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United States Education

Obama Seeks New System For Rating Colleges 302

Posted by samzenpus
from the good-bad-and-party dept.
PolygamousRanchKid writes "Targeting the soaring cost of higher education, President Barack Obama on Thursday unveiled a broad new government rating system for colleges that would judge schools on their affordability and perhaps be used to allocate federal financial aid. But the proposed overhaul faced immediate skepticism from college leaders who worry the rankings could cost their institutions millions of dollars, as well as from congressional Republicans wary of deepening the government's role in higher education. The new rating system does not require congressional approval, and the White House is aiming to have it set up before the 2015 school year. But Obama does need support from Congress in order to use the ratings as a basis for parceling out federal financial aid. In addition to tuition, schools will also be rated on average student loan debt, graduation rates and the average earnings of graduates. Under Obama's proposal, students attending highly rated schools could receive larger grants and more affordable loans."
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Obama Seeks New System For Rating Colleges

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  • by robbo (4388) <(ten.armis) (ta) (todhsals)> on Thursday August 22, 2013 @07:00PM (#44648927)

    What is the median salary, divided by total cost of education, one year and five years after graduation? That is really the main thing a prospective student needs to know. Everything else is window dressing.

    • by Anne_Nonymous (313852) on Thursday August 22, 2013 @07:07PM (#44649005) Homepage Journal

      The value of an education does not reside solely in earnings potential.

      • by robbo (4388) <(ten.armis) (ta) (todhsals)> on Thursday August 22, 2013 @07:12PM (#44649069)

        You are correct but at some point you must wonder whether it's worth it to go into debt, and by how much, to free your mind via Art History.

        • by Fluffeh (1273756) on Thursday August 22, 2013 @07:22PM (#44649167)

          What I simply don't understand is why US universities are so expensive. It's gotten to the point where it seems that any sort of education can only be gotten my pretty much taking on so much debt that you will be lucky to pay it back - which then forces the government to start putting in copious amounts of scholarships/funding to keep students there.

          Degree Costs in Australia [studyinaustralia.gov.au]

          Over here, a degree (not counting the really expensive ones like medicine) costs $15-30k and a masters $20-37k.

          The average cost [topuniversities.com] (excluding the notoriously expensive universities) in the US is $28k per year.

          Seriously, why?

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by ColdWetDog (752185)

            It's the free market, son. That's what makes America great.

            Seriously, it's the insane near religious stance that everything has to be a) profit making b) run like a widget company and c) expand financially forever. Coupled with fair degree of rent seeking, a terrible method of allocating money to people who cannot afford it on their own (Pell grants, the student loan system), massive expansion of physical plants for sports and near complete collapse of the vocational / technical college.

            The Perfect Storm,

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Anonymous Coward

              Only problem is its not free market. Whats the opposite of free market? Oh yea, heavily regulated, that would describe our colleges better.

              Many are state run, no free market right there, getting subsidies from all levels of government in return for following their rules, again no free market, and they are accredited by the government, no free market. Lets top it off by all student loans being backed by a clause in Obamacare so it is nearly impossible to get a loan not backed by the government.

              At no level

          • The schools are pretty cheap if you go to your state school and live with mom and dad

            If you go to another state's school the tuition is twice the in state and you have to pay lots of living expenses that people borrow

            Why do kids do this? They are dumb. They want to get away from parents. They want to go to a party school and one with a good sports program.

            There are some awesome and expensive schools like Stanford , Harvard and others where it's worth it paying all that money. Just not if you go to an averag

          • by GodfatherofSoul (174979) on Thursday August 22, 2013 @07:42PM (#44649371)

            There was an article about this a few years back. Basically, the costs of college are so high that families are disassociated from the costs of repaying them if they're taking out government-subsidized loans. So, there's no difference between a $5K/semester school or a $7.5K/semester school when you have to borrow and won't pay off for 4 years anyway. People think, "damn this is expensive" which includes a wide range of prices. Schools have figured this out and know that whatever they charge for tuition they'll get from the government to some extent. It's not like profit-motivated banks are going to stop giving out loans. It's in the interest of the government to educate the workforce in a technical age. Add to that a crappy market where even secretary positions ask for college educations. Schools know how valuable their diplomas are, so they dangle them over our heads on a platinum barb.

