Federal ratings will not actually rate schools

New design will be an informative tool for students, families, advisers

The Obama administration announced Thursday that the planned federal ratings system will not compare institutions through grades, ratings, or rankings.

EAB Daily Briefing primer: The Obama Administration's college ratings plan

Instead, the administration plans to design a consumer-facing tool for students, families, and advisers. According to officials, it will present a wide range of data, some of which will be publicly available for the first time.

However, the tool will not include any kind of scoring system—no ratings, no rankings, no high/middle/low grades. Officials say the goal is to create a website that is customizable and that will "empower" consumers to make their own decisions.

Furthermore, the tool will not be used to allocate federal financial aid funding, at least for now.

College leaders have been concerned from early on about how the project would be able to compare institutions that vary widely in scope, mission, and size.

The 11 categories of data mentioned in December's draft framework will still form the foundation of the tool.

Ted Mitchell, under secretary of education, did not eliminate the possibility of adding ratings to the tool in the future. But he did say the administration will be focusing more narrowly on the tool this year. "We're not giving up on accountability at all," he said. "[This] will become a form of public accountability" (Blumenstyk, Chronicle of Higher Education, 6/25; Fain, Inside Higher Ed, 6/25).

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