ED Calls for Input on Developing Higher Education Rating System

On December 17, the U.S. Department of Education issued a formal Request for Information (RFI) about the development of its new system for rating institutions of higher education, officially known as the Postsecondary Institution Ratings System (PIRS). (Note: This system aims to rate institutions as a whole, not their various divisions, although educator preparation programs would be a part of their institutions’ rating.)

The Department is urging higher education faculty, students, parents, researchers, data experts, advocacy groups, organizations with expertise in developing rating systems, and others to provide information about what should be included in this rating system. The deadline for submission is January 31.

Specifically, the Department is interested in ideas and information in the following areas:

  • Metrics necessary for rating performance using both data currently available and data not currently available that could be collected
  • Methods for weighting, scoring, or otherwise combining metrics into a single dimension or a set of dimensions
  • Methods for weighting, scoring, or otherwise adjusting metrics to ensure appropriate comparison and calibration within PIRS
  • Options for presenting the information for accountability and consumer information purposes
  • Models of ratings systems for entities other than postsecondary institutions

The Department also wants ideas for how to minimize unintended consequences, such as the undervaluing of certain kinds of “credentials or learning experiences” or creating disincentives for institutions to enroll underrepresented student populations. The National Center for Education Statistics will host a symposium of external experts to deliberate further and publish a summary of recommendations developed by this RFI and the symposium.

This new initiative represents a continued effort on the part of the Obama administration to regulate higher education and demand greater accountability. Noting the rating system is not intended to rank institutions, the notice says the president will propose allocating financial aid to colleges based on these ratings by 2018.

AACTE urges you to submit comments in response to the RFI and will be developing its own comments as well.

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Jane E. West

AACTE Education Policy Consultant