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Education Lab is a project to spark meaningful conversations about education solutions in the Pacific Northwest.

December 22, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Feds plan to rate colleges based on costs, accessibility, results

University of Washington. Photo by Steve Ringman / The Seattle Times 2013.

University of Washington. Photo by Steve Ringman / The Seattle Times 2013.

A new college rating system introduced by the Department of Education on Friday would group schools into three categories based on cost, accessibility and results such as graduation and job placement rates.

Officials created the ratings because they want to help students get a valuable education, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a news release.

“With the guidance of thousands of wise voices, we can develop a useful ratings system that will help more Americans realize the dream of a degree that unleashes their potential and opens doors to a better life,” Duncan said.

The ratings system will deem colleges as high-performing, low-performing, and one category in the middle. At no point will schools be ranked against one another, officials emphasized.

The Education Department has identified 11 metrics that will be used in the ratings, including the percentage of students receiving Pell grants, average net price after accounting for financial aid, transfer rates, graduate school placement, and employment and earnings rates.

Some college presidents are pushing back, saying no two schools have the exact same mission. Other critics say many intangible factors contribute to a strong college experience, and that the ratings system fails to capture these variables.

“The relationships you build with professors — you can’t really measure those,” Luke Weierbach, a senior at Randolph College in Lynchburg, Va., told NPR.

The system is expected to be available before the 2015-2016 school year.

Tell us in the comments: What were the main factors you considered in choosing a college, either for yourself or your kids? Was there certain information you wish you had known ahead of time?

Comments | More in News | Topics: higher education

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