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President Obama’s College Rating Plan

American universities respond to President Obama’s cost-cutting push to rank them by “value,” and punish the losers.

President Barack Obama speaks about college financial aid, at Lackawanna College in Scranton, Pa., Friday, Aug. 23, 2013 the last stop on his two-day bus tour of upstate New York and Pennsylvania. (AP)

President Barack Obama speaks about college financial aid, at Lackawanna College in Scranton, Pa., Friday, Aug. 23, 2013 the last stop on his two-day bus tour of upstate New York and Pennsylvania. (AP)

You want a job?  Get a college education, we’re told.  But the cost of college goes up and up.  So does student debt.

Last week, President Obama stepped squarely into the fray.  To make colleges and universities more accountable and affordable, he said.  First, by ranking every college on a best value scale.  Rank them by affordability, graduation rates, graduate debt and earnings.

And then the kicker.  The stick.  President Obama wants Washington to base federal support on those rankings.  A crowbar to rein in college costs.

This hour, On Point:  the President’s plan, academia’s response.

- Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Roberto Rodriguez, special assistant to President Obama for education policy. Former chief education counsel for Senator Ted Kennedy.

Judith Scott-Clayton, professor of economics and education at Columbia University’s Teacher College. Senior research associate at the Community College Research Center

Bob Hildreth, founder and chairman of the nonprofit organization FUEL Education (Families United in Educational Leadership).

From Tom’s Reading List

Businessweek: Obama’s College Ratings Will Shape Student Loans – “Striking a populist pose today at the University of Buffalo, President Barack Obama said the government will create a rating system for higher education, scoring colleges in areas including average tuition, loan debt, and what graduates earn after getting their diplomas. The idea is to eventually tie student loans to these scores, directing more students to more affordable institutions and reining in the $1 trillion of outstanding federal loans.”

The New York Times: On Bus Tour, Obama Seeks to Shame Colleges Into Easing Costs – “President Obama deplored the rising costs of college on Thursday as he tried to shame universities into holding down prices. He held out the prospect of more federal student aid if they did.”

Los Angeles Times: Obama’s college ratings plan could backfire – “The United States didn’t develop its great universities by reducing higher education to equations of graduation rates and job placement. Yet on Thursday, the Obama administration revealed a plan that would push colleges in that very direction and could harm some of the students the president most wants to help.”

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  • Fiscally_Responsible

    If the Obama Administration wants to focus on cost cutting, they should invest their time focusing on cutting the trillions of dollars of waste in government spending (exhorbitant government pensions, earmark programs, etc. etc.) and finding the trillions of dollars of supposed health care savings that Obamacare is going to supposedly produce and that was used to justify this huge government intrusion into another area of our lives.

  • Bluejay2fly

    He would have been better off mandating that each university include in their prospectus 1 Printing employment prospects for all college majors e.g. As an English Literature graduate you will be unemployed for 5.9 years and have a 97% chance of not working in the field. 2. Full financial disclosure meaning all expenses, assets, and revenue streams of the college. I see Faber College takes in 700 million in tuition by only has 400 million in expenses and has 1 Billion is assets, interesting. 3. Any course taught an adjunct should be listed as PART TIME EMPLOYEE and should not be allowed to be called a faculty member. 4, Any course with a large student to teacher ration should have in bold AUDITORIUM COURSE LIMITED ACCESS TO PROFESSOR.

  • Andrew_MN

    There is absolutely no incentive to reign in costs when the government is acting as a third-party payer. If the president really wanted to bring down the cost attending college he would get rid of all federal aid programs subsidizing college education.

    Furthermore, most of these plans he and others have been talking about would only exacerbate the problems. Using graduation rates will probably lead to more grade inflation and lower standards. The proposition to cap loan repayments to a percentage of income is in direct conflict with the plan to add what students earn after graduation to the ratings mix. The only thing that is going to work is a program that begins to wean students and colleges off the government subsidies.

    • thequietkid10

      Amen brother. I’ll add another suggestion. I went to two colleges. A private catholic school and a public New York School. The private school was a lot less glitzy, and had a lot fewer frills then the public school. However, tuition at the public school was still cheaper. There is little incentive for any private college to try and create a rock bottome cost college, because they can’t beat the subsides given to public schools. And the public schools can’t attempt to cut cost, because even if they did manage to cut the cost of college. The tuition remains the same.

  • 1Brett1

    No public funds for private colleges. Use public funds for public colleges only.

  • Shag_Wevera

    The classical, liberal college education is dying in America. I’m sad for the kids that’ll never have one, and I’m sad for the folks who think that English and Philosophy (my minor) majors are useless. We are becoming coarse, and evaluating everything on dollars and cents. Sad, sad, sad,

    • Brad dayag

      Its been dead for at least a generation and replaced with trendy, PC cultural studies. But to your point, why was I as an engineering major required to take 40 hours of humanities and humanities majors required to take only 12 hours of science classes?

