President Obama recently proposed a new system for rating colleges and universities. This system is a school rating system, not to be confused with a school ranking system.
In other words, this system is not meant to rank and compare colleges based on their popularity; it is meant to simply rate the colleges based on certain criteria.
This new system will encompass four categories to rate schools on: eligibility and access; affordability; graduation retention rates and placement and career earnings post-college.
The purpose of this rating system is to grant more Pell money to students and their families. Pell money is a grant that you do not have to pay back.
Federal Pell Grants are usually awarded only to undergraduate students. The amount of aid you can receive depends on your financial need, the cost of attendance at your school, and more.
Currently, if your household income falls below $5,000, you would be considered Pell-eligible. However, Obama is looking to make it so that no students are denied the opportunity to be granted Pell money.
Dr. Kyle Fedler, provost, gave his own version of what this rating system means to him.
“The goal is creating a kind of transparency and generally making the consumer aware of key factors, which is a good thing,” Fedler said. “The goal of this is to try to make college more affordable.”
According to Fedler, another benefit would be that the rating system would be using quantifiable data, so it would not turn into a “popularity contest.”
However, Fedler has a few concerns about the system as well.
“My concern is that the criteria seem to be a little bit at odds with one another,” Fedler said. “Almost to a ‘T,’ every study shows that if you enroll low-income students, it is more difficult for these students to get through in four years, [and] to earn as much money as they get out.”
According to Fedler, the idea that schools will be punished for taking at-risk students conflicts with what Obama is saying, despite the fact that this happens frequently.
The schools with high graduation and retention rates, however, will continue to get more Pell money and more loans with this new system.
“It is unclear how they will weight this criteria since they seem to be in conflict,” Fedler said.
Another concern that Fedler has is that this rating system may eventually evolve into a ranking system.
“Yes, they say it’s a rating system, but they might turn it into one more ranking system that may or may not be very helpful,” Fedler said.
The rating system has yet to be officially passed. Congressional authorization is not required, however Obama is trying to tie financial aid into this system.
Congress can tie federal student aid to college performance so that students maximize their federal aid at institutions providing the best value. If the rating system is to be connected to financial aid, authorization will be required from Congress.
The most controversial part of this system is its possible connection to financial aid. If financial aid is tied into it, it could cause rates to go up, which would be more expensive for tax-payers.
If this rating system is passed, it is not known how exactly FSC will be impacted.
It would depend on how FSC compares in rankings, and how much Pell money it would get based on its ranking.
There are a number of students here at FSC who still receive money through the Pell system. These students may or may not be affected by the new rating system.