            • by penix1 (722987)

              Add to that a crappy market where even secretary positions ask for college educations. Schools know how valuable their diplomas are, so they dangle them over our heads on a platinum barb.

              The value of a college degree is decreasing as your two statements show. As more jobs require them, justified or not, more people will get the degree just to satisfy that job requirement. As more people do get it, the higher the degree level requirement will become since having say an undergraduate degree will no longer di

          • by MightyYar (622222) on Thursday August 22, 2013 @07:52PM (#44649449)

            What I simply don't understand is why US universities are so expensive.

            They are fiercely competitive, so they spend gobs of money trying to outdo one another. And they get away with it because there are government-backed loans for domestic students and they draw from rich foreign student populations. When I visit my alma mater, or my wife's, the tuition has doubled over 20 years and so has the campus - there are literally twice as many buildings for roughly the same student population. I don't think the instruction has improved much - particularly at my wife's institution which has always been very prestigious - but the perks are amazing... the cafeteria looks like a fancy mall food court now. The gym is like a YMCA from heaven. There are cafés in the library. Ubiquitous WiFi. The newer dorms are not the bare painted cinderblock walls that we had. Landscaping and student areas are all immaculate. And of course, every bullet point in the US News and World Report rankings checklist has been addressed.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by bobbied (2522392)

            Why? I'll tell you why. Because they CAN.

            It used to be that they simply could not charge that much, because the average person simply could not afford to pay. Folks got though college on the "pay as you go" plan or arranged for *personal* loans to pay for it. Colleges customers didn't have the money so they could not charge it. So what changed?

            The same thing happened for Cars... It used to be that you could by a Model-T for pretty cheap money but you paid all up front. Manufacturers found out that folk

            • by dgatwood (11270) on Thursday August 22, 2013 @08:42PM (#44649873) Journal

              Why? I'll tell you why. Because they CAN.

              As someone whose parents both retired recently from teaching at four-year universities, I don't buy that explanation. At all. It's pure and utter bulls**t. The fact is, most universities are barely holding on financially, having to cut entire programs to keep from going under. Professors' salaries barely keep up with inflation most of the time, if that, and staff salaries don't fare much better. They rely more and more on adjunct instructors to cover classes because they can't afford to hire additional professors to cover the classes.

              Why are the costs going up? The main reason is that the cost of living is going up, while the states keep cutting the portion of the tuition that they pay so that they can spend that money on other programs. Most universities are getting smaller and smaller portions of their operating budget from the state, which inevitably means that they have to charge higher and higher tuition to make up the difference. There's no market magic involved here. There's no supply and demand at work. The demand is fixed; everyone wants an education. The supply is also fixed; every school can handle only a certain number of people. There's no profit margin—most schools are purely nonprofit and cannot make money except as temporary savings towards future costs—therefore, the cost is purely driven by the cost of operation. Any statements to the contrary, at least as far as public universities are concerned, are just plain wrong.

              This is not to say that there isn't bloat in the system; if you dig in, you can find lots of small places where costs could easily be cut, and together they add up to big inefficiencies. The problem is that those inefficiencies are hard to rout out without a concerted effort by someone who understands how to motivate people. For example, policies along the lines of "Any money your department doesn't spend by the end of the year is returned to the general budget and may result in a reduction in your budget next year" are a big part of why we have this bloat creep problem. Fixing those sorts of policies at a systemwide level and giving bonuses for finding ways to improve efficiency are what is needed. Unfortunately, that sort of thinking seems to be very contrary to the university culture, at least in the United States. And this is another reason why the cost of education (and government in general) keeps going up.

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward
            It's pretty simple: your public universities in Australia are supported by the public. Ours used to be. 30 years ago a public university received about 70% of its income through funding by the state government. Today it's closer to 25%. With every cut from the state budget, tuition increases to make up for the shortfall: 25 years ago tuition accounted for 25% of a public university's income while it now accounts for 47%.
          • by dgatwood (11270)

            The problem is that you're taking an average where an average is useless. There are too many variables. Many popular schools charge outrageous tuition not because it costs a lot of money, but rather to limit the number of applicants. You can recognize these schools because their sports teams are regularly mentioned on ESPN.