  • WorriedfortheCountry

    The Feds should not become the Consumer Reports for higher education.

  • John Cedar

    By far, the major thing that effects the future successes of any college’s graduates, is not the quality of education they provide but the quality of student that the college recruited to begin with. I sent my child to private catholic school. The teachers were less competent and qualified than the ones in the public school and the facilities were far worse than what the public schools had to offer. But the setting, culture and fellow students all added to a better education and a school that consistently produces higher achievers.

    Google, Wikipedia and you tube and before that, lieBarrys, have made universities obsolete. But for those who still want to attend, they ought to offer À la carte fees that more accurately reflect the costs associated with the service/product provided to the student. If you are being taught by an adjunct or graduate student, then the credit hours should be cheaper than from a full blown professor. If you have a professor that can speak English without a dialect then that should cost more than the one that no one can understand. And obviously tuition for 160 credit hours of humanities classes should cost a fraction of what one would pay for 160 hours of hard-science classes. That’s right science boys…be careful what you wish for because those basket-weaving degrees are subsidizing your real degrees!

    One sure thing about our university system, is that like our health care system, the only thing imaginable that could be worse, is what we would have left after Obama gets his hands on it.

    • nj_v2

      YouTube renders a university education obsolete. Okay, then.

      It’s still early, but this could be the dumbest post of the day.

      • J__o__h__n

        How many kitten videos do you need to watch to qualify as a vet?

        • nj_v2

          I hear that pre-med students are often assigned Wikipedia pages for homework.

      • John Cedar

        “It’s still early, but this could be the dumbest post of the day.”

        Your comment is Ironic anaphoric ambiguity.

  • monicaroland

    I’m not sure about this. Another federal program? Ranking colleges by whose criteria? I graduated from college in 1968, when the cost of a private college was around $2,000 a year, about the cost of a new car. (I earned half by working 6 days a week in the summer, and also part-time during the school year.) Today’s college cost is around $27,000, I think, about the cost of a new car. ( I may be wrong about these figures. ) And public colleges cost much less, because 2/3 of the cost is absorbed by taxpayers. Meanwhile, students today demand fancier dorms, even apartments, and restaurant-worthy food. That surely raises costs.

    And speaking as a retired public school teacher, I believe that we need to promote much more career and vocational education. The push for a four-year college education is crazy. Most of my students enjoyed hands-on learning, and those who took vocational training did very well.

  • Jeff

    This discussion simply shows that today we have a demand for a different type of education system. The 4 year college system is just fine for the people who want an experience and well rounded education…the problem is that many people just want a good job and don’t need/want the 2 years of liberal education requirements. We need to fill the skills gap and 4 year degrees (and even 2 year technical degrees) are too slow…too much fluff is involved, it takes too much time and it costs too much money. Hopefully, this conversation starts us on the path to a new type of education system…can you imagine a system when you can go to school for 6 months and learn 3 or 4 computer programming languages and get a basic understanding of physics and calculus? How about another 6 month program where you can learn to install and repair automated equipment in a factory? Finally, how about a graphic design program where you can learn the most popular design programs and be out in a job creating graphics within 6 months?

  • TomK_in_Boston

    Yawn. More talk that will lead to no action.

    The solution to the student debt crisis is for states to collect enough taxes to restore our traditional system of free public higher education. The class warfare tactic of tax cuts is destroying the middle class, ie, reaganomics is working as intended.

    • Jeff

      Great, a more taxes solution while ignoring the fact that tuition has been going up at 3 or 4 times the rate of inflation for the last 20 years. Don’t you think that government subsidizing education means that the cost controls are completely ignored? This is basic economics…if there is no demand for colleges to control costs then why would they even attempt to do that.

      • TomK_in_Boston

        The onset of tuition at State Unis that are supposed to be free has removed a major constraint on costs for private Unis. As former president Jim Duderstat of U Mich said, “We were state-supported, then we were state-assisted, and now we’re state-located”. A lot of state unis have gone from 70-80% state support to 10-20% over the last 30 years. Some “State U” get less than 10%!!!

        Do you think that states can abandon the traditional commitment to higher ed with no effect on costs?

        If you follow the money, you’ll see that this is more of the ongoing transfer of $ from the middle class to the top.

        • Jeff

          Odd, if you do the basic math from 1970 if the cost of college followed the rate of inflation and state/federal contributions remained what they are today….the state support would be at 70-80%…the problem is that the costs rose so fast that states can’t possibly keep up with those increase in rates. During that same period did tax revenues increase at 3 or 4 times the rate of inflation? Nope, they did not…you can’t expect states to keep up with insane increases over time. The issue is the cost not the state contributions.

