New England Council Sends College Rating System Recommendations to the Department of Education

Last week, the New England Council responded to the Department of Education’s request for comments on the administration’s proposed Postsecondary Institution Rating System (PIRS). The Council sent a letter to Education Secretary Arne Duncan outlining its response to the proposal.

In the letter, the Council acknowledged the administration’s efforts to increase transparency in higher education in order to provide students with the best information about colleges. The Council urged that in working towards this goal, the administration be mindful of the impact of PIRS and the importance of enacting it thoughtfully. The letter identified three main recommendations NEC members have for the PIRS draft. The first recommendation was that all changes should be enacted only after thorough testing and consideration of the impact on institutions. It stated that the system outlined in the draft proposal is not ready for implementation because its consequences have not been fully considered. The second recommendation was that the current data system, the Integrated Post-Secondary Education Data System (IPEDS), should be to provide the most accurate possible information in comparing institutions. The letter stated that, “without significant improvement to the collection and definition of IPEDS measurement, the data is not only misdirected but inaccurate.” The final recommendation was that the PIRS should recognize the differences between institutions, including their varied goals and diverse student populations. The letter notes, in particular, that comparing graduation rates across institutions is not an accurate way of comparing them.

In the letter, the Council stated that “access to quality, affordable education and the development of a skilled workforce are critical to our economic growth and global competitiveness.” The Council hopes that the administration will take into consideration the recommendations put forth in the letter as it works towards the goal of providing students with the tools to make responsible decisions about their college educations.

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