On September 12th, the White House unveiled a website that provides information to prospective students and their parents about costs, graduation rates, and salaries after graduation. Originally, President Obama announced in 2013 that the government would create a system that would explicitly rate the quality of all of the nation’s 7000 institutions of higher education. Each college or university would have been assigned a ranking by the government, with the aim to publicly shame low-rate schools that saddle students with high debt and poor earning potential. At the time, Mr. Obama put colleges on notice that schools performing poorly in the rating system would eventually lose access to billions of dollars in federal student aid money, as a way to hold schools with low graduation rates and poor postgraduate income potential accountable. The plan was fiercely opposed by presidents of elite private colleges and other officials at many schools, saying that it would force schools to prioritize “money-making majors” such as accounting over those like English, history, or philosophy, or that the government had no business competing with college rating services. Now, the White House has noted that while the new website will not be linked to student aid, the administration has fought to establish other rules to prevent federal dollars from going to some for-profit schools and other low-performing institutions. The new website has search capabilities that allow students and parents to compare schools based on various important measurements, such as cost, graduation rate, and post-graduation salaries. The data is based on students who have received a federal loan or grant to attend college, believed by officials to be representative of all students, and the data is also being shared freely with companies and other organizations that already offer online college search tools.
Contributor: Cai Redmond