  • nj_v2

    So, we’re going to have an Office of Secondary Education Evaluation? What would be the rating criteria? How would the “rating” system reflect on schools that are under-resourced, or which primarily cater to struggling or disadvantaged students? How would the information be gathered? How much would it cost? How would the process be funded? And how much weight would prospective students give the “rating” vs. the information they gather via current means?

  • Enuff_of_this

    Sounds like the next installment of ‘no child left behind’.

  • JacquelineMS

    As a graduate student who was in attendance at the President’s speech, I wish he would have spoken about the effect of students loans and interest rates on graduate students. Under this administration subsidized loans have been eliminated for all graduate programs, so that interest now accrues while students are in school. This has significantly increased the amount graduate students, some of the best and brightest with specific career plans, must repay.

  • HLB

    Why mandate any years for law school education when the president, a graduate of one of these schools, thinks he enjoys the constitutional power to pocket provisions of bills* he signs into law? If one can graduate from Harvard with such shoddy preparation for legal work, why require any courses at all?

    Thanks much. HLB

    * he doesn’t like

  • monicaroland

    Addendum to my earlier comment: Why do we need the federal government to establish a new ranking system? There are many private groups that already do this.

    • citizen477

      Yes, but these rankings would be tied to federal funding for financial aid. Private firms don’t have that kind of power… yet. :)

  • toc1234

    This has zero chance of even getting Dem votes in congress… I mean this guy cant even persuade Tom, how is he going to convince a somewhat moderate Dem?

    • StilllHere

      Does that species even exist?

  • Jeff

    Four years for a degree takes too long, it’s too expensive and it’s too slow to adapt to the latest technology (especially software)…just look at how much your cell phone changed in the last 4 years. The standard 4 year degree is going to be a thing of the past very soon.

    • citizen477

      I absolutely agree. Also, I think these institutions, irrespective of how long a degree program or pathway takes, should be held partly accountable for finding employment for graduates.

      • jefe68

        I’m not sure holding schools accountable for finding employment for students would work.
        To many variables with the type of students out there. Most colleges already have job placement and employment offices that list jobs.

        Some might be unemployable no matter what degree they obtain. Then there is the little problem of how economies grow and then contract when there are recessions. There are to many economic variables beyond the control of a college or university.

        • Jeff

          Perhaps a better solution would be to allow students to default on student debt…then make sure the university or college is on the hook for about half of the debt. That would motivate the college to get students a job like no other incentive.

          • jefe68

            I like the German model but I’m not sure it would work here.

            The Gymnasium is designed to prepare pupils for university education and finishes with the final examination Abitur, after grade 12 or 13.

            The Realschule has a broader range of emphasis for intermediate pupils and finishes with the final examination Mittlere Reife, after grade 10; the Hauptschule prepares pupils for vocational education and finishes with the final examination Hauptschulabschluss, after grade 9 or 10 and theRealschulabschluss after grade 10.

            There are two types of grade 10: one is the higher level called type 10b and the lower level is called type 10a; only the higher-level type 10b can lead to the Realschule and this finishes with the final examination Mittlere Reife after grade 10b.

            The schools are free so no student debt.

          • StilllHere

            Why would I care as an administrator at MA College of Art & Design if the state is on the hook?

          • Jeff

            Not the state, the endowments of the university gets hit…then they will start to care.

        • citizen477

          Please note, I used the word “partly”. Naturally, institutions can’t control all the variables, but at least ensure that students have leads, are graduating with resumes and interview skills, etc. Those can easily be built into degree programs, but trust me when I say, many institutions are light-years away from even having a functioning career center or division.
          When conducting an interview that included a few recent graduates — whose schools will remain nameless — the candidates’ comportment and approach were so poor, I had to ask if they had taken advantage of their alma maters’ career services division. One candidate said the school didn’t have one. The other said that he didn’t see the need for career services assistance, and since it wasn’t a requirement, he never sought it out.

          • jefe68

            What you are describing is the fault of the students you mentioned. One could have gone to career services and did not. As to the other school not having this, well that’s not on really. It would be interesting to find out how well career service departments are set up to help students or are they just posting jobs on line and not offering any real in-depth counseling for things such as interviews and resume writing.

  • nj_v2

    “Value,” “outcomes,” “performance”…

    Bureaucratic jargon words, all. Sounds like they have no idea how to implement this “plan,” or how it might work, let along what it would cost.

    They’re going to track all graduates’ debt and income? Really?!

  • J__o__h__n

    Stagnant wages make the loans more of a problem than they would be.

  • 228929292AABBB

    I think it would be simpler to require schools to co-sign their students’ loans, at least to the extent of some percentage. That would, in one easily administrable act, forever tie the cost of what they provide with its value, and give the school a stronger, fairer motive than any complex government scheme. If the schools believe their own rhetoric they should have no fear of it whatsoever. Resistance to such an idea would be akin to an admission of gouging.

