Our President Plans to 'Rate' Colleges
When I glanced at the first story I read about President Obama's plans to "rate" colleges, my first thought was "Hey, what's he doing? It isn't March. The NCAA Tournament is months away!"
As it turns out, the whole thing was just Obama being Obama. As usual, he spoke in vague generalities. As always, the metrics to be used in evaluating these institutions of higher learning were obviously subjective, and subject to "nudging" as needed to produce a desired (read: politically favorable) result.
Couching the idea in inevitably unclear terms, the president uses the "carrot and stick" approach to addressing the rising costs of college educations.
Lindsey M. Burke, writing in National Review Online, notes:
A big part of the president's plan includes creating a college-rating system - a federal scorecard - to evaluate colleges on measures such as graduation rates, the number of low-income students served (i.e., the percentage of Pell Grant recipients), graduate earnings, and affordability.
So Obama's big idea is to create a rating system. And what exactly is this rating system supposed to rate?
Graduation rates? There are more than a few studies that indicate that admissions tinged with affirmative action goals set up many minority students for failure when they are admitted to universities with high-pressure, high-performance expectations. There are also factors for failing to complete a college course of study that have little or nothing to do with the quality of university, or its instructors. Doubt that? Bill Gates never finished college. How would Obama's rating system classify him?
How about the number of low-income students served? Is the number of students receiving Pell Grants truly a good indicator? What about students who are being partially subsidized by joining the ROTC, or are having a significant portion of their tuition covered by their employer? Or is this provision just an extension of the NSA's efforts to pry ever more intimately into our private lives? If only Pell Grants are considered, might not colleges demand copies of not only a student's Federal Income Tax returns, but their parents' as well, just to show the Washington bureaucrats tallying up the scorecard that they really do serve low-income students?
Perhaps the suggestion of tallying up graduate earnings is the key to delivering an objective assessment of the real worth of a post-secondary school. Of course, if a student graduates from Harvard, doesn't that distort that metric compared to a school like Slippery Rock Teachers College, located somewhere in Smalltown, USA? SRTC might produce the next Einstein, but will he be hired at a salary equivalent to that of a dunce whose daddy donated a building to the old Alma Mater? Another question that would need to be defined would be at what point, post-graduation, this earnings number is to be determined. Are we going to use the honor system, like with ObamaCare subsidies? If graduates refuse to respond to the universities' questionnaires, will their degrees be revoked? Will they have to code the school from which they graduated on their annual 1040 tax form? What if a person got a B.S. from one school, an M.S. from another, and a Ph.D. from a third, which was outside the United States, like Oxford or Cambridge? Should those who never went to college also code the high school they attended? That would make identifying "failing schools" a bit easier for the bureaucrats.
And what about the Department of Propaganda -- I mean, Department of Education? Will they start insisting on examining the core curriculum for "sensitivity," "diversity," and "political correctness"? Will colleges, to get a good rating, be forced to require certain courses? Could a college catalog in a very few years outline a mandatory course of study for any major that includes courses in "Gender Studies," "Islamic History and the Impact of Islam on the U.S. Space Program," or "The Idiotically Obvious Danger of Global Warming"?
Think that could never happen? Well, did you ever think that kids would be taught how to put a condom on a banana in a classroom?
Claims coming from the administration that this proposal has anything to do with reducing the cost of college educations, both to the student and the government, should be seen for what they are, which is a distraction from the real goal. Once a government can qualitatively evaluate private enterprises (which most colleges and universities are), then it begins to control those enterprises.
The only government function that has ever worked exactly as intended, and was simultaneously effective in doing so, is the military. That has worked quite well whenever it has been assigned a task. Of course, one must always remember what the job description of the military is, and has been over the centuries, regardless of the nation, race, or religious persuasion of that military: to kill people and break things. (Yes, every government program ends up breaking things, but they aren't usually designed to do that intentionally.)
This idea from our current president needs to be strangled in the crib.
Jim Yardley is a retired financial controller and a two-tour Vietnam veteran. He writes frequently about political idiocy, business and economic idiocy, and American cultural idiocy. Jim also blogs at http://jimyardley.wordpress.com and can be contacted directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.