            Also, not all students pay the same amount. If you choose to attend a school in another state, you get to pay a much higher out-of-state tuition rate because you have to pay the port

          • First of all, you're comparing an Australian government propaganda site--excuse me--an Australian government site that's sole purpose is to show off what a good idea it is to come to Australia to study to a list of "topuniversities." There's a difference.

            Secondly, an Australian bachelors degree is only three years versus four for the US. From my admittedly limited experience, Australian degrees tend to be more trade-oriented than most traditional US universities, so again, the difference is probably not as

            • by lachlan76 (770870)

              A degree here is nominally three years, but honours requires an extra year and a substantial project, which most people take up (this might not be the case outside of maths). Engineering is always four years; essentially one has to do the same work whether or not they receive honours.

              I can't speak for the trade-oriented claim, as I study in a research-heavy university. However, one isn't forced to take courses unrelated to their degree as in the US, which might be what you allude to. There isn't anything

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by manu0601 (2221348)

            Over here, a degree (not counting the really expensive ones like medicine) costs $15-30k and a masters $20-37k.

            Here is an even more extreme example: France [wikipedia.org]

            One can therefore get a Master's degree (in 5 years) for about €750-3,500.

            And this includes health insurance. The bulk of the educational cost is socialized through taxes. Education (K12 to university) accounts for 1/3 of the state expenses, IIRC.

          • by saleenS281 (859657) on Thursday August 22, 2013 @09:39PM (#44650223) Homepage
            BECAUSE the government is giving away money. The universities will keep increasing costs because they can, and because the government will continue to fund what may very well be a bad loan. Additionally private institutions are LINING UP to give out student loan debt. You can't ESCAPE it! Who wouldn't want to loan out money at 8% interest rate that the borrower can never default on?
          • Before grants and guaranteed college loans, colleges could only charge what the students could afford. I myself graduated from a big 4-year state college in the 80's for a total cost of $21k, and I was an on-campus student.

            Now we have grants and the ability to take out tens of thousands of dollars... per year... for tuition. All an adult student has to do is sign his or her name, and it is like free unlimited money for all the education you can eat.

            How can anyone be confused by the idea that colleges
          • by LordLimecat (1103839) on Friday August 23, 2013 @12:01AM (#44651091)

            What I simply don't understand is why US universities are so expensive.

            Theyre not.

            Over here, a degree (not counting the really expensive ones like medicine) costs $15-30k and a masters $20-37k.

            Same here.

            Well, until someone decides that they want to go out of state, to a really expensive school, and then complain about debt, sure. For the record, I live in Va, and I can go to any of the following schools for ~$400 /credit:

            • WIlliam and Mary
            • Va Tech
            • U.Va
            • GMU
            • JMU

            I can also complete the first two years of undergrad for ~$100/credit at Va's community college system, and transfer into any of those. As I work it out, youre looking at ~$20k for your undergrad from fairly terrific schools ( I hear that UVA is considered "decent"....).

            The "Why" is that sometimes people decide its a good idea to go to a university that they cant afford for a degree in an unmarketable field, and then complain that theyve dug themselves into a hole.

      • Re: the value of an education does not reside solely in earnings potential

        Maybe for the independently wealthy, that's true. For most people, we borrow money to go to that fancy university and then we've got to pay it back plus interest. Spending years in hock to attend a school that has limited potential to aid me in getting a job to pay off that nut is not particularly useful regardless of how much I might enjoy that semester studying the works of Euripides.

      • by NoKaOi (1415755)

        The value of an education does not reside solely in earnings potential.

        It does if you're the student loan lender.

        • by CastrTroy (595695)
          Which is why I think that student loans are kind of crazy. No bank (well, not many) would lend you money to start a business without first reviewing your business plan. Make sure they have a reasonable chance of getting their money back, and adjust interest rates and the amount borrowed as necessary. Same goes for buying a house. The bank wants to know which property you're (they're?) buying before they give you the money for the house. Banks should really be doing some investigation into what degree yo
          • by k_187 (61692)
            They shouldn't but student loans are with you forever. The hurdle to get them discharged in bankruptcy is incredibly high and most people will never reach it. So you will pay them back. It might take forever, but it will get paid back.
            • "It might take forever, but it will get paid back."