    • StilllHere

      How would this work with public universities? Why would the administrator care if he made a bad loan when the state is going to have to pick it up anyway?

      • 228929292AABBB

        I guess the theory is, no matter where your funding comes from, if your organization is threatened financially someone will make a change. I agree it’s not perfect logic but it’s the logic everything in America is based on, to define interests in financial terms and then tie an organization’s interests to the decisions it makes. If that doesn’t work, we might as well pack the whole thing in I guess.

  • 228929292AABBB

    PS the only reason President Obama is touring colleges is to find the remaining audiences willing to listen to his empty words. If you’re only 18, you might not have been paying attention six years ago when this man seemed so promising.

  • PithHelmut

    What a mealy-mouthed spokesperson is Roberto Rodriguez. Students – do you really believe this president cares about you when he has left the issue until the very latest he possibly could before he loses his base. Could the policy be any vaguer? I wager this is just a ruse to get students to back off from jettisoning this government because of what it is, immoral. I voted for Obama but now hearing his voice just grates, it is so phony and look where he has taken this country.

    • 228929292AABBB

      And the dropping of g’s….

  • citizen477

    At least the Obama administration is trying to do something about this problem of educational costs and quality. Can’t say the same for prior administrations.

    Part of the problem is that institutions of higher learning think that they do not have to play a role in job placement. Many still hold-fast to the notion that an education is not job skills training. Well, times have changed, and increasingly, a college education is almost the only way to find employment and, in some cases, to qualify for a loan to open a business.

    This means, then, that these institutions should pool their resources to invest more in their career centers. I’ve been to institutions of higher education where the career services division or department is practically non-existent.

    Having worked in H.R., I’ve found that that is the biggest problem. Yes, our young people walk across the stage with their well-earned degrees, but they have very little to no social skills, their resumes are a mess, their interview and over-all networking skills are terrible.

    College and universities need to do a better job in promoting (and in some cases implementing) career services and education as an integral part of degree programs, so our young people stand a better chance of finding & keeping employment and/or opening businesses.

    Colleges and universities need to realize that they also have a responsibility in the career-placement aspects of a young person’s education. Let’s hold them more accountable in that regard.

    • 228929292AABBB

      I sort of disagree with paragraph 1, because President Obama’s edict that everyone needs a four year degree and he will be sure the financial aid is available to fund it has probably caused more harm to the affordability of college than any scheme he or prior administrations have provided relief. The price has met the available borrowing, as with any bubble.

  • StilllHere

    What a surprise! The solution is to create another bureaucracy of federal workers.

  • toc1234

    There is no way Obama is ever going to actually use a stick on a single academic head. its going to end up being a plan that basically hands out free baskets of carrots to everyone…

  • MarkVII88

    If these rankings go into effect and students start to flock to highly ranked schools, how do those in charge foresee these schools being able to maintain their high performance with more students drawing on their resources? Doesn’t this same issue exist in secondary school when incentives and school choice are offered to parents to enroll their children in “Magnet” schools?

  • HLB

    Re: cutting costs

    Eliminate the SAT, ACT, GRE, LSAT, MCAT, ad nauseam. It’s all just a subsidy to the educational testing industry.

    Thanks much. HLB

    • J__o__h__n

      The LSAT isn’t a very expensive part of the total law school cost.

  • toc1234

    Ha , like any Obama rankings would penalize a college for graduating too many liberal arts majors (typically lower earners) I/o engineers (higher earners).

  • Joe

    What about the fact that, in public and private universities, there are way too many administrators who are paid exorbitant salaries, while the people who do the actual, vital work in the classrooms, esp. non-tenured instructors, are grossly underpaid. Maybe the proposed rating system would help bring this under control.

  • http://argonnechronicles.blogspot.com/ Dee

    The hard part is the extreme complexity of the issue. The current College Navigator shows cost but doesn’t give a good picture of how much an individual student might get in aid from that school. It also doesn’t really help grad students since they often operate very distinctly from the main university with different costs, different levels of aid, and different graduation and placement rates.

    Students should look at all options. Twenty five years ago I went to a very expensive liberal arts college. But it was CHEAPER for me to go there (thanks to financial aid) than my state school where I was offered about $400 in aid.

  • toc1234

    Tom have you seen the dorms, cafeterias, athletic facitilies, grounds, etc.. these days? or how about the rise in admin staff and faculty staff? its obvious that the spending in these areas is due to the trillion bucks this guy is talking about…

  • J__o__h__n

    How much is spent on sports?

    • jefe68

      Way to much in my view.

  • recliner70

    As an adult who voted and contributed to the first Obama campaign this is college affordability policy is just another ethereal dream of the hope and change president. The only point I can agree with is the two year law school program. Obama the constitutional law professor, has through his surveillance techniques and the NSA shared information policies, pretending not to be aware of NYC’s stop and frisk policy,demonstrated that the study of the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights are no longer needed as courses of study. Two years of law school elevating the concepts that the financial industry and big business are legal personal entities is all that is needed.

