Obama’s College-Rating System Measures Schools’ Labour Market Success

President Barack Obama’s new college-rating method may be the answer to solving post-college poverty for graduating students.

The proposal introduced by the Obama Administration is a technique that would measure how well graduates are doing financially and whether they are earning enough money to live above the poverty line.

The college-rating method would assess this concern by looking at a few factors, including the graduate’s ability to afford bills and personal expenses as well as their willingness to pay their student loans.  

The Education Department developed an earnings scale where former students would have to meet a “substantial employment” level in order to be identified as a recent graduate capable of living on their own.

The department has also said it wants to use a graduate’s long-term earnings to determine a university’s overall “labor market success.”

After a student has gained considerable experience in their career field, the department plans to analyze their income mainly based on affordability and post-graduation outcomes.

This analysis would then rate how valuable a college is to a graduate’s financial success. 

Usually, the federal government pulls this data from the Internal Revenue Service and the Social Security Administration, but it’s uncertain where the Education Department will retrieve its information for the report.

Since most students derive from different backgrounds and demographics, the president’s administration is also debating on including other personal inquiries like the marital status of a student.

Other specific school details will be excluded from the ratings such as:

  • Average student debt: the administration has determined this result could come back inconclusive if a university houses a massive student population that normally need financial assistance.
  • Learning or educational knowledge results and outcomes: this typically differs by institution. Not every lesson plan and teaching method is the same within each major, degree program, or department. It would be difficult to determine if this plays a role in rating the colleges with the best “labor market success.”
  • Public service or civic engagement: it doesn’t really help to determine how well-off a graduate will be financially.
  • Student satisfactory surveys: personal opinion polls may reveal contrary results when it pertains to a former student’s outlook of the institution and their financial circumstances following graduation.

The system hasn’t received entirely positive feedback, especially from right-wing conservatives. 

One politician has suggested that Education Secretary Arne Duncan reverses the initiative before its consideration.

“This so-called college ratings system is a fool’s errand, and the secretary needs to stop it immediately,” said Republican John Kline of Minnesota, who is also chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee.

Senator Lamar Alexandar—a Tennessee Republican, who sits as chairman of the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions—also shared his distaste for what he calls a “higher education popularity contest.”

Although there is some opposition to the initiative, the college rating system doesn’t need approval from Congress.

Starting in 2015, Obama’s administration plans to release a non-numerical ranking report that doesn’t list some of the best top schools according to ratings. Instead, the report will classify each school under one of three categories: a “high,” “middle,” or “low” performer.


Image: iStock

The Washington Post- "Employment and earnings weighed in Obama’s college-rating plan"