              No. If you don't ever have any money, they will not get paid back.

      • Except that's really the only reason to go to college anymore, for a piece of paper that says you graduated.

        All the knowledge you'd gain from college can be found for free online. And there are a hell of a lot better and more rewarding experiences you can have with 4(+) years of time and $60K.

        The only reason to go to college and spend their absurd fees is so that you can get a higher paying job (or more rewarding) out of college that is worth more than the $60K and 4+ years you spent at college.
        • Actually I have found for my engineering classes that a heck of a lot of the information is not available online. So far it is the only thing I have not been able to find online. Many of the equations in my heat transfer books, fluid equations, thermo equations are just not found online.

          Online I have been able to find all the pure math stuff, the basics of heat transfer, fluid mechanics etc but none of the specific equations that are based on experiments. Heck if you look at Perry's Chemical Engineers' Han

      • That depends on what you are teaching. College has changed from 'The halls of higher learning' to the thing that every American HS school does because that is what you do to get ahead in life. For the majority of college students (who are kinda just idiots, and don't really need 4 years of college), the GP post is really the number that matters.
        • by dgatwood (11270)

          College has changed from 'The halls of higher learning' to the thing that every American HS school does because that is what you do to get ahead in life.

          The irony being that because every high school student does it, they cannot, by definition, get ahead, because "ahead" is inherently relative.

          One major problem is that our public K-12 system has completely failed to keep up with the times. Instead of teaching useful skills, it continues to teach the same things it did before, and at approximately the same

      • The value of an education does not reside solely in earnings potential.

        No, but given that the cost of it is vastly outpacing inflation and paying for it may very well eclipse the sub-prime mortgage crisis in terms of sheer economic damage, earnings potential by necessity tops the list of considerations. As well, the overwhelming majority of college applicants and programs are geared towards getting you into a new job... and one hopes, one that can at least pay the interest on all those loans you took out to land it. Worse, employers want more and more college degrees for every

      • by Livius (318358)

        Earnings potential is a crude and incomplete measure.

        But until a better measure is found it makes sense to use it.

      • by poity (465672)

        The practical value does.

      • It does if you're taking out debt to pay for it.
      • If you're independently wealthy or can convince your parents to pay, fine. If you want me to subsidize four years of partying leading to a degree in social work, you're on your own.
    • by Ksevio (865461)
      They are measuring how much students make after they graduate, so that will likely be a large factor. In the past they've cut for-profit school loans because the students would not be making enough to pay off those loans after graduating.
    • by icebike (68054) on Thursday August 22, 2013 @07:14PM (#44649097)

      The cost of college will expand to consume the available student loans, grants and financial aid. This has been true since the invention of student loans.

      I suspect your ROI calculation would serve only to raise the price of an economical college quickly up to the price of the most expensive schools, because the ROI would prove them to be a much better deal, and as they draw all the students they can handle the price will rise.

      • by tipo159 (1151047) on Thursday August 22, 2013 @07:57PM (#44649497)

        The cost of college will expand to consume the available student loans, grants and financial aid. This has been true since the invention of student loans.

        The cost of college (at a state colleges) here has expanded because "we will cut your taxes" politicians kept getting elected, so the state cut their support of the colleges (20-odd% here from 2006-20011), so the colleges are now getting the money from the students.

        • by icebike (68054)

          So it never went up prior to that?

          I call bullshit. I've never known a time when college costs remained the same for more than two years in a row. Not 40 years ago, not 20 years ago, not even 10.

  • by JackieBrown (987087) <dbroome@gmail.com> on Thursday August 22, 2013 @07:03PM (#44648953)

    Where is the actually written bill?

    He loves going place to place and telling that audience what they want to hear and then passing the actual work to Congress who he knows won't/can't do it.

    • by Ksevio (865461)
      Bills are written by the legislature, the President signs them. He can push an agenda, but he's not the one writing the actual bill.
      • by XxtraLarGe (551297) on Thursday August 22, 2013 @07:12PM (#44649059) Journal

        Bills are written by the legislature, the President signs them. He can push an agenda, but he's not the one writing the actual bill.