  • HLB

    Re: cutting costs

    How about an exit exam during the last semester of a conventional, four year baccalaureate program? If you fail: you get your money back! You don’t get the diploma* until you pass.

    {at my university during my last semester, all engineering students were required to sit for and pass the EIT before graduation – an 8 hour, one day examination}

    Thanks much. HLB

    * an independent certification that both you and the institution completed all parts of the compact

  • Stephen706

    MISSING THE PROBLEM!!!

    I wholeheartedly agree with the President’s plan but he/they/you are missing a really big aspect–PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY!!!

    Even NPR reported the ACT Service is stating that only 26% of test takers are “college ready” since 2009. 4-year college is FOUR (4) years, not SIX (6)!!!!

    Rank and value-base the colleges and university YES!!!!
    But also set a minimal standard (ACT=24, SAT=1500) for entering college. Don’t make it–start at the Community College for TWO years and then transfer into the 4-year. Put a LIMIT on time! And put a disincentive on failure–mandatory service, Americorps, Public Service. If you don’t make the young person responsible for his/her future you miss teaching that valuable lesson of responsibility!!!!

    And I really love how my call was answered and thanked but not allowed for the radio.

    • Yar

      Public service should not be seen as a punishment for failure. Everyone should serve two years. Maybe even before college.

      • Stephen706

        I love that idea as you Yar… and you are right–public service (not just military)…

  • realedreform

    Bob Hildreth just made a lot of sense – give money to colleges instead of students, but doesn’t go far enough. Here’s the scheme: 1. govt takes over money supply 2. so now government can print as much money as it pleases and 3. give it to sectors it deems need “stimulus” housing (ie the “American Dream”), education (ie everyone should get a degree), etc. 4. Of course with all that money flowing in, colleges find ways to spend it, so tuition goes up. 5. Students and their parents are left paying for it all, later. The REAL solution is to take back the money so our governments can’t continue the “borrow now, pay later” scheme that over time is running the whole world into debt.

  • Kathy

    I think developing the ratings and seeing how they play out for a few years before we talk about basing funding on them would be a good idea.

  • Fran52

    Deep budget cuts were made to public education – state colleges and community colleges – during the recession. Schools had to raise tuition to cover the shortfalls. Public education has always provided a way for low-income people to get an education – that is why the systems were created. And some state systems are/were excellent – already known to be a very good value. Tuition increases have restricted this opportunity, eliminated the value. (The hypocritical student loan situation is the other impediment.) Before the government spends time and money with “rating systems,” why don’t they put their money where their mouth is and start by restoring and enhancing financial support for public education systems. (And fix the student loan system so it SUPPORTS students instead of hobbling them – THAT will go a long way towards helping students realize success after graduation.)

    • TomK_in_Boston

      Bingo. For 30 years (basically, since the oligarch takeover of our middle class America began with Reagan) states have been abandoning their commitment to State Universities, which were supposed to provide inexpensive, or free, public higher education. The reason is to keep taxes low on the 1%. As tuition rises at State U, it’s easier for private Unis to raise it too.

      Some “State U” now get less than 10% of their funding from the State!!! Jim Duderstat, former prez of U Mich, wrote “We were state supported, then we were state-assisted, and now we’re state-located.”

  • J__o__h__n

    I agree the third year isn’t needed.

  • HLB

    Re: cutting costs

    US law school could reduce the duration to 90 days for “lawyers” who are going to practice as sports agents.

    Just doing what I can to help.

    Thanks much. HLB

  • adks12020

    I’ve worked in a law firm for 6 years and recently finished a master’s degree. No doubt I would’ve gone to law school for a J.D. rather than getting a master’s degree in business if it was two years rather than three. Law school is ridiculously expensive, even at only two years.

  • HLB

    Re: cutting costs

    US law schools could reduce the duration to 45 days for “lawyers” who are going to practice in Congress as “public servants.”

    Just doing what I can to help.

    Thanks much. HLB

  • toc1234

    These proposals by Obama are hilarious… its like Pyongyang firing a shot across Moscow’s bow…

  • HLB

    Thinking like a lawyer: in 6 minute nanoparcels.

    I wonder how much is really accomplished with that?

    Thanks much. HLB

  • HLB

    Re: cutting costs

    US law schools could reduce the duration to 21 days for “lawyers” who are going to practice as “turf accountants.”

    Just doing what I can to help.

    Thanks much. HLB

  • J__o__h__n

    Eliminate the professional responsibility class for lawyers. An entire semester isn’t needed for what could be a three day workshop. My class was taught by an associate dean and he actually assigned us to “either read or watch the movie” of To Kill a Mockingbird and write an essay on Atticus Finch like we were in high school.

