Going to college has never been more important — or more expensive — says U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. The federal Department of Education is working on a college rating system, expected to go live next fall, that will promote college affordability and value.
In a telephone press conference with reporters Wednesday, Duncan discussed elements that will likely be part of the rating system.
He was deliberately short on specifics, emphasizing that the ratings system doesn’t exist yet, and won’t be drafted until after a series of four public forums and other meetings to determine what measures should be included. (Only one of the forums will take place on the West Coast, in California on Nov. 6. More details are available here.)
Duncan called the nation’s higher-education system “the best system in the world, but a very inefficient system (with) a tremendous lack of transparency.”
Eventually, the administration wants to use the rating system to reward universities that are affordable, accessible and do a good job of training students for lucrative jobs. That reward system might involve offering more financial-aid resources to schools that rate highly, Duncan said.
Washington state has made some efforts to make public college completion rates, and other measures, more visible. Its Statewide Public Four-Year Dashboard displays a number of accountability measures, such as graduation rates and the time it takes to complete a bachelor’s.
A different online tool, Washington Career Bridge, allows students to look up employment rates and salary figures for specific degree programs to decide if they’re a good value for the money.
For example, a search for students who received a BA in Communication: Journalism from the University of Washington reveals that 88 percent completed the degree in the last three years and 81 percent are employed, with a typical median salary of $27,000.