New college rating system due in time for the next academic year.
Soon, your college will be rated by the Education Department, providing a way for current and future students to determine if that school and others like it are providing a level of education that they need and at a price they can afford. Last week, the department released a detailed explanation of the ratings framework, and stated that the first version of the ratings would include predominately two-year and four-year institutions only.
College Ratings System
The ratings system will make use of expansive categories to spotlight notable strengths and weaknesses, without resorting to a ranking system. The system is still being formed, however the department is inclined to use three rating levels: high-performing, middle, and low-performing. The department expects that it will identify the highest and lowest performing institutions, but avoid definitive gradation as it will focus on key measures only.
Early on, the department considered including graduate-degree and non-degree-granting institutions in its ranking system, but decided to not incorporate these schools, at least not initially. In categorizing both two- and four-year institutions, the department may also consider several variables within each category to include: program mix, degrees and selectivity.
While the rating system will be designed to assist students and their families, it is also expected to assist colleges by recognizing gains over time. Essentially, the department would encourage colleges and universities to make improvements, although no particular recognition method has been finalized.
Federal Data Collection
Initially, the department will use data culled from the federal administrative data system and data collections to rate the institutions. The department says that the data used for the ratings will be “…maintained according to the highest federal privacy standards.” No student specific information will be shared except in aggregate form.
The department has several metrics in mind for its rating system. For instance, the percentage of students receiving Pell grants will be one factor in a bid to help people determine accessibility for low-income students. Also expected is some sort of metric looking at the expected family contribution (EFC) gap. The gap is an important indicator to help determine whether a student comes from a low or high socio-economic position.
Other metrics expected may cover: family income quintiles, first-generation college status, average net price, net price by quintile, completion rates, transfer rates, and labor market success. Additional metrics may include graduate school attendance and loan performance outcomes.
Additional Feedback and Availability
The department is looking for feedback on how best to present the metrics. A separate rating per metric may be most helpful as it would enable students to gauge specific strengths and weaknesses. However, an overall rating may also be required to help consumers determine “value” based on the net metrics. Additional feedback is invited; you can leave a comment on the new system of college ratings by visiting this page.
If all goes according to plan, the department will have its college ratings system in place in time for the 2015-2016 academic year. That means today’s high school juniors will have access to data next year that can could be useful in their college decision making.