  • sharlyne1

    The President’s plan still doesn’t address the millions of late
    20 and 30 somethings that are currently 1 trillion in debt collectively. Right now the present loan repayment system (particularly with private loans) must be reconstructed so that we can pay our debt down reasonably. We don’t need a bailout, just a rewrite.

    • thequietkid10

      No we don’t. We need to stop looking like entitled brats asking for a HUGE handout.

      • sharlyne1

        Like I said, I don’t need a bail out. Clearly you do not
        understand the difference between the two. Since I pay my debts without help and
        on time, I will continue to fight for what I believe is a corrupt system.
        Regardless of where one goes to college the loan underwriting system is dishonest
        toward the integrity and purpose of attaining a higher education. I work hard
        like everyone else and for you to assume otherwise is beyond ignorant. Try not
        to assume someone’s situation when you’re not living it. In the end you up
        making an @ss of yourself.

  • Coastghost

    Why are Americans continually told (yes, NPR and WBUR do their share of the telling) that the ONLY credible approaches to effective education can be authored and advocated by Harvard types, by Columbia types, by Princeton types? Considering the awful state of public education by now, these are the very types of academics who have NOTHING to contribute to sound educational policies (all we need do is think for two moments of the intellectual fraud that Howard Gardner perpetrated with his ingenious “multiple intelligences” hypothesis, a keen insight into cognition that NO ONE seriously pays attention to now but which ooohed and ahhhed our own educational commissariat during the 1990s).
    If Harvard-man Obama were serious about education reform, he would propose a single substantive approach that would immediately begin to improve the quality of education in the US: abolish ALL post-secondary remedial programs ASAP. This will excise a fair amount of academic failure from post-secondary campuses and drastically cut post-secondary drop-out rates, plus it would move the responsibility for poor education outcomes to our beleaguered public schools, at least until such point that public education can be safely abolished (lest you squeal: public education practice is punitive AGAINST the poor, which explains again why Ivy League types are the least qualified to propose continuously public education “fixes”).

  • Richard Miller

    As a retired university faculty member I am enraged that no one is talking about the elephant in the student loan room.That is the many entrepreneurial colleges, that accept students who have NO chance to complete the course of study, qualify them for loans, take the money, and wash out the students. The “college: gets the money, the student gets the debt, and the taxpayers get stuck with the bills. Why is this never discussed in the conversation about student debt, I’d guess it is a large portion of the unpaid debt problem.

    • TomK_in_Boston

      Right. along with the cuts in support of public higher ed.

      The “entrepreneurial colleges” (very kind) are part and parcel of the privatization favored by the far right that serve to do nothing but redistribute $ to the top. I always look to “follow the money” in trying to understand politics, so my first thought was to wonder if the proposed Obama scheme would steer more victims (i mean students) to the “entrepreneurial colleges”. It remains to be seen, but I’m sure some con artist will make a bundle somehow if any of this happens. However it probably won’t, as with most of Obama’s talk.

    • StilllHere

      Are graduation rates at entrepreneurial colleges significantly lower than non-entrepreneurial? Entrepreneurial colleges’ students are not able to get Fed-subsidized student loans if the college’s default rate exceeds an established limit. Is that true for non-entrepreneurial?

      • jefe68

        Yes, only 22 percent of the first-time, full-time bachelor’s degree students at for-profit colleges over all graduate within six years, compared with 55 percent at public institutions and 65 percent at private nonprofit colleges. The numbers speak for themselves.

        • Ray in VT

          I hear tell that some people have trouble with/don’t like numbers and facts.

    • Bluejay2fly

      The problem is you cannot have a society that sacks a graduated student with a 400 a month student loan, another 800 + school,property tax and mortgage or rent, at least 100 a month car insurance, and we have not even started with state tax, federal tax, SS and medicare, food, gas, heat. Even if you do get a decent paying job the revenue is outstripped by expenses. My first student loan payment was due the DAY I graduated. Universities and bankers have created this bubble in the same manner as the mortgage crisis. In the end they conspired to sell people products they cannot afford or do not need.

  • Richard Miller

    Con artists is exactly right. These “schools” offer everything from medical billing, to doctorates in various areas. I am sure their “graduation” rates are among the worst, and those few who actually complete the course(s) are for the most part unemployable in their fields. It gives us all in education a bad name. Can it be that this is such a large special interest group that they can remain below the radar in the debate through lobbying and buying silence from the government?

    • StilllHere

      It would be better if you had some stats to support your contention. Entrepreneurial colleges are required to report gainful employment statistics, are non-entrepreneurial?

      • TomK_in_Boston

        Hey, it was funny the first time, but let’s not go overboard with “entrepreneurial colleges”. That’s a bit too much whitewashing and framing for my taste.

        How about “con colleges” or “scam colleges” or “non colleges”?

