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News & Media

APLU Statement on Obama Administration’s New Steps to Increase College Transparency

June 25, 2015

Washington, D.C. – Association of Public and Land-grant Universities President Peter McPherson today released the following statement regarding the Obama administration’s announcement that it’s shifting away from a proposed college ratings system and will instead develop a new set of transparency tools to help students and their families, policymakers, and the general public better understand the cost and outcomes of post-secondary institutions.

“Public universities have long embraced the open and transparent presentation of data.  Ensuring that prospective students and their families have key information on every post-secondary institution is critical to enabling them to select a college or university that best fit their goals and circumstances based on their own priorities.  This is a much better approach than having the federal government make those judgments for them.  

“As the Obama administration sought comment on its proposed ratings system, APLU recommended that the Department of Education develop a set of key transparency metrics that could be easily accessed by the public.  Better data is key, but the administration should think carefully about how it presents the information to ensure that it is accessible, easily understood, and quite frankly, isn’t overwhelming to external audiences and counterproductive.  

“APLU proposed four key metrics as part of an improved transparency system and we encourage the administration to include these in its new transparency tool: 1) Student progress and completion rates (using the Student Achievement Measure as a reporting option when possible rather than the deeply flawed federal graduation rate; 2) Median net price by income; 3) Post-collegiate outcomes (employment rates, enrollment in graduate school, etc.); and 4) Loan repayment rates.

“While the administration rightly shifted from an actual rating system, Congress and the administration should instead work toward tightening Title IV eligibility.  Under the current system, too many schools that do a very poor job of educating and graduating students are receiving federal student aid money.  This needs to end through much greater accountability of how the $150 billion in annual federal aid is distributed.  

“APLU has proposed a system that would judge institutions on three key metrics -- accurate student progress and completion rates; post-collegiate outcomes; and loan repayment rates.  We then propose using a student readiness adjustment to fairly compare institutions with varying student bodies.  Institutions that have exceptionally low performance rates would be subject to greater scrutiny and the potential loss of some Title IV eligibility.  If schools fail to turn things around then they would lose all eligibility.  At the same time, we call for additional federal aid to be made available to schools that perform exceptionally well in facilitating the success of disadvantaged and underrepresented students.”

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