        Nothing's stopping him from writing a bill and giving it to a Rep. or Senator to introduce.

        • by wbr1 (2538558)

          Bills are written by the legislature, the President signs them. He can push an agenda, but he's not the one writing the actual bill.

          Nothing's stopping him from writing a bill and giving it to a Rep. or Senator to introduce.

          Nothing is stopping you from writing one either, except time and desire.

          Good luck getting anything worthwhile to even be noticed, much less brought to committee or the floor. If it is a somewhat hot button, it can be argued about incessantly, then tabled to a committee for review/revision over and over until it is gutted and has riders you would have never dreamed of that are completely unrelated.

          • Nothing is stopping you from writing one either, except time and desire.

            On the other hand, XxtraLarGe isn't the one that keeps promising to do stuff that is beyond his power and authority to do.

      • by kenj0418 (230916)

        Bills are written by the legislature, the President signs them. He can push an agenda, but he's not the one writing the actual bill.

        I know - I learned that in college. Oh wait, no I didn't. I learned it from Saturday morning cartoons: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tyeJ55o3El0 [youtube.com]

    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by icebike (68054)

      Well, to date I haven't seen any actual work, either by him or congress.

      While the population turns more resentful by the day from intrusive government meddling and spying, he fiddles with programs that really don't need more government intervention.

  • Try losing students to skyrocketing tuition and fees. Dur.

    • ...Except they don't.

      See, there are some little things called Pell Grants, Scholarships and Student Loans, these make it so college is much less price sensitive. Mix this with 6 years of guidance councilors stressing the importance of college, a depressed job market where a college degree is a requirement for even the most basic of entry-level positions and you have a market that isn't very price sensitive.

      Its not like a student applies for college and is hit by a $15K bill for their first year, lo
      • by ackthpt (218170)

        ...Except they don't.

        See, there are some little things called Pell Grants, Scholarships and Student Loans, these make it so college is much less price sensitive. Mix this with 6 years of guidance councilors stressing the importance of college, a depressed job market where a college degree is a requirement for even the most basic of entry-level positions and you have a market that isn't very price sensitive.

        Its not like a student applies for college and is hit by a $15K bill for their first year, loans and grants cover it and so they might only pay $1-2 thousand per year up front.

        The smart money is to spend your first two years at Junior or Community College, where all the credits will transfer, leaving only years 3 & 4 at the U.

      • " a depressed job market where a college degree is a requirement for even the most basic of entry-level positions"

        That's just not true. There are tons of skilled trade jobs available that do not require college.

        • by ackthpt (218170)

          " a depressed job market where a college degree is a requirement for even the most basic of entry-level positions"

          That's just not true. There are tons of skilled trade jobs available that do not require college.

          And when those positions are lost due to shifting job markets, shifting work overseas, etc. Guess where those people end up - trying to learn a new trade. I watched em flock in when the Auto industry began imploding, then throughout as people in jobs that depended upon Autoworkers income and spending were folding, too.

  • The way it's written will negatively impact a lot of the higher ranked colleges from the past with the financial incentives that are mentioned. For the large private schools they're not going to care so much, but I have to imagine this will be dead in the water from the get go. Too much alumni power in the legislature for this to be something that will ever make its way through!

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Then governments have no choice but to make it free and widely available to anyone on demand.

    • Since a degree is primarily a qualification, its importance lies in its scarcity. It used to be since many people didn't finish high school, a high school diploma had meaning, it was a qualification. Well, then it was decided that -everyone- should have a high school diploma and curriculum gets dumbed down to the point that any person not in a vegetative state can easily obtain a high school diploma, it stops being a qualification. So naturally people looked for the next higher qualification, a college degr
      • And if businesses could just IQ test potential employees, you wouldn't need any of this.
  • I think that a delay in congress approving this scheme as a factor in funding would be a good thing. I doubt that US News and World Report had their ranking system perfected in just a year; even if the executive branch hired the most brilliant minds (for which they have neither the budget nor the appeal) it would be impossible to come up with a system reliable enough to guide billions of dollars in taxpayer subsidy. By all means, come up with a system, publish the results each year, and see how it works. Re

  • by Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) on Thursday August 22, 2013 @07:25PM (#44649197) Journal

    College costs are due to the easy borrowing as a perverse consequence of trying to make college easier for people to afford. As with a car loan, nobody wants to pay $2000 for a fancy radio, but an extra $35/month, sign me up!