  • Richard Miller

    good question, I do not know, my experience is in large public university. It is my impression that these “schools” routinely qualify students for loans, regardless of their ability to succeed in class or repay the loans over time. They prey on those who can not attend mainstream educational institutions for various reasons.

    • StilllHere

      Why would the school put so much effort into attracting a student, a competitive endeavor, and not want that student to stick around as long as possible and graduate? Their revenue would be more stable, that’s one less seat they have to fill, and they get to report higher graduation and gainful employment stats which they use to attract other students and have to report to regulators.

  • Richard Miller

    I agree, and have tried to find those numbers with no luck, any idea where they might be published?

  • LadyJo

    A big concern I haven’t heard much about is the potential for increasing inequality. No doubt the information in the rating system will be very useful, but linking student aid to that may prevent good students from less well-off economic status from going to more prestigious schools. It can’t be denied that people who want to work in high levels in certain fields, or in more specialized fields, will have much better chances of succeeding if they have the paper from that high-prestige school. Making that path only accessible to people who can independently pay for it may lead to a furthering of the “1%” problem- the richest getting richer and everyone else fighting for the scraps.

  • Brad dayag

    “You want a job? Get a college education, we’re told. ”

    How about: you want a job, get a skill. I know far too many people who went to college, got an education is some practically useless field and wound up working $10/hr jobs to pay back that fancy +$100,000 journalism degree.

    • brettearle

      If there were no dreams, there’d be no surgeons, no architects, no professors, no writers, no artists, no lawyers, no aerospace engineers, and no one one to run the country….which would mean anarchy (although I suppose some would say that anarchy is better than what we have now).

      • Brad dayag

        Huh?!?

        • John from Clemson, SC

          If people don’t follow their passions and develop skills that people like you have historically called “useless fields” you would have nothing. Dreaming of going to space was seen as useless as was flight itself, playing guitar, studying animal behavior, the list is endless. Without dreamers following their passions, our civilization is nothing. We can’t survive if all we have is sheep that go into the “useful” fields to become “useful workers”. Who will dream of the new useful fields? Or do you want us to stagnate ad infinitum ?

          • Brad dayag

            You wear your ignorance of technical innovation on your sleeve like a badge of honor. None of the things you mentioned were ever viewed as “useless”, difficult perhaps, but not useless.

            If you want to be a “dreamer” who is “following their passion”, then do it on your own dime just like the Wright Brothers and Goddard did.

          • jefe68

            Ah the philistine rises up on his soapbox.

          • Brad dayag

            I appreciate the liberal arts, but if we have paying positions for x number of philosophy graduates and 5x the number of philosophy graduates the solution isn’t to subsidize more philosophy graduates, its to encourage them to do something else to put food on their tables.

          • tbphkm33

            I agree, we have too many drones in “must have fields” out there already – incapable of thinking for themselves and limited ability to contribute to the advancement of society. Happy to show up day-in and day-out doing the same old thing. Fortunately, the world is catching on, a law degree or an MBA is not what it was 10 years ago. More and more, organizations are realizing the limitations they place upon themselves by over reliance on the drones.

        • brettearle

          I agree.

          I tried to delete this response.

          But the system wouldn’t let me.

          I can handle the embarrassment.

    • jefe68

      Without culture (the arts) what are we?

      I can’t imagine a world without Duke Ellington, Sonny Rollins, Joe Lovano or a painter like Israel Hershberg or writers such a Philip Roth, Alice Walker, and Harper Lee.

      • Brad dayag

        I cant either, fine arts are great but in the past 60 years we have gone from Duke Ellington to 50 cent and Miley Cyrus. Not a good payback for our efforts. “The Arts” have survived and even flourished on their own for thousands of years without suckling on the public teat, I think itl do just fine on its own.

        • jefe68

          How is that you seem to think that the arts survived on it’s own? In the past it was royalty and the powerful and wealthy (the Medici’) who supported the arts through patronage. The arts did not survive on it’s own in a vacuum. It’s interesting how your comment speaks to the level of ignorance that we have come to in this country.

          • Brad dayag

            Supported art through patronage … and that doesn’t still exist in large part today? I see no reason why the publics coffers should be opened to the arts.

          • jefe68

            Not much of it is. I find your view point to be wanting and that of a philistine.

          • Brad dayag

            Well, this “philistine” doesn’t need to beg at the feet of mommy, daddy, and Uncle Sam to pay his student loans.

      • HonestDebate1

        What does that have to do with college? Did Duke Ellington go to college? Artistry is driven by passion.

        • jefe68

          Yeah well show’s what you know.

          What it has do with college is that education is what helps a society grow.

          Education is an investment in our society and without a well educated populace we are going to fall into a steep decline.

          Ellington had great teachers in high school when they had music programs with well trained teachers. His high school music teacher, Henry Lee Grant gave him private lessons in harmony.

