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President Obama’s proposed college ratings system has sparked an intense debate over how to ensure that tens of billions of dollars in federal student aid are spent well. Many agree that a federal ratings system would not be accurate or fair. So what is the answer? What are effective and fair ways to hold higher education institutions accountable and ensure that students and families along with taxpayers get good value from colleges and universities?
As the leading voice for public research universities, APLU hosted a forum on April 10 to help further the discussion in Washington over ways to better hold higher education institutions accountable. The forum opened with remarks from Sandy Baum of the Urban Institute who framed the discussion by discussing the need for greater accountability in order to address schools that do a poor job of using federal aid and tuition dollars to educate their students. Following Baum, the forum featured two panels – one that discussed alternatives to President Obama’s proposed ratings system (including APLU’s own plan) and another that delved into the need for student input-adjustment measures as part of any new accountability measure.
APLU responded to the Obama administration’s proposed college ratings system by agreeing with the president’s core objectives of greater transparency and accountability, but providing an alternative approach to achieve those goals. Public universities by their mission and nature share the administration’s goal of transparency and accountability, however, some important reforms are needed. APLU is concerned though by the complexities of the proposed ratings system and the practical challenges of implementing it.
APLU supports making essential and accurate information about all higher education institutions widely available so that students, their families and the public can make judgments on institutions based on their own priorities. In addition, APLU proposes tightening up the Title IV federal student aid eligibility process and measuring institutions against key metrics. These measurements should have real consequences, which would be in keeping with the president’s goals to protect students and better use federal resources.
SAM is a joint effort by APLU and the five other presidential associations to enhance transparency and provide the public with a more comprehensive measure of college student progress and completion than ever before. The SAM metric will allow universities to deliver a more complete picture of student progress along the path to earning a college degree or certificate because it captures student movement across institutions. The SAM project is a voluntary collaboration that provides a common tool for different types of nonprofit institutions—public and private, colleges, universities, and community colleges. In less than two weeks, student progress and completion information for participating institutions will begin to be posted on SAM website for public consumption. More than 225 institutions have already signed up to participate (full participant list). Inaugural participating campuses, signed up before October 18, will receive a special Inaugural Member notation on their individual SAM webpage.
Further details on the SAM Project can be found here.
Deeply concerned about major federal budget cuts to research and higher education at a time when other nations are steadily increasing investments in those areas, nearly 200 university presidents and chancellors have called on leaders in Washington to close what they call the “innovation deficit.” In an open letter to President Obama and Congress, the university leaders wrote that closing the innovation deficit—the widening gap between needed and actual investments in research and education—must be a national imperative.
Nearly 490 four year public colleges and universities have pledged to boost college completion by 3.8 million bachelor's degrees to help the nation reach the goal of 60 percent of adults possessing a college degree by 2025.
Through Project Degree Completion: A Public University Initiative, the institutions will increase the number of bachelor's degrees they award from an estimated 14.6 million to 18.4 million over the next 14 years. Collectively, public colleges and universities currently award more than 1 million degrees annually. The participating institutions are members of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) and the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU). Their membership represents nearly all the four year public colleges and universities in the country. [More]
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