupings for two-year and four-year institutions.  The Department is also exploring several other strategies for grouping institutions together for comparison purposes.

Metrics being considered are: percentage of students receiving Pell grants, expected family contribution (EFC) gaps, family income quintiles, the percentage of enrolled students who did not have a parent who attended college, average net price, completion rates, transfer rates, labor market success, short-term employment rates, long-term median earnings, graduate school attendance, and loan performance outcomes.

Congressman Bradley Byrne is a member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.  Byrne represents Alabama’s First Congressional District.

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Written By

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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