    8% a year? No problem...on my loan! Sign me up!

    The way to reign this in is to deny government backing for cheap loans to any college that increases costs more than 2% this year. And keep that up for 10 years to drag relative costs back down vs. inflation.

    All these loudmouths in charge of colleges who throw up their hands and say hey don't know why, the liars will sort things out quickly.

    Perverse incentives are perverse.

  • Stories [thecollegefix.com] like [nationalreview.com] these [popecenter.org] sicken me when it comes to how they are effectively ignored and swept under the rug. This case was criminally prosecuted [blackcollegewire.org] only because there was a lot of money involved and it was students and not the staff.

    If people are going to spend ridiculously high costs for schooling, they need to know that it's not going to support criminals like those at Winston-Salem.

  • Schools have been milking students via government loans for decades now.

  • by Werrismys (764601) on Thursday August 22, 2013 @08:00PM (#44649527)
    The proposotion sounds like a mask for lowering the standards. Sweden is already in this path. Results droop and they cannot admit the real reason because of politics. So the culprit must be the system. Everyone suffers and the esteem of educational institutions drop when they MUST take and pass students of ... let's say, lesser capabilities, in name of multiculturalism. USA is fast becoming a social democratic european style hellhole.
  • And a whole generation of unpaid bloggers for Huffington Post and Salon rise up........and take the bus to the Temp Agency.

  • ...as silly as subsidizing successful businesses. How is a start-up supposed to displace the incumbents if the incumbents have access to government funds that can make them more affordable for students? In this case, maybe it's not a start-up, so much as a school that has simply turned things around. They'd face the same issue.

  • by Pat Morin (3026319) on Thursday August 22, 2013 @09:19PM (#44650105)
    Tying funding to graduation rates is a bad idea. It leads to one (or both) of two things:
    1. 1. extremely high entrance requirements that ensure any student who gets in has what it takes to get through the program, or
    2. 2. lowering standards so that every student (no matter how bad they are) makes it through the program.

    Option 1 leaves out students who are plenty smart, but just goofed around in high school. Option 2 makes university degrees worthless.

  • Small government repubtards: government is bad always. Hmm, if the government is already paying towards peoples education shouldn't they at least be able to base their loans on affordability or results (percentage of grads employed in their field, percentage making larger than median wage etc)? Somehow it is better to keep things the way they are then to risk actually considering whether or not to subsidize an expensive basket weaving program.

  • by Karmashock (2415832) on Friday August 23, 2013 @08:10AM (#44652911)

    At this point, he's got such a huge back log of other things and such a huge investment in other things that reforming higher education is really not something anyone is going to cooperate on. As in anything, there are entrenched interests.

    The president should spend what time he has left finishing the things he's started. Very little new he attempts at his point will be accepted or catch on.

    The first term is where you push these things. And the second term is where you cement them. Well.... finish what you've started and stop creating new programs and ideas for entirely unrelated issues that in most cases are no great matter.

  • Just stop (Score:4, Insightful)

    by gr8_phk (621180) on Friday August 23, 2013 @10:14AM (#44654289)

    Under Obama's proposal, students attending highly rated schools could receive larger grants and more affordable loans.

    So students going to lesser schools will be fucked with less affordable loans? WTF?

    How about the government just STOP guaranteeing student loans (which can't even be discharged in bankruptcy). Get the fuck out of the system, it's the loan program that has driven up tuition rates for 25 years. When I went there were several students who worked to pay their own way. As hard as that seems to do back then, it must be nearly impossible today, so they get loans and then get fucked for life. Same thing happened with subsidized housing, all that did is drive up home prices to the point of a bubble that crippled the economy for years. Just fucking stop meddling.

The unfacts, did we have them, are too imprecisely few to warrant our certitude.

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