          The problem here is the cost, not that people want to become musicians or painters or writers.

          Duke Ellington died in 1974. Since then you have musicians such as the Marsalis brothers, Roy Hargrove, Esperanza Spalding and my friend Saul Ruben (who just finished a gig with Hargrove and was in Sonny Rollin’s last touring band. He went to college where he came under the guidance of Jackie McLean) College was where he learnt his craft and found mentors. Good and great music is still being made and to use Miley Cyrus as an example is a cheap copout. The arts is not flourishing in this country and anyone who thinks it is a fooling themselves. People are doing it because they have, but there will be less of it if it’s not supported.

      • road.rep

        You obviously are not struggling to pay your student debt. Most 25 year old recent graduates with 200K of student debt don’t know who those people are. Nor do they care.

        • jefe68

          When I went to school it was affordable but I still incurred debt. That did not mean I chose to be ignorant of culture.

  • methos1999

    That is something I’ve wondered for a long time – if school costs are far outpacing inflation, and it’s not going to the professors, where is it all going??

  • tbphkm33

    I think the President’s plan could hit the nail on the head. Namely in forcing higher education institutions to focus on educating students into careers where they have a future. I am not saying this involves removing humanities programs, but rather trim down and focus programs. Does every two-bit college out there need a night MBA program? For most of those students, does the investment really pay off? Would their time and money be better used in another course of study? Or the troubled education major, for a long time now the last stop on the way out of most major state universities. Students start off in say engineering, once they flunk out of that program, they might end up somewhere else for a semester, but then, most of the time, the last stop, with the lowest GPA requirement is the education department.

    I hold out hope that the President can introduce forces into the education market that forces institutions to place real limits on programs, limited to realistic expectations of jobs in any chosen field. Stop marketing to students all the pluses of a field when they know full well that less than 50% of the graduates will ever work in the field. This includes Ph.D. programs in the sciences, where often the realistic situation is working as a post-doc in a lab, never having a lab or teaching position themselves.

  • Annie1925

    I teach at a public college with really “high value” (as in a great faculty and low tuition) but we have a terrible attrition rate. Our students are poor and disadvantaged in many ways. The retention rate is largely beyond the control of the faculty and the administration. For example, we notice that the completion rate among our considerably high number of engineering students, is quite low and it drives down our overall rate. These students often discover that the engineering courses are simply too hard for them. But should we make them easier and turn out crappy engineers so we can increase our retention rate? Or maybe we should give higher grades so students flunk out. In addition, many of our students work full-time and that makes it very difficult for them to finish college as well. This rating system needs to be very, very, very carefully thought out. Some things colleges and universities can control or help to control; many they cannot.

  • Todd Weaver

    College Navigator is very helpful, but the College Scorecard needs a lot of work. Most information on the Scorecard is from 2009/2010. That’s terribly old considering the high rates of price increases each year.

  • road.rep

    I’m sure there will be lots of problems and unintended consequences, but College costs are clearly too high. Something needs to be done, and this looks like a good first step. Good for Obama for trying something….anything is better than the crazy cost escalation we have now.

  • 228929292AABBB

    It would be a godsend if they figured out a way to cut law school costs, so we could address our terrible shortage of attorneys.

  • Anton_Chehov

    I know what’s going to happen next:
    1) A new federal agency responsible for college value-rating will be created
    2) This agency will employ 1500 Very Smart People, who will scientifically value-rate the colleges. Instead of focusing on teaching the students, the colleges will now focus on how to get the highest value rating from the government
    4) Profit!

    I have a better plan:
    1) Eliminate all federal student loan guarantees
    2) Allows the student debt to be discharged through regular bankruptcy procedures
    3) Let the market figure out which college really has a better value for each particular student

    • Regular_Listener

      We already have #3. Back to the old days?

  • MattCA12

    The real elephant in the room is that not everyone who wants to should go to college. We need a real program of technical and vocational education in this country. Of course, we’ve sold ourselves on the notion that any kind of national policy/standardized testing in education is bad, so how can we fix what we won’t measure?

  • TomGallagherPenn

    Yes, Ma’am! Would you purchase a house without hiring an inspector to check it out?

  • TomGallagherPenn

    Let me see if I have it correct: we’re going to rely on the same group of self-serving, mendacious bureaucrats who pumped up the cost of college (like the housing bubble) with government money to rank schools? I don’t think so.

    Better to hire Educational Testing Service (grade the product) and PriceWaterhouseCoopers to keep them honest.

    About a third of the higher education institutions in America produce a worthless product. Why put more money into a broken system? When education becomes more valuable, then it will be affordable.

  • Anton_Chehov

    A great article in Wall Street Journal explaining the reasons behind the proposed “reform”:

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324009304579040822709807800.html?mod=trending_now_2

  • Regular_Listener

    managing the decline . . .

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